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What to do if you have ‘no idea what to do with your life’


A silent majority of millennials feel stuck in life. For them I offer one piece of advice: Do something that scares you.

“Still no major, still don’t know where I’m gonna go to school, still no life plan.”

I received this text from my little sister one lazy Sunday afternoon. I replied with a few 10-second Snaps trying to give her the best advice I could think of.

Many millennials, especially the ones coming out of college, feel the same way my sister does: stuck.

I tend to focus too much on helping the millennials who already have a dream, who have a sense of purpose and want to go after fulfilling it.

In doing so, I neglect the silent majority of millennials who have no idea what to do with their life.

So here’s my advice for the neglected: do something that scares you.

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My Fear Factor

Growing up I was the shy kid. I rarely spoke up in class and never shared my opinion. Talking to anyone outside of my small circle of friends caused nervous anxiety to well up.

Somewhere, deep down inside me lives this kid. Every time I write a new blog post I can hear his crackly pubescent voice: Nobody wants to listen to what you have to say.

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But I hit “Publish” anyway and release my words to the interwebs.

Writing scares me, that’s why I do it.

Being a father scares me, that’s why I do it.

Selling a book scares me, that’s… you get the idea.

Writing scares me, that’s why I do it. Writing scares me, that’s why I do it.

Fear is More Than Resistance

Besides my brief anecdote, why does doing something that scares you help you feel unstuck?

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
― Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

For our ancient ancestors, fear was a survival response used to frighten us away from physical danger (lion attacks, snakes, volcanoes, etc.).

As young children, we feared because we felt vulnerable.

Fear, like all negative emotions, is hard-wired to hold precedence over positive emotions. So when you feel stuck and want to Step Forward in a new direction, fear floods our brain:

“What if I don’t get the job?”

“What if I look stupid?”

“What if she says ‘No’?”

Successful people sense the same fear we do. However, they re-frame this fear to see the opportunities instead of the consequences.

They don’t see fear as a deterrent. They see it as a compass.

5 Steps to Re-frame Your Fear

Instead of waiting to propose to my wife during a romantic visit to Chicago, I popped the question in my aunt’s basement while watching Shrek 2 (she was half-asleep at the time).

I feared I would lose the ring before the trip. My fear lead to a lackluster proposal (but a good story nevertheless).

It is possible to overcome your fears strategically and go after your goals. There’s even an app for it!

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However, I boil it down to 5 steps:

  1. Find your point A and point B – Every goal or dream has a starting and ending point: where are you now and where do you want to be. Write these down.
  2. Map out the obstacles between A and B – List out every possible obstacle starting with the most probable and ending with the least likely.
  3. Confront your fear of said obstacles – For each obstacle, ask yourself what do you have to fear? Write these out too.
  4. Develop if-then actions – Again, for each obstacle, determine what you will do to overcome it. If X happens, then I will do Y.
  5. Embrace the fear and Step Forward – Start Stepping Forward. You know what fears lie ahead of you. You have a plan for each obstacle. All that’s left is movement. Go!
It is possible to overcome your fears strategically and go after your goals.

What do You Have to fear?

If you feel stuck in life, find something that scares you, apply the five steps above, and Step Forward. Embracing your fear instead of allowing it to consume you will bring you closer to your dream.

The only thing you have to fear is not chasing your dream.

This article also appears on millennialtype.com

Photo credit: flickr, 2

in your inbox everyday at 10am CST.

No fluff or "pie in the sky inspiration." Just real stories.

Written by Declan Wilson

Declan Wilson is the founder of SHRPA, a membership site devoted to helping people clarify, plan, and execute their goals. You can find more of his writings at his blog or connect with him on Twitter or Instagram.