What in the world should I do with my life?
In the work that I am privileged to do, that’s one of the most challenging questions I get.
It’s daunting, both because I feel ill-equipped to answer, and even a little scary to think I might have the power to speak into someone’s life and influence what they do. In the past, I’ve been asked this question primarily by young people—high school students, college students, and young professionals—but now, it’s happening more with seasoned adults who are “successful” by the world’s standards but feel like they should be doing something different.
Unfortunately, this issue is sometimes even more complicated and challenging for Christians that have grown up in the church. We’ve been told that God has a plan for our lives—which is true—but we sometimes feel like it’s this elusive thing that we can’t quite grasp.
Candidly, I don’t have a magic formula to give you to figure out your purpose. However, I have found a successful rubric to help anyone get started. It’s less of a prescription that tells you exactly what to do and more of a lens to look through when you think about a plan for life.
The path to purpose is often found at the intersection of ability, affinity, and opportunity.
The path to purpose is often found at the intersection of ability, affinity, and opportunity. @KevinPaulScott
What do you enjoy doing? Fifty years ago, nobody would have asked you what you wanted to do; you would have rolled up your sleeves to complete the task at hand. But now, we’re frequently asked, “What are you passionate about?” And I think this is a good thing. I believe that God gives us desires and dreams, so when you’re looking for what to do with your life, your affinity (something that brings you joy) is a great place to start.
I think far too many people stop at affinity. I am sick and tired of people telling young students, “Find whatever you want to do, and do it for the rest of your life.” In isolation, that is terrible advice. Some people want to do things that they aren’t good at, and if you have an affinity but lack ability, that should never be a career—it should be a hobby! Affinity is important, but you must couple that with ability to develop talent and pursue a trade.
This element can be discouraging to people, but it’s the practical reality of the world we live in. It’s not enough that you enjoy something (affinity) and are good at it (ability), but is there an opportunity to put that talent into practice. Said another way, does the world need what you are trying to offer? If you’re in business, is there a need for your passion and skill set? This is especially true within organizations. I find so many professionals who are frustrated in their roles, but their organization doesn’t have an opportunity for them to pursue what they want to do. Rather than resenting your organization, I encourage you to go and find the place that has the opportunity you desire.
If you don’t find opportunity intersecting with your affinity and ability, it’s probably time to move down the list and find something else you can become passionate about and can develop an ability to do.
Oftentimes, finding your God-given purpose in life won’t happen with a lightning flash from the sky . But if you’re seeking for what to do next, particularly in your career, this a good place to start. What are the desires God has put in your heart? What are the giftings he’s given you? And what opportunities do you have to step into these two things? Where affinity, ability, and opportunity intersect is where we find ourselves in our element.