It’s good to have options and be able to choose. However, when we are presented with too much options all at once we often end up with choice paralysis leading us to not making a choice at all (which is a choice itself). Since it’s up to us to decide what we make of our lives we can face the same issue when trying to come up with an answer to the most important question in our lives. What is it I’m going to do with my life?
At least you don’t have to worry about missing out on the thing you were supposed to be doing since there is no such thing. This doesn’t make it easier. Every time we decide to do one thing it means we are not doing a million other possible things. Economist refer to these options we have to miss out on as alternative costs. These alternative costs playing in the back in our mind can be the cause of the choice paralysis many of us experience when we can’t decide what it is we really want to do with our lives.
It’s not hard to come up with dozens if not hundreds of things you could do with your life. Even if you limit yourself to goals that are realistic in a reasonable short time span, with your current skills and knowledge, it can still be a daunting task to decide what to do. And with deciding I don’t mean just saying to yourself that you want to accomplish something, but actually taking action to achieve that which you intent to do (more on this here).
The feeling of existential angst that occurs when we suddenly realize that there is no predefined reason for us to be here may very well be a manifestation of choice paralysis. Once we realize there is nothing we have to do, except dealing with the consequences of our actions, we also realize there isn’t one right answer to the question of what we are supposed to do. This takes away the possibility of finding the one “right” answer, something we are destined to do, there is no such thing. So now there isn’t just one right answer, instead there are an infinite number of answers and we have to decide which ones to go for. This can be a daunting task which explains why so many people go through life settling for a mediocre path of choices they more or less stumbled into. In the face of a limitless amount of options they froze and ended up going for the default option.
However, finding an answer to the question about our reasons to exist is important in order to live a meaningful fulfilling life. Giving up on it because it’s a difficult question is not a very appealing option. As long as we don’t decide what we want to do with our lives we are just wondering about aimlessly, waiting for the time to pass until we die. So what can we do about this?
In the end it’s about finding something that excites you and just going for it. It can help to start with setting smaller goals if you are still fuzzy about what big dreams you want to realize. The important thing is to actually take action and do something. And if you do have a big dream, do yourself a favor and give it your all.
I’m not saying it’s easy to decide what you want to do with your life, far from it, no matter how smart you are. Being smart can even work against you since it opens up even more possibilities. Nonetheless we’ll have to keep looking for an answer. It’s not about having to do anything, it’s about wanting to do certain things. It’s your life, are you going to settle for the default settings or are you making something worthwhile of it?
Life is intrinsically pointless since meaning is something we assign to things; like a task is only meaningful when it serves a desirable goal. Not just any goal, the intention to achieve it has to be present in order to make it worthwhile. Intention is the key to meaning.
Since meaning is something we assign to things through intention, a meaningful life is one intentionally lived. This doesn’t mean having complete control over it, this is impossible since life is unpredictable and the majority of forces influencing your life are out of your control. However it does mean acting intentionally, setting goals to strive towards, and taking steps to achieve them. Roadblocks will always show up, if you are living intentionally you respond by finding other roads and picking yourself up when you trip and fall. It means consciously deciding what you want to do with your life, not just reacting to whatever happens to you.
Our actions define us. And, as I pointed out earlier, our actions are our real choices. In the end it’s not about what happened to us but how we reacted to it. What defines us, and how meaningful our life was, is how we decided to live it by the actions we took.