Career choice is a modern privilege
Don't squander the freedom that so few in history have enjoyed
Career choice is a modern privilege.
Most people throughout history didn't have much of a choice. They carried on what their parents did, which was passed down from prior generations. Even if they wanted to change, there weren't many options. For the most part, people labored in the fields or some trade or craft. Knowledge-based jobs were rare and inaccessible to most.
People generally didn't consider work in terms of self-fulfillment but survival. Questions of purpose were an afterthought - if thought about at all. There was no career planning and voluntary retirement. They worked until their bodies could work no longer.
Today our challenge is not that we have too few options but perhaps too many. Most of us have the freedom to pursue the career we want. But we also face a paradox: The more alternatives we have, the more difficult it is to decide.
Do you attend college? Which of the 100 majors do you choose? What career paths do you explore? How do you want to make an impact in the world? What type of work feels meaningful to you?
All valid questions. But often they lead to analysis paralysis. You may overthink and second guess yourself. You may spend too much time pondering and wandering. You may be unhappy where you are, but the buffet of opportunities looks overwhelming. So you've made little, if any, progress.
If faced with that dilemma, you're probably focused on the wrong thing. The first step is not to look outward but inward. It's not to survey your options but to search yourself. Not to compare your prospects but to contemplate your priorities. What are your needs? Your values? Your non-negotiables?
When you are clear about who you are, you can confidently say no to paths that conflict with your values, diverge from your priorities, require too high a trade-off, or fail to inspire and excite you. That alone will cut down your list of options, freeing you to say yes to the right opportunities.
Remember that we have such a great privilege of choice. Let us be good stewards and exercise it well.
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