What Should I Do with My Life?

What Should I Do With My Life

I like to make crazy to-do lists and elaborate budget spreadsheets, I like to read the last page in a book before I start it and I especially like to know the ending of a movie before I watch it.  I guess you could say that I’m a planner, which is why the idea of living my life without a clear purpose has caused me a lot of anxiety over the years.

I have often tried to define my life by carefully planning out my future – where I would work, what my budget would be, where I would travel, what kind of food I would eat, what kind of pet I would have, when I would retire, etc., and have spent countless days attempting to map it all out on paper (via crazy lists and spreadsheets).

In the fall of 2006, I was in one of my manic life-planning, soul-searching moods and wandered into a tiny bookshop in Lerwick (in the Shetland Islands), searching for something that would reveal my true self, and my true purpose, to me.  I randomly picked a book off the shelf and it fell open to this passage:

I once went to see a master writer.  Long retired, white-haired, and fragile, she nevertheless evinced a sharp and discerning mind.  I was a novice writer.  She had edited hundreds of great authors.  I peppered her with all my anxieties and asked her all the questions that my teachers never answered.  To most of my questions she would only answer, “Yes.”  She knew all the answers, and she knew all the exceptions, and she knew the best thing that an old person could tell a younger person was, “Yes.”  Yes, the affirmative.  Yes, as in keep exploring.  Yes, as in there are no ultimate answers.

I used to push for an immediate resolution to daily problems.  Now, I am not so anxious.  Is science right about things. or is religion?  Is there good and evil on a metaphysical level?  Is there one god, or are there many gods, or no gods?  A hundred answers exist for these questions.  They are all known, but no one agrees.  Today, I think it all very fine.  Let there be a hundred answers with none of them entirely correct.  The asking of the question is already enough.

– Deng Ming-Dao

I love these words because, in a world where there is so much pressure on us to plan and to succeed, they made me realize that it was ok to be uncertain, and imperfect.  I bought the book immediately and have carried it with me for almost 10 years now as a reminder that I shouldn’t let the present pass me by, and that it’s ok to not have all the answers, all the time.

I know that I’m not the only one out there who is sometimes overwhelmed with figuring out what to do in life, so I wanted to share this with you in case it eases your mind a little bit.

Happy Exploring!

Danielle

What Should I Do with my Life - Exploring Alternatives

The book I love: 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao

What Should I Do with my Life - Exploring Alternatives

Bought it on September 12, 2006 in Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland

24 thoughts on “What Should I Do with My Life?

  1. Lamar

    Danielle. For me number 15 “Time” speaks to me..Keep traveling,making memories, Try to keep it All in balance..There is an Ebb and Flow to life..Lamar

    1. Danielle Post author

      Wow I’m so excited that you have the same book, Lamar. I just re-read #15 and you’re right – it’s one of the best passages! I think I have half the book dog-eared at this point :)

  2. Shana

    I read the blog and thought “I have to get this book” and scrolled down to discover I’ve had this book for over 14 years! Such an awesome confirmation!

    1. Danielle Post author

      That’s too funny, Shana! I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who appreciates his meditations :)

  3. Titia

    I love your blog Danielle
    Another wonderful post!

    We all carry around ideas that contradict each other. We don’t need to have it all figured out. We can just live and enjoy all those beautiful moments. Which we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.

    Your blog is so full of them. Very precious.

    Save travels.

    Titia

  4. Bob

    Again thanks for your posting on crown land.
    Love hearing your adventures. I have spent three winter escapes in BLM lands in Arizonia. I spend 6 months on each trip south. My fist stop is Slab City. In California near Niland. Just in front of the Slab entrance is Salvation Mountain. Then after a few weeks their I head to Quartzsite. Best place to visit. Tent venders, free breakfast and lunch at the RV shop every day then walk around looking at their stock of motor homes they have on their lot. Then the largest rock show and coffee 25 cents. Tat I Tuesday well I could go on but I am here if you have questions. Slab city has spring fed hot tub. Enjoy.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Bob,

      I’ve heard about the wintertime BLM communities in Arizona – it looks pretty neat although Slab City sounds a bit crazy sometimes haha! Thanks for the offer to share the cool spots with us! I’ll let you know if we’re ever in the area :)

      Have a great time if you’re going back again this winter!

      Danielle

  5. Adrienne

    Danielle – Lovely to see you again this weekend! I found your blog through a post Ula shared with me. Fascinated and inspired by your posts so far, and intrigued by that book recommendation (particularly as it’s made it onto your likely very strict list of things-to-possess!). Looking forward to future posts.

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Adrienne – it was great to see you too! I still can’t believe what a perfect weekend we had and I hope we can organize another ladies get together soon! Thanks for checking out the blog, too. I really appreciate your support <3

  6. Jennifer

    I just started researching minimalist living because as of now I am swimming in debt and become so worried about what to do being a stay at home mom with three kids. The more I read on ur blog the more it seems clear that this lifestyle even if it is just me living this way and teaching my girls will benefit my whole family . I hope to get debt free in the next year and then maybey convince my husband to try it with me . Less stuff = less stress .

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Jennifer, thank you for checking out our blog! We’re happy to hear that you’re exploring minimalist living and hope it helps you prioritize and budget to get you to a place where you’re less worried about debt. I’ve included links to some other blogs and YouTube channels that you might find helpful. Take care and happy exploring!

      http://zenhabits.net/archives/
      http://www.theminimalists.com/archives/#popular
      https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLslKBpzJILevJ8DkUsN_0bB97-LJwxGaL
      https://www.youtube.com/user/MikeAndLaurenTV

    2. Kurt

      @Jennifer…I used to drink Sweet Leaf tea. On the underside of the bottle caps, they printed a little truism. “Less stuff = less stress” reminded me of one that went something like this:

      The more stuff you own, the more that owns you.

  7. Jim

    I watched your videos on YouTube and congratulate you both for following your heart. Continue to listen to the gentle whispers of your heart and you will always know what to do in life and when to do it. Your heart has the wisdom to guide you and will always lead you to happiness and joy that your true self yearns for . If you feel that you are not able to hear it’s guidance why not get yourself some rose quartz and green aventurine pendants/crystals. They just may change your life. They certainly have changed mine and living within the temple of your own heart really does make navigating life’s obstacles much easier. Throw in a piece of orange calcite and you will be dancing gracefully through life and your creativity might just go through the roof. Your heart already knows what you want it’s just a matter of getting in tune with it. I always thought about writing a book when I retired. Now that I have been following my heart I am now writing one and the words just seem to flow on to the page. I might get it published and I might not. That’s the beauty of following your heart, each moment unfolds and you never plan anything. You don’t need to, trust in your hearts guidance and you never need to fear any decisions you make.
    That’s the real beauty of life, never knowing what’s round the corner.

    p.s. I live in sunny Scotland, I hope you enjoyed the marvellous Shetland weather hah!

    1. Danielle Chabassol Post author

      Hi Jim,

      Thank you for sharing such beautiful and thoughtful wisdom with us. I loved reading every line of your comment and it has inspired and re-inspired me to follow my heart. Congratulations on following yours too and I hope you continue to enjoy your passion projects! Happy exploring :)

      PS – I loved Shetland although it was quite…damp haha!

  8. Natalie

    This was a super helpful post and even though it’s not entirely recent, it’s applicable. I have recently acquired a conversion van and am working towards the next step of actually living in it. It’s been a dream for so long that the reality is a little terrifying (especially when everyone think I’m going to be Chris Farley living in a van down by the river)! The concept that “it’s okay to be uncertain” is what I need to embrace more. Thank you for your posts and videos!

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