First, not knowing what career path you want to pursue by age 20 is no big deal. Heck, I’m approaching retirement age and I still joke that I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. A mythology has grown up in our society that you’re somehow supposed to just know what your one true passion is, then pursue it with all your heart. The next big myth is that if you don’t know, you just need to take time off to explore yourself, to get know yourself, and your passion will be revealed. Hogwash, baloney, and any other euphemism you care to use.
The military can be a great career choice, if it is chosen for the right reasons and with the right expectations. In my humble opinion, joining simply to kill time in the hopes that “the light will go on”, is not. I also cringe a bit when people say they want to join the military to obtain discipline. Again, in my humble opinion, having discipline forced upon you can backfire and be detrimental. Yes, it works for some people and it doesn’t for others. My greatest concern is that it can instill a need for a rigid structure to provide the discipline. There are 2 main aspects to acquiring discipline that are often overlooked when people say that the military provided the discipline they lacked:
- A lot of the perceived discipline is simply the fact that they’ve continued to age. The scientific truth is that our brains are not fully developed until around age 25.
- Simply being away from their family structure (regardless of how positive or negative that may be) forces them to be more self-reliant, even within the structure of military life.
My advice to people who are seeking to develop greater discipline is to have a brutally honest conversation with themselves. Accept that our parents never were and never will be perfect. Our society never has been and never will be perfect. We are supposed to all be equal under the law, but that ideal is never fully realized. The truth is we are not all created equal, else we’d all be identical. We must accept that our responsibility to ourselves, and to our society, is to strive to make the most of whatever cards we’ve been dealt in life. These cards represent our past. They are what brought us to where-ever we are today. They do not, and must not, dictate the rest of our lives. As an adult, it is our responsibility to accept and forgive the imperfections of our families and friends. To recognize the imperfections in our society as a challenge to address, not as an impenetrable obstacle that can’t be overcome. Recognizing these truths, it is up to each of us, as adults, to accept responsibility for our own actions; big and small. If you fully accept that responsibility, then discipline will naturally follow.
Throughout human history, an individual’s future was driven by the circumstances into which they were born. It is a great luxury of modern society that we can contemplate and choose what career path to pursue. However, there are so many potential career paths out there, that no one will ever be able to adequately explore and consider them all. But there is a common thread that you should keep in mind. The people who report the greatest satisfaction with their lives are those whose work is helping others. That said, there are countless ways to help others. The key is to think of things you enjoy doing that help other people. Then pursue opportunities to do so.