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What are the first few steps to figuring out what to do with your life when the choices are so vast?

For many the hardest mystery to solve is figuring out who you are, what your passionate about and then how you want to share that with the world generally through the career you choose.

It is so difficult in fact, that many people never figure out what they really want to do with their life. The conundrum of figuring out one's inner self and true passions can be confusing enough but add a myriad of career choices or life paths to the mix and a young college student has quite a dilemma on their hands. “One effect of all this choice,” Barry Schwartz sites in his TED talk on the Paradox of Choices, “is that it produces paralysis, rather than liberation." This means that smart, intelligent people could be paralyzed into defaulting into a career field they don’t care much for after all, end up with multiple degrees and a mound of debt or no degree at all because it was all too overwhelming and they never chose.

How should someone figure out what to do with their life? Are there rules of thumb, do you just pick and hope for the best or do you systematically come up with a plan? If you can't decide what do you do? Should you look at your personality, preferences, strengths and weaknesses and figure out the sum? And shoot, in this economy is a degree even worth it? What about other options? How does intuition or our gut play into our decision? What is the best advice we currently have to help individuals figure it out for themselves? How did YOU decide on what you wanted to do with your life?


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  • Jan 23 2012: Fiorella, great question!! When I read it I was amazed by how accurate you describe what I'm thinking at this point in my life. I couldn't have said it better.
    I haven't found any answers yet and the future doesn't look too bright for me, I'm in my second year at college, doing something that is really well-paid but I definitely do NOT like what I do and now I realized that the only reason I'm doing it is that I do not know what else to do. I have no idea what I like, what I'm good at (though this could probably be fixed by experiencing some other jobs) and I have no idea what to do next. The only 'acceptable' solution I found and the one I'm sticking to right now is to do what I have started already, until I get to that point in my life when I say "Stop!" and move on to something else, although starting from the beginning is not so intriguing.. Also I'm trying to read & listen to great people, great books and great stories, hoping that it will point me in a direction eventually. That's how I go this TED talk (which is amazing by the way).
    Good luck with finding what you like and at doing it the rest of your life!

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