“What do I want to do with my life?” To everyone with expectations: I’m sorry, I won’t climb a corporate ladder

“What do I want to do with my life?” To everyone with expectations: I’m sorry, I won’t climb a corporate ladder

I’ve always been struggling with the question ‘what do I want to do with my life’. Studying Social Work, Cultural Anthropology, Communication, Marketing, having different kinds of jobs, I was always in search of something. Now, after ten months of traveling (and 30 years), I finally have sort of an answer. I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect answer, but at least it’s an answer.

To all the people back home, who have expectations: I’m sorry, but I won’t climb any corporate ladder.

I’ve been in New Zealand for ten months now, leaving very very soon. Without doubt, I can say this has been one of the most valuable times of my life so far. With everything I’ve learned and changed, I know that it’s going to be even better. Did I answer the question “What do I want to do with my life?”, and how? Continue to read…


Let’s start with what I don’t want; climbing the corporate ladder

It used to be a measure of success, and maybe for some conservative people it still is. Climbing the corporate ladder. Having a big career. Working for at least 60 hours a week, wearing a suit, pretending to be important. Hierarchy, endless meetings, targets.

Earning money, but having no time to spend it. Buying a house and a big car, but lacking the time to enjoy it.

Spending the most valuable years of my life in an office, a system, where profit for the top is key? Not very appealing to me. But this standard, and the expectations which came with it, always confused me. “You are so smart, why are you not using it”, was a common thing people told me. “I just want to be happy”, is what I always thought. But it sounded too stupid to say it out loud.

digital nomad new zealand
The start of my digital nomad life, in Ter Apel, Groningen, The Netherlands

What do I want to do with my life? ‘I will become a digital nomad’. I thought I knew it all…

One or two years ago I thought I knew it all. I was going to be a freelance online marketing & communication consultant. I was going to help companies increasing their profit. Becoming a digital nomad. Although mentally I thought I knew it all, I also knew something was off… A gut feeling. Intuition. However you want to name it. I ignored it for a while.

‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

As a kid, I think I knew better. I can’t remember the answer I gave the grown ups when they asked me these questions. What I do remember is I wanted to be a dancer, a musician, writer, singer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a creator, or a psychologist. When doing career tests, I remember I always had the ‘weirdest’ outcomes, with as a result, teachers telling me “that’s not really a job”. The last test I did was the Myers Briggs, and according to this test I should become a guru or musician. I don’t like the world guru. It’s even weirder to me that they include it as a profession, in a career test. But that is off topic:). When you tell people you want to be a musician, they say ‘you can’t earn money with that‘, and I remember people telling me that when I was a kid. Why I was influenced by that comments, I don’t know. I think we should do what we love. Money is not the most important thing. When you do what you love, the money you need to do more of what you love will come. And if the money doesn’t come easily, you will contribute to society in a different way, and you’ll survive, without struggle, being happy. So, as a kid I knew better.

My digital nomad life in New Zealand

When I was working for Christchurch Lavender Gardens, doing their new website, helping with social media and Google Adwords, doing Search Engine Optimalisation, it suddenly became very clear to me. Although I had an amazing time there, working at an amazing place with lovely people, it dawned on me… “This is not what I want to do with my life”. Looking at a screen every day. Working with numbers. Thinking about how we can make people buy more. Yes, I can earn a lot of money doing online marketing. But will that make me happy?

Yoga Christchurch Lavender Gardens as a digital nomad
Feetupintheairdontcare (I rather do yoga than stare at a screen)

My most valuable moments at Christchurch Lavender Gardens, were the times I had conversations with the owners and when I was talking to the visitors. It became so clear to me. I want to work with people. I want to help people. One day, both Google and Facebook failed on me. I lost a whole day of work.

I cried, saw the light, and made a decision.

It was such a release to admit to myself that I don’t want to do that anymore. The next step was telling others. First, I told the owners of the gardens, who had become good friends. Next, it was the people I was working with, starting up a company, and then one of my best friends, who was also in New Zealand. Fjeewww, that was out. What now? I still didn’t have the answer to the question “what do I want to do with my life”.

Soul-searching while you travel

A few months later, I dropped one of my best friends, Anna, off at the airport in Auckland, after a roadtrip. I spend some weeks alone in Piha, New Zealand. I took that time to do some ‘professional soul-searching’. When you travel, you already kind of do that on an (almost) daily base, but spending weeks alone in a van takes this a step further. I read books, listened to audiobooks, did a lot of meditation, followed a course at Coursera and listened to motivational speeches. I bought a notebook and started writing. Doing exercises for personal and professional development.

Soul Searching Abel Tasman New Zealand
New Zealand, with it’s stunning nature, is the perfect country for soul searching

“What do I want to do with my life?”. Find your values!

If you struggle with the question ‘what do I want to do with my life’, go find your values and don’t take this lightly. It is important. This is life, live it. All you need is time and some tools (which are easy to find). In my self contained van (traveling in New Zealand on a budget), who was parked on the beach in Piha, I was answering questions like ‘what does your ideal day look like?’ and ‘what makes you happy in a job?’. I was writing down situations in which I was happy, analysing this.

So, one of the exercises was writing down your values. This exercise made everything clear.

