What Do I Do with My Life Now?

It’s a question that plagues many who have been working for years at the same job, doing the same routine at one time or another. They have been working with very little satisfaction and start thinking about a change. Do they stay with what they have or risk by making changes? And what changes? So, what do they do?

I was offered a similar question when I was asked what advice I would offer middle aged adults (40 – 65 years of age) who were dissatisfied with their careers. This was one of the questions that was offered to me for my final assignment in one of my courses in college. I understand this group because I am part of this group. I’m almost 65. The professor liked my responses; she gave me 20 out of 20.

There are many work history characteristics that fit this age group. Ideally, they have established some roots by developing their careers, maybe have gotten married and started a family. They may have become disenfranchised with their careers and may be looking for a new challenge, possibly a new career, even a new direction. Many people feel this way. Or they may be contemplating retirement but still want to work. Therefore, they might be interested in starting this new career. Or, like many, they may have been struggling with mediocre jobs, with no direction, with no future. They are not alone. Whatever direction that they decide and they want to make changes, they should not let discrimination like “ageism” be a detrimental factor as anyone from any group can face discrimination.

So, let’s begin: my first question is that I would ask how happy these people are in their present careers. Do they have a pension? Do they have some flexibility at work? Do their jobs bring them any enjoyment? Let’s face facts: most people do not like their jobs; therefore, people of this age group are not alone in these feelings.

So, if their jobs bring them some satisfaction, the answer to their problems is not a career change but maybe volunteering or taking courses at night school. Stay with what they have. One idea is find a hobby, something that they love. The money might follow. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

But, maybe, the answer is a new career change. Few people stay at one job all their lives. Most people switch and many times over.

My first piece of advice is to find purpose, a passion to live for. Life is difficult so no matter what path they go down, it will be difficult. So, go where their hearts are at. I learned that in 1985; I was working as a cook going nowhere. My first love was writing sketch comedy routines. So I pursuit that instead in my spare time and eventually established a sketch comedy troupe – not once but three times with some successes.

But purpose will mean nothing if they do not know what direction that they want as Alice found out in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”:

Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here.”
The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.”
Alice: “So long as I get somewhere.”
The Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

And if direction is missing, they may want to consider the story from the Bible “Parables of the Talents” (Matthew 25: 14 – 30): “What they use, more will be given. What they don’t use, will be taken away.” And if they need some guidance, enlist in an employment program geared to those older adults. Senior centers may have some information.

They may want to consider starting their own businesses. There is something gratifying about being their own bosses. Keep tabs on those who are pursuing their own dreams. I used to watch a show about Canadian entrepreneurs on Sunday nights on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) called “Venture” for inspiration when setting up my troupe. And it’s difficult maintaining a positive outlook when all you are experiencing are rejections and failures. Therefore, they may be wise to search for those who have experienced rejections and failures. Their stories can be inspirational.

But if they are to have any success, they must develop and practice a few simple rules to live by (and there are many). Here are a few:

First, surround themselves with likeminded people who will build them up and not put them down. And seek out those who have been there before. They are a great inspiration – every bit helps. They will copy what they see. And stay away from those who give off negative vibrations. They can be worse than a plague.

Secondly, ask “what is their motivation?” Are they working for themselves to get rich or are they helping to serve others? A sense of values and principles should be developed to live by. Making a living is important. There is some satisfaction in it. But it is not the only thing. It has been said that the more money and possessions one has, the more the money and possessions own the person.

Thirdly, develop a thirst for wisdom. Study and copy the great thinkers – past and present. They have so much wisdom to share. And to acquire wisdom is to love oneself (Proverbs 19:8).

Fourthly, if they feel that they are not making a difference, then, think about Emily Dickinson’s poem about making that difference:

If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life’s the aching
Or cool one pain
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain.

Fifth, memorize the Golden Rule. Simply put: “treat others the way they want to be treated.” But like most rules, they mean nothing if not put into practice.

And, finally, copy those individuals who have made a difference without accumulating great wealth – Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to name a few. Whatever they do, do it for love. For the sake of humanity. For a better world. If not, they are only serving themselves.