Young adults often approach me with the concern that most people have; are they on the right ladder or on a ladder to nowhere? They share how hard they are working and how much time they are putting in, hoping to build a life that has meaning and is fulfilling. I often think about how my generation was not thinking about anything quite that deep. We were busy trying to figure out how to make a living rather than making a life. Most of us now realize something was missing: meaning, fulfillment, and joy. We did a pretty good job of building things, but it was not about building a life; probably the reason there is so much mid-life crisis going on in the world.
Are you on the right ladder? Or, as some would say, "The right track?" As the Cheshire cat asked Alice in, Alice In Wonderland, "Where are you going?" Alice responded, "I don't know," to which the cat responded, "Then any road will take you there!" Then any ladder or track will take you there. That is not the answer the young adult, or anyone else for that matter hopes to hear; they want direction; not just someone who listens to them and asks questions to which they don't have answers.
I have come to the realization that life is a path; not a journey. It is more about discovery than it is about determination. You see, the journeyer picks out a destination they think will give them what they desire. Most of this they determine by comparatively looking at careers and the tangible results of others, but you see, careers are not paths as we mistakenly call them. Careers are journeys; road maps to a specific determination of accumulation. They are about what I will do and what I will have, rather than who I will become and what I will contribute to a world that needs what I have to offer. On the other hand, the path is about following the opportunities that come your way; it is a road (path)to discover. You see, in reality, the path is your life and what happens to you while you think you are journeying to your desired destination.
"So what should I do about this?" you ask. In truth, minds infinitely greater than mine and from civilizations long ago, figured out that awareness, curiosity, openness, self-awareness, faith, hope, and trust are the keys to discovering your true path; your right ladder. Today, education is all about getting a career so that you can get a life. However, in most research cases, a career does not get you a life. Education should be focused on getting a life so you can find a career; in other words, being on the right ladder. This is not just for the young; this is valid in any cycle and time of life. Begin by asking the right questions. The question is not about the career; it is about your contribution toward making where you are a better place, no matter what place you are in. It is about what I can give; not what I can get. The greatest givers are the greatest getters, and I am not referring to money here, I am referring to self; giving of one's self.