The values that I came up with were health, freedom, personal growth, adventurousness, open mindedness, love/connection/belonging, balance, friendship, community, creativity, honesty/integrity, empathy, optimism/positivity, variety and versatility, making a difference, environmental awareness and minimalism/simplicity. There was nothing like achievement, money, status, hard work, professionalism, security, structure, success, traditionalism, fame, reputation or wealth. I don’t care about this. I don’t care about money, I don’t care about big houses. People buy a house and they are happy (are they?). I would be extremely happy building my own house. Maybe even a tiny house. I am extremely happy living the minimalistic lifestyle in a van.

Is consumerism a cause of unhappiness? 

Most of all, finding my values made me think about the consumerist society we live in. The lack of community and connection. Our brains are wired to think we need money, big houses and cars to be happy. There is little or no sense of community where I live. Every day, big companies are working hard making more profit each day. Almost every second of the day, we are exposed to advertisements, whether consciously or unconsciously, to make us want more, buy more. We are never satisfied. Studying Online Marketing, a couple of years ago, made it even more clear to me how stupid we are. How badly we are influenced my media and how this makes our world dysfunctional. We are living in fear. Fear of what might happen in the world, fear while thinking we are not good enough, not worthy enough, less worthy than others, fear of connecting to people.

Fear sucks, fear causes unhappiness. The media is feeding us with negativity, creating fear.

“What do I want to do with my life?”. Well, for sure I don’t want to leave it in fear.

Social media, not very social

Sometimes I just want to scream, when I’m spending time on social media. When I see the 16 year old girls on Instagram, posing in their new clothes or, even worse, half naked, I feel sad. I think ‘what the f*ck is happening in the world’. They are beautiful, talented.. where is their self esteem? Why do they think they need to do that? Proving they are beautiful? Is your self worth really increasing when you get likes and shares? Don’t they realise that the likes have nothing to do with people liking them as a person? We don’t need to buy new clothes every month. It doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t change how we feel about ourselves. It doesn’t make us happy, or how Brene Brown will say it, more worthy of love and belonging. What is creating this, is advertising and marketing. It’s food for dysfunction. Highly addictive. It has been a discussion for years now. It seems like it is getting worse. I don’t want to contribute to this world. So if I advertise, if I do marketing, it will be for a company or person who has good intensions for the least. Social media is not social. We don’t connect. We are selling, in the hope other people will like it. By looking at our phones we lose connection to the real world. We value likes and shares, instead of hugs and good conversations. I believe connection is one of the most important things to be happy. First of all connection to ourselves, our heart, our passions, our values. And then connection to others. Not on social media. Real connections. We are not alone in this world. Everything is connected already. We just lose it, by staring at our phones and losing our self worth, being influenced by advertisement.

One day in Piha, all pieces of the puzzle came together

Ok. I’m wandering off topic. Blame it on the ADD:P.

Piha Beach, New Zealand,
Soul searching in Piha Beach, New Zealand

When I was in Piha I realised I don’t want to contribute to this world. I don’t want do do online marketing for companies who care about profit and who are the roots of the consumerist society. I don’t want to make people desire things they don’t need.

Your work has to match your values

Working in advertising or online marketing is not matching my values. That’s why it will make me extremely unhappy when I would continue on this path. I will work according to my values, which are health, freedom, personal growth, adventurousness, open mindedness, love/connection/belonging, balance, friendship, community, creativity, honesty/integrity, empathy, optimism/positivity, variety and versatility, making a difference, environmental awareness and minimalism/simplicity. What I love is leadership. Not for the hierarchy. Not to be important. A leader, a manager, however you want to name it, is not more important than the people he/she leads. Together you achieve things. A leader inspires. I love to inspire people. To find people’s strengths and give them jobs that fit within their capacity. I love to built community, to connect, to make people connect. I would love to make the world a happier, healthier place for everyone. I would love to make a positive difference in the world, and I will. I’m not going to find this in a corporation, multinational or any other commercial organisation, where it’s all about profit. Working from 9-5. Procedures, systems, hierarchy.

I won’t climb a corporate ladder, to buy a big house, lot’s of clothes and stuff and feel miserable, being stuck into a system that is dysfunctional. I will do work that matters. Work that inspires people. I want to spend my time connecting, to myself and to others, doing what I love.

So that is my answer for now, to the question “what do you want to do with your life”. Is it a complete answer? Not really, but it’s good enough for me, for now. And now is all we have.

Do you know what you want to do with your life?

If you ever question if you are on the right path, asking yourself ‘what do I want to do with my life?’, I can promise you that travelling, or even better Work & Travel, (Wwoof, Workaway, HelpX, or anything else), will help you get closer to the answer. But you don’t need to travel, if that’s not what you aspire. Do some soul searching, connect again, to nature, to your heart. During this journey, pay attention to what makes you happy, passionate. What puts a smile on your face? What makes you feel like work is not working? Where’s your strength, when do you feel in your power, when do you feel balanced? Find your values. Act upon them. Don’t listen to media, don’t get caught up in expectations from the outside world.

There is only one person who knows what you want to do with your life. It’s not me. Its you.

I can promise you, taking this time will improve your life drastically. It did mine.

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Note: when I started this blog, I wanted to make some money with it, so I put on advertisements. Damn, I am contributing to this world. This sucks, and I need to find a solution. I tried to let Google only put ads on my blog of products I would recommend, though that’s hard. This is the first step. To be continued…  I do have to earn some money to pay the bills. Please click on the ads but only buy something if it’s going to add real value to your life. haha:)

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