Don’t Know What to do With Your Life? 25 Suggestions.

by Alexander Heyne · 15 comments

Graduating from college or beginning a new phase of life is a great opportunity to do whatever you want.

Which is why it puzzles me that so many people say: “What should I do with my life?”

The answer: Are you serious? Anything and everything.

If nothing comes to mind, here are 25 suggestions that’ll hopefully get the gears going:

1. Go Sky Diving


I have no idea why sky diving is one of those things that’s on everyone’s bucket list, but it’s pretty fun.  You should do it.

2. Start a Company

Being your own boss is the shit.  You get to make the calls, the hours and the plans.  Yeah there’s a lot more hard work involved, and yeah the potential for failure is higher than a cubicle job but…. you can do whatever you want. Nuff said. 

3. Move to Another Country

I wrote plenty on the benefits of moving abroad.

4. Teach English

If you honestly are just bored, want a change of scenery, $25/hour with no credentials other than being a native English speaker (+ bonus points if you’re white and fit the stereotype), good locations to travel to neighboring countries, and major conversation starters when you re-enter the homeland, then teaching English may be a sweet gig for you.

5. Start a blog or website

If you’re really savvy you can make some pretty sweet pocket change off your site.  If you aren’t, you can just write a generic blog where you bitch about life or gossip about your sexual escapades.

6. Nothing

If you’re one of those high-strung wall street types, doing nothing for a short period of time [key words: short period of time] may be your greatest ally for just toning down life and keeping it simple.

7. Get a new hobby (Girlfriend, Motorcycle, Pet)

Change the scenery a little.  Dress up like a medieval nerd and battle others to the death (SCA), get a motorcycle (if you get ====> that one on the side call me), or get a new pet.

Pets / Girlfriends include, but are not limited to: Cockapoos (for the most ridiculous dog name ever), hissing cockroaches, and pangolins. The last one being a badass modern dinosaur that would look awesome on a leash.

8. Dump your boyfriend or girlfriend

Come on people, we’re trying to change the scenery here.

9. Become a creepy regular at a cafe and philosophize about life

We all become creepsters at some point or another. Sit in the corner of a Starbucks or local indie cafe, bring a bunch of different drawing utensils and constantly draw charts, diagrams, and write in cryptic elven languages to make others in the vicinity wonder what you’re up to.

10. Start a Revolution

There are plenty of ways to do this.  But the best way is to pick a dream that would be badass if it came real, and then do it.  And then spread the word. Need help? Ask.

11. Slow. Down. Now.

I’ve already linked to their website before, but I’ll do so again. It’s really important in this modern world of super over-achievers, ultra-competitiveness and greener lawn competitions to take it easy.

12. Get a job

Oh no.  I didn’t just say that.  But for some people who just moved back home, have no money, and no dreams, there aren’t exactly many other options —  except for whoring yourself out on the street corner (paid my way through college), or selling organs (on my to-do list).

13. Quit your job and start doing something conversation worthy

Went out to a party and told people you’re an actuary?  Hate to break it to you, but 96% of people tuned you out right after you finished that sentence.

There’s nothing wrong with doing a job you like that pays well, even if others perceive it as boring.  However, if you make your own life interesting to yourself, it’ll probably also be interesting to others.

14. Get a totally ridiculous job just for shits and giggles

Earthworm breeder? Elephant suppository administrator? Exotic dancer?  Dude, at least they stimulate conversation.

15. Volunteer somewhere exotic

I’ll link you over to my buddies at idealist.org.  Lots of great opportunities to do random stuff (paid and unpaid) all over the place.

16. Read Thoreau

This one belongs on my simple pleasure list. Thoreau is definitely one of the masters of simple living. Read Walden, and you may just reconsider how you should be living your life.

17. Get rid of 80% of the things you own

Yeah that means clothes you wear once a month, or pass over, or put at the bottom of your fresh clothes pile every time.

Shoes you’ve worn twice.

Books you haven’t read in three years but promised yourself you’ll read again.

Anything and everything in your closet, basement, or under your bed that you “think” you’ll use later.  If you haven’t used it in a year, it’s just taking up space and making your life complicated.

18. Put on good music and aimlessly go driving for hours.

One of my favorite pleasures modern man gets to enjoy. Find a nice country road, put on the music, and just go. Explore. 

