There comes a time in just about everybody’s life when they will ask themselves, “What am I doing with my life?” Or else, they may lament that, “I’m not doing anything with my life!” For some, this is only a very temporary thing, but for others, it can seem depressingly permanent. “I’ll never do anything with my life!” those people in the latter category will cry. “I’m too pathetic! There’s nothing I’m good at! I’m too ugly! Nobody likes me! Nobody will ever hire me! I’m too untalented! And why should I bother, anyway? This world sucks and will just throw its shit in my face no matter what I do, so I might as well not even try! The world wasn’t made for people like me! I should just crawl into a hole and rot!”
Shut up, quit your crying, and let’s start by ceasing to blame the world. The world owes you nothing. The world doesn’t give a damn about whether or not you make anything of yourself; if you crawl into a hole and rot, the world will keep on turning without you. Your life is your own. You call the shots. You get to determine what direction your life takes and whether or not it will amount to anything. The number of times I have heard the phrase “life sucks, and then you die” or some variant of said phrase could fill an essay by itself. What the many, many people who subscribe to “life sucks, and then you die” seem to believe is that life owes them, and not the other way around. If you sit around and expect life to hand you happiness on a silver platter, without getting up off your behind and earning that happiness for yourself, then life will be seen as a very miserable thing. You are waiting for something that is never going to happen without you to put it into motion. It’s like getting into your car for a drive and expecting it to steer itself; you’ll get nowhere, except smashed up against a tree.
There must come a time in every human being’s life when they must realize that the world does not care about them, and that they are not entitled to the world’s care. You might say, “But I already know this, and that’s why I’m not even going to bother! Why should I do anything with myself if the world is never going to give a damn anyway?” Well, I am going to ask you this, then: why do you care so much what the world cares about? What about what you care about? Whose life are you trying to live anyway? Yours, right? So why should you base your life on whether or not the world gives a shit? The world does not owe you anything, but the best part about that is that you do not owe it anything either! The only one you owe anything to is yourself. You owe yourself happiness. You owe yourself experience. You owe yourself whatever you decide that your life ought to be; if you decide that life should be about working a calm and mundane office job while providing for your spouse and kids and taking the occasional trip or vacation on your days off, then that is what you owe to yourself. If you decide that life should be adventurous and exciting, with a high intensity career that leaves you open to lots of opportunities to network and lots of new experiences, then that is what you owe to yourself. You owe yourself whatever the picture of life you’ve envisioned for you may be, and you do not owe that to anybody but yourself. The world won’t give a damn, that’s why you have to give all the damns.
However, you are never going to be able to give yourself that picture of life without working your ass off for it. Misery is not desirable by any means—very few people, when asked what their plan for life is, will answer “Working at a dead-end job for eight hours a day, coming home to a meager dinner, and going to sleep to wake up and do it all again the next day”—but it is comfortable. Meaning, a life of misery and failure and constant downtime requires no work or effort. Misery stems from a lack of productivity—if you’re not doing anything productive, you’re not going to feel good about yourself or your life. You’re going to feel like a failure.
This is why, if you want to give yourself the life you feel you owe yourself, you must start working on acquiring and cultivating a skill set that will benefit others. Why must it benefit others? Because we live in a system based around the needs and desires of others, and the only things that will get you anywhere in this system are the things that meet these many, many needs and desires. People need to eat. They need clothing. They need things to furnish and decorate their houses. They need leisure, entertainment, and comedy. In order to get any further in this system of needs, you must be able to fulfill these needs with a set of abilities that will do so. And yes, that says set of abilities; you can’t learn just one skill and expect to get anywhere. If you learn only one skill, you must base your prospects around only that one skill. And if those prospects fail, then you will have nowhere else to go and will hit rock bottom. You will need to learn an assortment of different skills, and you will need to sharpen and cultivate the skills in this assortment in order to ensure that you have many different prospects to pursue, at least one of which will prove beneficial.
“But I’m not good at anything!” you lament. “I can’t learn any skills! I suck at everything!” Well, I have some good news for you: no one sucks at everything. Everyone can learn a set of skills through hard work, constant effort, and devoted practice. Nobody can be good at every skill in the world, of course, but everybody can find a set of skills that they are able to pick up on. You will find something—many things—that you are good at and will be able to continue to sharpen until you master them enough to produce something great.
So, how are you supposed to acquire this skill set? By experimenting with and trying out many different things to see which ones you pick up on the quickest and are therefore most likely to be able to learn. The things you try out should not be based on what you think will earn you the most money, but the things you think you will enjoy or already do enjoy—wouldn’t it just suck if you spent your entire life doing something that may be beneficial to others, but that you hate with a passion? That’s no way to achieve the happiness you so desire! You will most likely be able to pick up on skills based on things you enjoy doing anyway; the enjoyment is part of the motivation you’ll need to continue learning and practicing the skill.
