For the last few weeks one question has been annoyingly banging its way into my consciousness.

What do I want to do with my life?

This question is as big as it is important. For a while, the sheer grandiose nature of this question prevented me from even addressing it. It was simply too daunting to approach.

The Power of Proxy Questions

Eventually, its daily persistence forced me to attack it. Like similarly big questions, I started my battle with a technique I call proxy questions.

A proxy question is like the original big question but smaller and more manageable in scope. It has a direct answer and only addresses a subset of the original question. By asking proxy questions it makes it much easier to break down and conquer bigger overwhelming questions.

In order to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I asked myself the more manageable question:

What do I need to do to live a happy life?

This turned out to be a much easier question to answer.

Happiness Traits

After some thought, I realized there are at least three common traits that unite the activities that make me feel fulfilled and happy. Your happiness traits might vary but my guess is that you and I have a lot of overlap :-) I knew my answer to the bigger question must be something that aligns with the following:

  • Something that you love
  • Something that helps people
  • Something that makes money

(The last trait might seem a little shallow but unfortunately in the world we live in, I believe it is necessary. Money is freedom. Freedom is necessary for happiness.)

By themselves, these traits describe all of my distractions. :-p Together, they describe the best course for my life.

I smiled, I was making progress.

Three Questions For Finding Your Answer

Like all big questions, I knew answering the question of what I wanted to do with my life would be a moving target. That detail let me know that the proxy questions I needed would be questions I would need to repeatedly ask myself as I grew up and evolved.

Since then, I have asked myself the following questions on a reoccurring basis:

  1. What gave you energy this week? (This helps identify something that I love)
  2. What can you do to make others smile? (This helps identify something that helps people)
  3. What can you produce that provides value to others? (This helps identify something that makes money)

I have no idea what the right answers are for you but I strongly believe that these questions will lead you in the right direction.


P.S. Thanks to Calin, Brisa and Chris for the inspiration for this post.