19. Travel. Somewhere cool.  Not France or Spain. [ Nothing Personal ]

Just burn some of your life savings on a sweet trip to cannibalistic Papua New Guinea, drug lord infested Mexico, or kidnap-central Brazil.  Have something to show for your travels (like a missing ear sent back to your mom) instead of just pictures.

Avoid France and Spain so you can avoid 99% of the study abroad students.

20. Read the Alchemist

It’s my favorite book, you’ll know why.  It’s by Paulo Coelho.

21. Write a list of all the stuff you want to do before you die

You’ve got the time for a bucket list, so why not?

22. Write a list of all the shittiest jobs you’ve had, as well as the best jobs you’ve had

Do your best to avoid the first half.  That’s a real soul eater.

23. Promise yourself you’ll do your best to fulfill #22

Seriously. Most of us spend so much time working that if it’s a terrible job it puts a damper on the entire day.

24. Go on an adventure

Every month Milk the Pigeon posts some adventure suggestions.

25. Read the Holstee Manifesto

I love it. You should too, otherwise we can’t be friends.  You can find it here.

Realistically you have all the options in the world, but most people only come up with excuses for not doing awesome conversation-worthy stuff.

Bonus: Tired of Living a Shitty Mediocre Life? Read this: Getting Un-Lost and Re-writing History

Living the Epic Story You Were Born to Live

 

“Travel often; Getting lost will help you find yourself.”

-The Holstee Manifesto

Let’s face it, most of us are lost.  The percentage of people that appear to be lost in life decreases as you go up in age.  But the reality is that most of us are lost — it’s just the 20 somethings that aren’t afraid to admit it.

The thing about being lost is most of us assume it’s something negative: we associate it with the college grad who can’t find a job, returns home, and ends up playing video games all day, watching How I Met Your Mother, and ordering Domino’s every night.

But the reality is that being lost just means you can’t find the path – at the present moment.

From the manifesto, Killing Your Old Life and Living the Dream,:

However, here’s the catch and something I want you to remember: that floating in space, kinda lost feeling is an incredible gift.

It is the gift of opportunity — Don’t mistake it for anything else. 

“What do you want to do with your life?” does not mean, “what corporate job do you want to do for your entire life?”

“What do you want to do with your life?” means, “What do you want to do with your life?” 

 ————————-

The Illusion of Being Unlost

One of your most valuable assets as a temporarily lost person is lying.

Yes, lying.

Lie to others, and lie to yourself.

Because it’s not that we respect people who aren’t lost – we respect people who don’t appear lost.

————————–

Become Un-Lost


There is one principle that underlies all efforts at becoming un-lost.  Change.

There are a million and one reasons why a person finds themselves lost, or feels lost, and a million and one solutions.  But let me propose one theory:

You’re lost because you’ve been doing something the same way, which used to work, but it no longer makes you feel the way it used to.

The reason why you feel lost even though you have a job and a place to live is the same reason why married couples were once in love, and a few years in, wonder if marriage is all it’s chalked up to be.

Lack of change (specifically, progress) is the underlying, superficial reason behind why we get lost.

The deeper reason is because we feel like things become pointless, meaningless, and we have no story.

Thus there are two required components of becoming un-lost.

Curing the superficial: introducing change.

Curing the profound: finding your story.

————————-

Curing the Superficial

Become an Irresponsible Adventurer

Well-behaved women seldom make history.

—Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

I was walking my dog on a cold winter night in December a couple years back. It was about 15 degrees F, the night was perfect, the stars were shining bright. Winter always has the best stars, and the best and brightest stars always put me in a pensive mood.

I thought about what made some stories and lives boring, while others were interesting. I thought about the best years of my life and the worst years of my life, and I realized a trend.

Boring years were predictable and easily repeatable.

Awesome years were unpredictable and were not easily replicated.

Not rocket science right?

Back in college we used to go on little adventures for the weekend — exploring here or there, finding cool camping spots and then making ghetto treasure maps so our friends could find the same places.

A few years later I made more random “irresponsible” decisions that turned out to be the best decisions in my life – quitting numerous jobs, moving across the world , and other ridiculous micro adventures.

And I realized something.

We all need to be a  little be more “irresponsible” in the eyes of society, and more adventurous.

Become an irresponsible adventurer by going on Microadventures

An adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.

You do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to do an expedition.
You do not need to be an elite athlete, expertly trained, or rich to have an adventure.

Adventure is only a state of mind.

Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing what you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.

And if that is true then adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times, I believe, when getting out into the wild are more enjoyable, invigorating and important than ever.

