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What Should You Do With Your Life?

It sure would be nifty if while you were growing up, someone handed you a letter that said, “You were born to do X.” With the letter-writer prescient enough to know exactly what “X” was. Then you could choose activities and classes in high school and college to prepare you for the thing that you were put on this earth to “do.”

The reality is, life rarely unfolds in such neat and orderly fashion. Sure, there are always a few folks who knew what they wanted to do from an early age and never veered. But for many, career development, or figuring out what you should do with your life, is a mysterious process that gets answered only after numerous fits and starts.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Most people inevitably feel a little bit of job dissatisfaction now and then, some more than others, wondering if they made the right career choice. Writer Po Bronson addressed this very human condition in his classic 2002 book, “What Should I Do with My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question.”

Bronson included stories of 50 people who felt at odds with their career choices, including a young ob-gyn intern who burned out before she became a full-fledged medical doctor; a chemistry professor who realized much later in life that he really wanted to practice law; and a highly successful saleswoman who fell out of love with international sales when the Internet came along.

It was only after confronting their discomfort that they were able to get on paths that were more suitable and satisfying. The right path, however, was not always obvious; it was only after sifting through different experiences that their purpose became clearer.

As Bronson writes in the book, “We all have passions if we choose to see them. Most of us don’t get epiphanies. We don’t get clarity. Our purpose doesn’t arrive neatly packaged as a destiny. We only get a whisper. A blank, nonspecific urge. That’s how it starts.”

Those of you mired in the rigors of high school, college or post-graduate studies (and writing papers in either MLA or APA format!), will hopefully apply your education in many satisfying ways. However, at some point you may question your choices. If you do, this book is a great resource when you get to that point where you ask: What should I do with my life?

How crystal-clear are your aspirations? Did you always know what you wanted to do? Or are you still sorting it out?


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