The biggest question looming over 20 somethings these days (and always) seems to be frustratingly unanswerable: what should I do with my life? We look in books, podcasts, to our mentors, our parents, workshops…all in the hopes that what we “should” be doing will jump out at us and make itself known.
I argue that what you “should” do isn’t the question. The more important inquiry to understand is: how do I make my major life decisions?
Do you make choices based on what you think you “should” do, or what you’re excited about doing? Are your choices coming from a place of instilled responsibility, or alignment with your ultimate vision for your life?
In coaching, we often talk about the dreaded “shoulds,” the social conventions we all grew up accepting and believing as truth. The “shoulds” vary across time and cultures, but they generally serve to teach us how to be contributing members of our society. We should go to school, get a job, have a family. We should save up for emergencies, we should be rational, we should focus more on what makes us money than what brings us joy. We should exercise, we should eat well, we should help one another. The “shoulds” can be incredibly valuable, especially when we’re unsure about where to go next. These conventions show us a path, telling us exactly where to place our foot next. Right foot, responsibility. Left foot, hard work.
The problem with the “shoulds” is that far too often we forget that they’re nothing more than a framework. They’re the canvas on which we create our lives, and our personal choices and off path wanderings are the paint. Nothing original has ever been created by following a formula; this also means that nothing original has ever been created in a cocoon of total safety and comfort. Simply put, only following the “shoulds” makes you and your life incredibly boring.
You don’t need to reject every “should” tomorrow, but I encourage you to ask yourself which “shoulds” you’re currently embracing. Are they serving you in living your original, once in a lifetime, unforgettable iteration of your life? Or are you acting as you “should” and walking unconsciously through your days? If that’s the case, I dare you to shed a “should” or two. When you reject constant comfort and embrace a bit of daring, magical things start to happen.