Alastair Humphreys talks a lot about Microadventures — an idea he had for breaking up routine and really sucking the marrow from life.

 “We always talk about the nine-to-five life, the office life. What about your five-to-nine? That’s 16 hours a day. I decided to do something in those hours.”

Adventures are all about change — and fortunately, not the destination. That means you don’t need to climb Mt. Everest or go bouncing on the moon to have an adventure — you just need to do something out of your ordinary.

Cure the superficial, encourage change, and become an irresponsible adventurer. 

Curing the Profound

Find Your Story

The second reason why we get lost is a biggie, and is a longer process to solve than simply being an irresponsible adventurer.

You’re lost because you don’t have a story.

There’s a book called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years  about an author who is being interviewed to make a movie about his life.

And he realizes his life is boring. There is almost nothing worth talking about — the exact opposite of living a conversation-worthy life.

So Miller decides to figure out what makes a good story. He compares writing a good story, or watching a good movie, to living a life that is worth living.

 You can’t go on without a story any longer than you can read a book about nothing… 

If you aren’t telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.

The problem with not having a story is that even if you experience a lot – travel, learn, try new things – you aren’t providing a context for all the experiences to occur in.

The experiences just become noise, they are random, chaotic, and although enjoyable, they don’t come together and provide any coherent feeling of “purpose.”

Creating an Epic Story – A Character Who Wants Something

“A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. A character who wants something…”

The first part of an epic story?  A character has to want something. This “want” is the context for all further experiences – instead of traveling, it’s visiting every country in the world to raise awareness for international peace keeping efforts.

Instead of going to the gym, it’s to lose those 50 pounds and not end up like both your parents that died young from heart disease.

Rather than making a million dollars a year in revenue, it’s about creating your own legacy – building something that is beautiful, will exist long after you are gone, and will be remembered far longer than your name will be — and then making a million dollars.

A story provides a context for all experiences. 

Almost all great characters and great stories are illuminated by one clear thing: clear ambition.

The boy in the Alchemist is looking to fulfill and live his personal legend.  Beowulf is looking to kill Grendel.  All great stories have a character with a clear purpose.

———- What is the point of your story? ———-

The Possibility of Failure

“I knew if we were going to tell a good story, it would have to involve risk…  the same elements that make a movie meaningful are the ones that make a life meaningful. I knew a character had to face his greatest fears.”

The whole idea of the story is that it cannot be easily accomplished.  If it is easily accomplished, it is by default not worth striving for, not special, not worth reading about.

If it’s easy, it’s predictably attainable. That is not how an epic story goes.  Nor is it how your story is going to go.

No, it’s going to be goddamn difficult.  You’re going to have to talk yourself off that ledge every week, sometimes every day, but you’re going to keep going.

Because what makes the story great is the struggle – the question as to whether or not the person will succeed.

“It wasn’t necessary to win for the story to be great; it was only necessary to sacrifice everything”

The story is about the character transformation. Your story is about how your character is forged through difficulty.

Picking easy, predictable tasks you can succeed at easily, or can predict the outcome, is not the making of a story others will want to read.

Just imagine if the story went like this: “He got a job, then stayed at his job, and stayed at his job some more, got a promotion after 5 years, and then stayed at his job, and continued working…” 

There is no risk. It is completely predictable. That’s not how you write your story.

In the Alchemist, the boy is constantly getting sidetracked — he gets stuck in north Africa, he runs out of money, and is forced to work at a Crystal merchant’s store for years.

He thinks he has failed, and temporarily, he has.  His journey has numerous such setbacks, but how come he doesn’t give up? Because his failures are all in the context of a larger story. 

He still has a story to write.

———- Whatever you are shooting for — whatever story you are writing — cannot, by default, be easy. It must require difficulty, it must require pain, and it must require struggle. Ask yourself if what you’re doing now has a guaranteed outcome, or if it makes you nervous with the possibility of failure. ———-

You want the latter.

An Epic Story Sucks While It is Being Acted Out

“It would be easier not to try, not to get out of bed. I wish I could tell you I woke every morning and jumped into the thrill a character might feel inside a page-turner, but I don’t; I wake every day and plod through the next page of my story, both in words and in actions. 

The reward you get from a story is always less than you thought it would be, and the work is harder than you imagined. The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work.” 

The truth about living an epic story is clear: it always looks more fun from the outside in.

It’s thrilling to watch snowboarders jump hundreds of feet into the air doing backflips, or watch fight scenes in the Bourne movies, or watch UFC and get pumped up.

