I’m fascinated by that topic. I’m a big picture guy who talking about the details is like being attacked by a soul-stealing dragon. But get me on the big picture, and there’s light in my eyes and passion that keeps me going for hours.
A lot of us are like that. I’d even argue that all of us are big picture at our core. The most detailed people have to resurface to get their bearings again. I am truly blessed to be able to speak to about 150,000 Middle and High School students every year, over two million over the last two decades, and time and time again it comes back to the questions of…
“Why am I here?”
“What am I going to do with my life?”
“What career is going to make me happy?”
“How do I leave a positive impact?”
For upper classmen, they begin to get pressure from all sides to make a directional decision for the future. It’s coming from home, the classroom, and from inside their own selves as well. Think back for a second – next steps are a big deal – tectonic plate grinding pressure, earth-moving kind of big deal!
But good news, there are three simple questions I’ve developed that can help you to pull clarity from your student during conversations like this.
1. What do you love?
That’s where we start, love. It’s the strongest emotion for the human species that actually propels us to do the stupidest things that we never thought we’d do! Romantic love will leave a person to “walk five hundred miles” just to be with the one we love (according to The Proclaimers). When you were in Middle or High School, the emotions of love pretty much ran your life. What about the love of a parent to a child, or for your homeland, or for carne asada burritos? I would do ANYTHING for a carne asada burrito. Don’t mess with that kind of love man.
Asking someone about the loves of their life will help them to discover what touches them at their deepest level. Do you want to help them look into their truest self? This is the question that will help them see it.
2. What do you like?
Ok, and much less heavy, how about, “What you like?” This question is simple, not the crazy deep mining of the heart like before. For example, I like to write. I do. I like to read or watch or hear a great story. I like football, the beach, and great figures throughout history. I like to make things with my hands that I can revisit and say to myself, “I did that. Dang.” So what is it that they like to do?
We’ve heard it said that if your job is what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Isn’t it possible to find a life path that will lead us to what is fun for us? Can an artistic person actually do art for a living? Why not?
3. What are you good at?
Lastly, it comes down to what a person is skilled at. How many times have you seen someone on a singing competition show like The Voice, and they can’t sing? I mean, really, really terrible at singing. People want to be all kinds of things, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen right? I wanted to play in the NBA, but every dream doesn’t come true.
This last question refines the first two to reality. It cuts away all the stuff that’s likely not to happen, like wanting to do something that we’re just not good at, at all. True, some skills can be developed, meaning that we can become good at something we are not currently good at, but how about running with the thing that is monstrously great inside us?
Strengthsfinder is a great tool for helping people discover their top five strengths. There is a notion that in our American culture we are predominantly encouraged to develop and focus on our weaknesses to create a well-rounded person. We bring the “D” home that is on our report card and what happens? Grounded. Growing up in my dad’s house the old school belt came with that, a two for one deal. At least until that “D” became a “C”. But Strengthsfinder is built on the idea of spending the majority of our energy and time on what we’re awesome at, as opposed to what we’re lame at.
So in conclusion, my hypothesis is that the individual who discovers what they:
love and like, and what they are good at will greatly increase their clarity and in turn help narrow down what they want to do with their life. It’s a big question, and perhaps it’s THE question.
In the words of the great Bob Marley:
My feet is my only carriage, so I’ve got to push on through.
We’ve got what we’ve got, so lets go get it!
For breakfast I enjoyed a smoothie with blueberries, protein, kale, banana, flaxseed, and an avocado.
Author Profile: @chadfurlong