What are you doing with your life?

“I just graduated,” my waitress tells me as I’m sitting in a college town restaurant.

“What are you going to do?” I ask.

She gives me this glance of disappointment, looks down at her server apron, then glares back at me. Then I explained how I was writing a book for people in her situation and defined what she was going through as the Twenties BeatDown.

Her eyes widened with an expression of relief and she said, “That’s totally it.” She explained to me how she thought everyone else in college had “their thing” with a plan except for her.

Yet I cross-examined, “Do you know if their plans are working out or did you just assume that? Some of them could be in the same situation as you.”

Slightly puzzled she said, “I don’t know.”

Clearly, she was having a crisis of what to do with her life and it was compounded by social comparison. By the end of my lunch I could tell she did have some dreams and a sense of purpose yet I wish I had given her this exercise that I use as a coaching tool. (So if she visits my blog, I hope she finds this).

I try to extract what’s innately within someone and have them create a Lifetime Wish List. It may seem like a bucket list at first, but that is not what this is. The purpose of this exercise is to draw out some of the unique dreams and desires buried deep within you. It’s a great activity to not only get to know yourself better, but it also serves as a wonderful way to attract a mentor when you share your list with others. I made my first list when I was 24. Some items are so outlandish they’ll probably never happen, yet others have already come to pass.

Stop and think. People spend more time getting haircuts in a year than they do in life planning.

Below are some instructions I give people to make a Lifetime Wish List. If you make a list, feel free to share with me drew@prepareafuture.com. Sometimes, I randomly like to help people out with some items on their wish list. 

Creating a Lifetime Wish List

Get into a good space and make a list of everything you can possibly think of that would have been awesome to have done if you were at the end of your life looking back. It is a free form list of all of your internal dreams and desires (material and non-material). You may see that the amalgamation of this list can start to turn into a vision of how you see your life being lived out with maximum impact, fulfillment, or how you want to leave your mark on the world. This is an aspect of your unique human identity. Let your mind go, think outside of the box (or outside of yourself) and see what it is you really want. Remember, they’re just wishes, not goals, so I even encourage some far out things! After you do this the first time, come back to it a month later and ask yourself again, “what do I really want?”

Brainstorming topics

  • Things that you can almost do tomorrow
  • Any contribution you would like to make to society
  • Individual people you love and care for and ways or things you want to provide for them
  • Things that may be ridiculous and seemingly unattainable
  • Groups of people you would like to affect or have an impact on
  • All the places you want to travel
  • Altruistic desires to leave the world a better place than you found it
  • Any achievements or accomplishments that are important to you
  • People you want to meet
  • All of the things you would like to have: material or non-material
  • Causes in which you would like to make some headway
  • Any positions would like to hold
  • Any volunteer or mission work you would like to perform
  • Things for yourself, things for other people or groups

Ask yourself, “What do I want to do with my life? Who do I want to be? What’s the legacy I want to leave behind?”

Example wish list items from different people

  • Study in Antarctica
  • Get married
  • Have two children
  • Pay for children’s education
  • Own a successful business in the research triangle
  • Start an architectural/design firm with someone else
  • Work to help families in southwest Virginia in promoting health and wellness
  • Be invited to parties/functions at the International Embassies
  • Teach a college class
  • See the 7 wonders of the world
  • Own a skyline penthouse in a big city
  • Be a college professor
  • Start a wrestling camp for underprivileged inner-city youth to help instill positive
  • values and build their self esteem
  • Own property in the Caribbean/or somewhere tropical
  • Take a group of close friends and pay for their whole trip to a private resort/island or cruise
  • Help people in 3rd world countries in some way
  • Be involved with an archaeological dig
  • Study with a well-known, modern day philosopher
  • Take my whole family on a spectacular vacation & pay for it all
  • Have an art collection (including a Picasso)
  • Visit the NYSE
  • Visit every continent
  • Make a significant contribution to the development of kids/teens/young adults
  • Be a large contributor to ___ college
  • Help someone with a foundation on financial education to the lower class
  • Make a significant impact in America on “equalizing” the underclass in a privately
  • driven (non-governmental) fashion
  • Change someone’s life forever
  • Help a company bring a new life-impacting technology to market
  • Attend a red-carpet movie premier
  • Be very well versed in economics
  • Earn a PhD
  • Go on partial tour with a well-known band/performing group

Have fun and remember to save your list (and share it with others if you feel so inclined).

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