10 answers to ‘What should I do with my life?’

what should I do with my life cc-by lemasney

what should I do with my life cc-by lemasney

One reason I love teaching

I teach college students, high-schoolers, grad students, seniors, and a diverse bunch of others. I love teaching because I often find myself in some of the most interesting discussions I’ve had in my life there in those quiet classrooms and community rooms.

I am often placed in the position of amateur philosopher because I get to ask people branding prompts, queries like “what kind of meal are you?” or “if you could change the world now, how would it be different?” and the answers I get are often less examined than, let’s say, their favorite football team. I love the thought that the next time they are asked the question, they may have had time to reflect on their original answer and develop their point of view.

Undergraduate students ask different kinds of questions in quiet after-class sidebars.

I most often answer questions about technology in my classes, but sometimes we veer off into more interesting and useful territories. In teaching undergrads recently, which I do not do as often as other groups, I’ve been asked about things like life-trajectory and intended outcomes. One student told me that he was not sure if it was an àpropos use of the term, but that he felt like he was having a ‘existential crisis’. I replied that it was certainly possible, even likely at this time in his life, and that he was in good company. I shared that it may be a sign that he was growing. His main question, and the question often asked when I have had these deeper philosophical conversations, is “What should I do with my life?” I like many of the answers I’ve collected in the discussions, and thought I might share them here.

10 recent answers to “What should I do with my life?”

These are 10 answers I gave recently, in no particular order of importance. Our mental and conscious state is the result of an amazingly complex number of holistic and systemic factors, including genetics, authoritative influence, culture, society, exposure to ideas, emotional and physical environment, diet, and body chemistry. To look at the effects of one while ignoring the effects of others is an easy route to false- or half-truths. I often assume that the conversant is already in-line with and subject to the standard barrage of media, educational, and political propaganda and ideologically coercive forces that our society imparts (our government loves and protects you, we don’t commit crimes world-wide, we are not slaves and slavery ended a long time ago, social media is not poisoning us, etc.), and so I try to sidestep major social, religious, political, or diversity oriented issues. Instead…

I try to remind them that we are all the same regardless of our sensed differences like age, gender, religion, or skin color: an ambulatory pile of chemically bonded universal elements with the miraculous evolutionary gift of self-awareness.

and then, I offer some of these ideas, useful for me personally, but hopefully adaptable to another’s  philosophy as well.

  1. Pursue what you love and have passion for. Set aside goals of money, fame, or recognition, which may or may not come while you enjoy your life.
  2. Collect experiences, not stuff. Live small and save money. Live so small that money is unnecessary or less necessary.
  3. Look to your ideological mentors, leaders, and heroes for answers. Consider their answers with a critical thought. Listen to your thought opponents for clues to a median truth.
  4. Resist convenience and high technology where/when it removes your independence. In other words, financial credit is convenient, but it allows you to spend money you do not actually have, which replaces flexibility and independence with debt. A smartphone is convenient comparative to a land line, but given that your location, written & verbal communications, and other easily recorded sensor data becomes just as easily available to authorities, consider that the convenience costs you your privacy.
  5. Learn to meditate and be mindful. Be open to different ideas. Question authority and assure its legitimacy for yourself. Avoid the constraints of silly rules or useless officials.
  6. Imagine the public memory of your deceased self. Be missed. Have a legacy. Increase the number of people you have helped, forget how much you earned doing it.
  7. Remove illusions and seek truths. Recognize, avoid, and ignore rat mazes and traps. Do this forever. Raise awareness of the losses or constrictions of rights. (Chomsky, et al.)
  8. Recognize and beware addictions and vices. Ideas can be addictive and money is just an idea.
  9. Realize the earth is only a sustainable resource if we slow down our consumption and plan sensible resource management. If we don’t, we will perish. Save room for nature.
  10. Eat less; move more. Eat real food. Know what is in your food. (Pollan)

A supportive biblio/videography

What follows is an abridged bibliography and videography of influential thinkers and topics that is helping me to shape my ideas now, hopefully clearly related to my answers in the list above.

HighExistence: How to Escape the Rat Race and Live a Radically Free Life

I want to live simply (High Existence)

I want to live simply (High Existence)

“Become very frugal and self-reliant and buy a cheap tiny home, cabin, boat, or van.  Buy a modest patch of low-demand property somewhere for a good price, build a tiny home or some other low-cost, functional structure, and live very cheaply, perhaps growing some of your own food or doing other things to be as self-sufficient as possible.” excerpted from How to Escape the Rat Race and Live a Radically Free Life | High Existence at http://goo.gl/45p8jt

Michael Pollan: monocultures, food deserts, processed foods, and food politics.

Noam Chomsky: language, history, politics, science,

Another great video on Chomsky:

Einstein: Relativity, absolutism, and nuclear energy.

“In 1905, Albert Einstein determined that the laws of physics are the same for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum was independent of the motion of all observers. This was the theory of special relativity. It introduced a new framework for all of physics and proposed new concepts of space and time.” excerpted from Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity: A Simplified Explanation at http://goo.gl/71qW0P

The grand circle theory, Shelter publications, Buckminster Fuller.

“Secondly, here are some personal aesthetic discoveries I’ve made in spending a few years around various plastic materials (I’d lived previously with more conventional materials such as wood, concrete, glass, brick, etc.) I’ve found that the less molecular rearranging a material has undergone, the better it feels to be around. Wood, rock, adobe as compared with polyurethane foam and polycarbonate resin windows.” excerpted from Domes — Shelter Publications at http://goo.gl/SMHETE

David Henry Thoreau: On the duty of Civil Disobedience

David Byrne with St. Vincent – I should watch TV

The Georgia Guidestones.

These are the kinds of things that are giving me insight into what I should be doing with my life, and I believe you can ask that question everyday in the hopes of a newly evolved answer.

Thanks for reading!




This content is published under the Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Leave a Reply