Research indicates that more than 50% of high school seniors lack clear goals and objectives for life after graduation. They don’t know what they want to be or do, and they don’t know how to decide. I know because I was one of them. Despite these grim statistics, the United States has no viable educational program to help youths make an effective transition-either directly from high school to work or to further education-that will point them toward a career.
My desire to address this problem and to come up with a solution stems from personal experience. Although I knew my short-term goals at various points in my life, it took me many years to discover fully my life’s purpose and how to use it as a tool for success. From early childhood, I knew that I must love my work. The problem was, as the years went by, I found myself unable to identify just what that would be. Although I went to college after high school, for financial reasons, I was forced to drop out after only a year. For the next three years, I drifted from job to job. Then, by what turned out to be a stroke of good luck, I was drafted. I ended up serving in the military for the next twenty years. During my military service, I not only rose from a private to an officer, but I also completed my college degree.
Meanwhile, the structure of the military allowed me to move closer to discovering my life’s purpose. Starting as a clerk in the cafeteria storeroom, I developed management skills and was eventually put in charge of the cafeteria operation. To my surprise, far from feeling restricted by the military, I found myself working creatively with groups of people and learning that leaders do not need to be authoritarian. In short, before I knew the terms, I was discovering values-driven leadership.
Upon leaving the military, I took my new management skills to the Marriott/United School Foodservice joint-venture project. Although I enjoyed my work with Marriott, I felt something was missing. While searching for new ideas, I started working on a Master’s degree in Educational Administration at Pepperdine University. Unfortunately, during that time, the contract with Marriott came to an end, and I was out of work. I spent the next seven months casting about for my next job, which I hoped would also be my life’s work.
Then one day, an ad for a culinary instructor for the Job Corps caught my eye. I applied and was hired. In the Job Corps, I not only taught students, but also trained other instructors to teach. Now I was getting closer to what I really wanted to do. For the first time, I saw that classroom learning could be made relevant to the work place. However, I still was not satisfied. The career opportunities offered to our students seemed too limited. In choosing their life’s work, I thought people should be able to consider every possibility, including careers not yet created. Turning once again to further education for direction, I entered Pepperdine’s doctoral program in Organizational Leadership. As I read and reflected, I gradually came to a realization. I had found my life’s purpose: It would be to help other people find theirs.
Most people, including many adults, haven’t thought much about what they love to do.
As a result, they find themselves locked into jobs they dislike, sometimes intensely. When they are asked what they enjoy, they have to stop and think. However, it’s almost always possible, if you start early in life, to combine what you love to do with making a living-often a very good living. Well-known scholars and spiritual thinkers believe that a person’s life calling is usually whatever creates the highest level of joy. I agree! Sadly, many adults live their whole lives without ever finding their calling. These people go to their graves with their dreams unfulfilled.
Each of us has within us God-given natural gifts-unique potential for creative expression. From birth, we have what we need to become all we can be. The challenge, of course, is to figure out how to make a living using our uniqueness; how to connect who we are with what we do. Many people ask, How will I know that I’ve found my life’s purpose? According to Kenneth E. Behring, the author of the Road to Purpose, it’s very simple: Open your heart and listen to your heart! What affects you most? What strikes a nerve? What breaks your heart? What gives you joy? Once you have identified what matters most to you, you are well on your way to finding your own calling.
Twenty Things I learned About Life
- Life is not always easy.
- Problems are opportunities.
- You do not have to worry about competition when you are living your life purpose.
- You will have to choose daily from the choices life presents to you.
- Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself. Sometimes it takes pain to make gain.
- Your greatest challenge is your greatest opportunity for success.
- There is no such thing as something for nothing; when you receive something for “FREE” someone has paid.
- People, places, and things are constantly changing.
- It’s not what happened to you, it’s how you respond to what happens to you.
- A great attitude will produce great results.
- Your life is what you make it.
- It takes money to make money, but if you have no money, it takes creativity to make money.
- You make money when you find and fill a need for others with your service and/or product.
- Everyone is self-employed (employees or those that work for themselves).
- You can change your life by changing what you think.
- Everything that happens to you and everything that happens in your world can work in your favor.
- Career choice is a life long process.
- Without a vision, people will perish.
- Time does not wait for anyone. Make each day a productive day.
- Rejection is direction.
About the author:
Dr. Moses McCutcheon, Jr. developed the School-To-Success model in 2001 in response to the need for career guidance, counseling, planning and coaching for at-risk middle school to high school students. Although the program was designed for youth and adults, current research indicates that middle school to high school students (ages 12-18) will receive the most benefit. This program targets individuals who do not know what they want to be or do after graduation.
For more information visit: School-To-Success
It will look like this: What Breaks Your Heart – What Gives You Joy?