But anyone who has done anything epic realizes that when you’re in the moment — it’s terrifying. It makes you queazy, weak at the knees, it takes focus, and there is the possibility of failure, injury or death.

And it’s goddamn difficult.

But great gain takes great risk —

———- Remember the truth — living an epic story is infinitely harder than writing an epic story.  It will be harder, take longer, and the fruits you reap won’t be as great as you had anticipated.   But it will be worth it.  Make your story epic ———-

Living Life Intentionally

“People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.”

A story can happen on its own, or a person can choose to live life deliberately.

If your family is kidnapped and you are the only survivor, and you spend your life looking to recover your family — you have a story. And you didn’t choose it.

If, however, your story is currently on the same page, year after year after year, it’s time to start living life intentionally.

That means deliberately choosing to create and live your story.

“The great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear… But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life”

The easiest way to live life intentionally? Set huge goals. I mean really unrealistically large goals- raise a million dollars for a charity, climb the 10 largest mountains on earth even though you’re blind, have your kids write a bunch of world leaders asking if they want to come over for dinner — and then do them.

Shoot way bigger than you think is possible.

Pick a goal — say, run a 5k even though you’re 100 lbs overweight — and then multiply it in difficulty x 10. Choose to run an ultra marathon in the future.

That is creating an epic life story.

And creating your story is as much about what you do as well as who you do it with:

“If your friends are living boring stories, you probably will too.” 

————————-

It’s time to wake up and tell yourself you’re going to write your own story. What’s it going to be like?

“Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic: It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy consuming. 

It’s easier to raise $1,000,000 than it is $100,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s. If you are insecure, guess what — the rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”

-Tim Ferriss

Becoming un-lost means curing the superficial: introducing adventure into life, and curing the profound: finding your story.

Your life is a story — is it worth reading?

P.S. If Life Feels a Little Meaningless to You: Read This.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Alastair Humphreys January 20, 2013 at 7:40 am

What a cool post – loads of good stuff on here. Particularly relevant for me – the Slow Down Now parts.
Thank you!
Alastair

Reply

Alexander Heyne January 20, 2013 at 10:58 am

Hey Alastair — I’m a huge fan of your microadventure idea, so thanks to you !

Thanks for stopping by

Alexander (I guess I’m technically Alastair too, huh?) haha.

Reply

Buntu Redempter January 30, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Wow, I have no words for this post.

Reply

natalia April 3, 2013 at 4:39 pm

thanks

Reply

Patia April 4, 2013 at 9:02 pm

This is just what I needed in a stuck mode I have become this has got me thinking. Thank you.

Reply

Alexander Heyne April 7, 2013 at 12:17 pm

You’re welcome Patia :)

Reply

Emily May 18, 2013 at 11:07 am

This post is amazing, I have to make a huge life decision within a few weeks and this has helped dramatically. I am joining the forces, but I was considering pulling out after a taster as I am scared I cannot train and get screamed at for 10 weeks!!! Thank you!!!

Reply

Alexander Heyne May 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

You’re welcome Emily :)

– Alex

Reply

Polska June 3, 2013 at 8:52 am

Beautiful.

Thank you, I’m an spanish girl ;) who is lost in the middle of a freshman year and I needed something like this.

Reply

Alexander Heyne June 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

You’re welcome Polska :)

Reply

reg June 4, 2013 at 12:17 am

I can’t thank you enough for this.

Reply

Alexander Heyne June 7, 2013 at 2:02 pm

You’re welcome Reg !

Reply

bell August 14, 2013 at 8:17 am

Hello. I’d like to say thank you. I’m currently on my last year of high school, and I have no idea where I’m going or what I’m doing (and it terrifies me). Thinking of my life as a story really helps because I love stories, and I can see the relation. Witnessing a great character change is exciting, and the endings to such stories are always the worst part (for me, at least). I wouldn’t want my life to be the other way around with the ending a relief to the reader who dares trudge through text upon text of the same thing. Again, thank you.

Reply

Alexander Heyne August 18, 2013 at 10:26 am

No problem Bell, let me know how it goes :)

Reply

Sarah December 19, 2014 at 1:06 am

This post was wrote on my birthday, in the middle of feeling utterly hopeless working the same job three years dropping out of courses because i was doing them just because, no real desire.. i need a new chapter in my life! This post has really helped me gain some perspective im sick of the same old story! Thanks

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