The #1 question I get from people is “What am I supposed to do with my life?” or “What am I called to do?”  (A close second to that question is “How do I start a romantic relationship?”)  Figuring out what to do with your life is a big deal, and I love helping people discern next steps.

When I graduated from college, I was absolutely confused about what to do next.  I had an engineering degree but no immediate opportunity to practice it due to a troubled economy.  I got certified to be a high school teacher for math and physics, but it just didn’t feel like the right fit for me. 

Then I took the LSAT and applied to various law schools and worked as a litigation case clerk at a law firm, yet that didn’t work out either.  I had a deep passion to work as a campus staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, yet I didn’t have the approval of my family.  I was worried, confused, and indecisive.  What am I supposed to do?  I felt lost.

Photo Courtesy of CarbonNYC (CC)

Photo Courtesy of CarbonNYC (CC)

Do you feel the same?  Yeah, you graduated, but now what?  Do you need to figure out what to do with your life?  Don’t worry!  I know how you feel.  You are not alone.  There is hope!  God definitely has a plan for your life.  Consider these 5 tips as you process what to do:

Tip #1:  Change your mentality

You don’t have to figure out your whole life – you just need to figure out what to do next!  This simple switch in your mentality is vital!  It creates breathing room and it is more congruent with reality.  Life is a series of moments not simply one crucial decision!  Don’t assume that what you pick now will be the same thing that you do forever.

Besides, God is not confused or disoriented if you make an “off-the-wall” decision for your next steps in life.  God works everything together – He wastes nothing.  Our mistakes, victories, and apathy are all used together in His wise plan.  Be bold and experience His grace.  Change your mentality about the future.  Don’t let it overwhelm you.

Tip #2:  Listen carefully

Ensure that you listen carefully to the right sources.  The most dependable sources for information can be found in four places:  God’s Word, Prayerful Reflection, Wise Advisors, and Life Circumstances. Think about these four questions to help bring clarity:

  1. What does God’s Word say about my next steps?
  2. What impression do I get as I pray/reflect about my next steps?
  3. What does my family and close friends have to say about my plans?
  4. How do current circumstances impact what I should do next?

I’ve heard it said, “Go where your best prayers take you”.  I agree but also practice the art of significant conversations as you examine the data from these four sources.  Look for similarities and connections as you talk to others. Imagine yourself living with your decision. There should be peace.  If you feel any tension, then pay attention to it.  Get a firm grip on reality.

Tip #3:  Move into Action

Don’t just examine the data, plan strategies, and daydream about it everyday!  Do something!! Yes, you will feel anxiety and you will feel your heart race!  But don’t let fear rob you of joy, adventure, and satisfaction! It will be hard to take the next step, but there is no better place to be than where your gifts and talents are fully activated!

Remember that fear rises up before you are about to make an important next step.  Fear and faith have a similar definition – “believing the unknown will happen”.   One reality is motivated by fear, and the other reality is empowered by faith.  Which is your reality?  Do you have faith to take the next step?

One of my students was totally crippled by fear.  He could go to professional school, become a campus minister, travel the world, or enroll into an overseas seminary. He asked, “What should I do?  Which one should I choose?”  I was overwhelmed by all of the options.  I thought about it and then said… “yes… you should do  all of them.”

We both laughed, but that is exactly what he did.  He pursued all of his options simultaneously.  I did the very same thing when I graduated.  Doors began to close for teaching, law school, and InterVarsity staff.  The door for engineering was opened miraculously.  Little did I know God would open the door for InterVarsity staff 6 years later.  There is power when you decide to take action!

Photo Courtesy of Cobiie (CC)

Photo Courtesy of Cobiie (CC)

Tip #4:  Find your Sweet Spot

As you try different opportunities, you will notice that you like some better than others.  In the book, Courage and Calling, the author quotes Frederick Buechner, “…the place that God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet…” That is powerful.  Find where your talents intersect with the world’s needs.  Any of those conversion points is a possible sweet spot for you.  Some spots will be sweeter than others.

Try out this exercise!  List your top 3 talents/passions (e.g. generosity, volleyball, and… tuba?…).  List your top 3 perceived places of brokenness in the world (e.g. inner-city kids, trafficking in Thailand, and political corruption). Now, draw a simple x-y grid and find where they intersect (don’t worry we aren’t going to do any calculus — I’m just letting my engineering side have some fun!)  Here’s what mine looked like:

Geeky Diagram provided by Linson Daniel

Geeky Diagram provided by Linson Daniel

Remember that you are always growing and learning new things; therefore, you should make adjustments to this diagram.  In my life at the time, being an engineer wasn’t a strong sweet spot, so I took small steps towards something sweeter!  Plan your next steps when the time is right.  Your passions and talents give you insight into your destiny. You never know what could be next!

Tip#5:  Respond Correctly to Discouragement

“Honestly, get off your high horse…”  
“Just forget it, can you really change the world?” 
“You’re a hypocrite!” 
“You’re a fool.” 
“You’re not qualified.” 
“You’re not talented, you just get lucky…” 

These are but a few phrases of discouragement that I have received from unreliable sources.  The peanut gallery comes to life when you break status quo and go for it.  Don’t worry.  Don’t lash out in anger when you receive discouragement. Don’t give up and slip into depression. Don’t give up on your sweet spot because of an opinion. Stay the course!

Evaluate the source of the discouragement.  If it is not one of the four sources mentioned in Tip #1, then don’t meditate on those words.  Remember that forward progress produces friction and you will experience it.  In fact, discouragement might be a good indicator that you are doing something right with your life!  If a response is warranted, then do it with love, grace, and understanding.

In conclusion, use these 5 tips to help you figure out what to do next! 
  1. Change your mentality
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Move into action
  4. Find your sweet spot
  5. Respond correctly to discouragement

Be confident in God.  There is much to be accomplished in this world through you.  God will take you there, and it is going to be tough but amazing.  Be open to His plan.  Never give up.  You are an everyday world changerStart today!

Additional resources: Michael Hyatt, Andy Stanley, Frederick Buechner

What is God calling you to do with your life?  Are you worried or confused about what to do next?  Do you have any advice I can add to this list?  Please comment below.