“But there’s nothing I like that would be useful to others!” you complain. Well, in that case, why not try figuring out ways to make it useful to others? Do you like gaming? Try writing game critiques or filming let’s plays, two things that satisfy the human need for enjoyment and entertainment. Is fashion your passion? Take up sewing, graphic design, or jewelrymaking and start your own line, satisfying the need for clothing and the desire to look nice. Or, try writing your own fashion advice column or launching a style blog; others with a passion for fashion will appreciate the educated opinions on what to wear and when and how to wear it.
“But how am I supposed to learn anything if I can’t afford classes?” Well, if you can’t shell out for formal classes there are plenty of tutorials, manuals, how-to guides, and instructional videos and DVDs available absolutely free of charge via your local public library, or even the Internet. You can start learning anything you wish to learn as long as you have access to Google, Bing, Yahoo Search, Youtube, or Ask.com to help you find online tutorials. And if you don’t have access to any of those places, you very likely have access to a public library that has access to all of those places and more besides. Formal classes are just one way to learn, practice, and cultivate a skill. Our education system makes them seem like the only way, but they’re not. If you’re dedicated enough to what you’re learning, you can and will pick up on it by setting up your own “classes.” And if you find enough enjoyment in it, you will be dedicated enough.
Picking up on and cultivating a skill set is an awesome way to get a person who may not be very determined, dedicated, social, or satisfied to come out of their shell. If you’re somebody who’s been holding back because they’re too shy or unmotivated, then let’s end that here. The way to feel confident and motivated enough to do something is to just get out there and start doing it. Your pursuits will give you a sense of accomplishment, and there is very little that can make someone happy with their life than accomplishing something that they are happy with. In addition to that, coming out of your shell will allow you to open yourself up to new and exciting experiences within the world, which will give you valuable experience that will broaden your horizons in work and in life.
So, you’re still not convinced. You’ve read and read, and you still lack the motivation to go out and do something. And that’s okay, you say, because everyone knows you’re a good person with a good heart, therefore it doesn’t matter if you don’t really want to do anything with your life; being a good person with a good heart is all that’s really important!
Well, unfortunately that’s not the case. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Good intentions are not enough?” It’s absolutely true. Being a nice guy with a good heart and loads of good intentions for yourself, your personal circles, and your world is absolutely important; after all, the world has enough jerks who simply don’t give a damn about others, and nobody likes them. But you cannot get by in life with a good heart alone. This is not a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, and life will not give you free handouts simply because you are a good person with a good heart. This is because the real world does not measure a person’s value in life by idle talk or good intentions, but by what a person can do to benefit others by using that good heart of theirs. When a natural disaster strikes, for instance, the people who are getting anything done to recover are not the people who sit idly by at their TVs and computers making a promise to keep the disaster victims in their hearts and prayers. Lighting a candle or making a prayer card is a lovely thought, and it certainly comes from the mind of one who truly cares, but there is nothing it will do to help the victims. The ones who are actually getting anything done to benefit the victims are those who volunteer with groups who are actively working to get anything done, and those who are donating money or requested items to help said groups, or following said groups carefully via news and social media to see when and where they can be of assistance to them. To sum it up, a good heart will only get you by if you actually use it to do something beneficial. If you are truly the good person that you say you are, you must display it with your actions rather than just saying it. A person who truly wants to do good for the world must be motivated to obtain the resources and work for the causes to do so.
So, you’ve read all the way down to here, and you still just don’t know what you want out of life, or you’re still not convinced that you’re able to start acquiring it right now. Throughout your teenage years, you probably felt pressured by parents, teachers, classmates, and others to decide what you wanted out of your future right then. Or maybe the pressure didn’t come until after you got out of high school and realized, “Oh crap! I’m in the real world now! I’ve got to know what I want to do or the world will eat me alive!” Well, if you were ever in that situation and you’re still feeling the pressure, I’ve got some very good news for you: there is no magical age or time of life when you just suddenly know what you want out of your future. The question of “what am I doing with my life” is only answered through your own personal life experiences. For some, these experiences will paint a picture of what they want out of life very early. For others, it may take longer. But the point is, everybody will find out what they want out of life at different times. If you still don’t know, then maybe it’s just not your time to find out. In that case, where you are right now might be the best place for you. Your picture of the ideal life will come eventually, and when it does, that’s when it’ll be your time to start working towards it.
So until then, try everything. Enjoy your life in the best way you possibly can. Gain new life experiences and see which ones stick out the most for you. This is the way you will finally discover how you wish to shape your future. Until then, there’s no need to rush yourself; your picture of life will come when it does. Regardless of where they stand, I wish all my readers the best of luck in everything they decide to do with their lives.
This essay was very largely inspired by David Wong’s amazing article, 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. To read David Wong’s article, and maybe receive another vital dose of motivation, visit www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/