Does Your Direction in Life Matter?



In general there are two types of successful people I meet. The first type know at an early age what they want to do and do everything they can to get there. The second type have a goal in mind and work hard to get there, but change goals half-way to finish in an entirely different place. Where they end up isn’t anywhere near where they wanted to go, but in the end it is still a successful accomplishment.

Both types of people would be considered successful. The only real difference between the two is that the second type abandoned their original goals even if they had been held for a long period of time. So what does this mean for success in your life? If you might end up in an entirely different place and still be successful, does the path you take really matter?


Figuring out the direction you want your life to take comes up most frequently after graduating from High School. You’re no longer confined to just thinking about working in fast food and are expected to make something out of your life. This is the point when people start making important life choices about what direction they want their life to take.

But it is here where people seem to put too much pressure on themselves. It’s as if the decision you make at this point will determine the course of the rest of your life. To some extent this is true. After all, if you sit all day in your parent’s basement watching movies instead of taking significant action in the real world you’ll get nowhere. Beyond that though it doesn’t matter all that much.

Importance of Setting Goals

The future is inherently difficult to predict. That’s why I think the direction you take in life is almost unimportant as long as you just have a direction to head towards. It’s the experience you get as you’re chasing your goals that matter most.

Setting a goal and working towards it is important because you build skills and confidence as you work to accomplish it. Many major skills such as interpersonal communication, writing and critical thinking can be learned in a variety of places. These will be beneficial to you no matter where you end up.

For example, I have many friends who went to school to become airline pilots. However, after they graduated they all ended up doing other things such as HR and other office work. Even though they all ended up in places that didn’t use their degree directly, the skills they learned along the way were still very useful.

Other Skills that Guide Direction

If you know how to be flexible and adaptable, you’ll find more opportunities and paths to take your life. If you’re narrowly focused on reaching one of your goals, you might miss an opportunity that comes up along the way. Persistence is an admirable quality to have, but if you‘re rigid and unable to change, you won’t see all the other potential paths you could take. Knowing when and where (and if) to change directions in life is extremely important.

Most big goals such as graduating from college or starting up your own business take years to accomplish. You may not actually finish, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are successful college drop-outs. But before you think about dropping out, just remember that they first recognized a great opportunity in computing and took it. They were flexible and adapted well.

If you go to college, you have the opportunity to change your major at any point. Even after you graduate, you can always go back to earn a different or complimentary degree. It isn’t unheard of for people to go back to school when they are in their 30’s or 40’s. I’m in graduate school right now and many other classmates are of that age. And for those classmates, grad school was not a part of their original plans.

Being flexible in your life direction can even save you some trouble. I knew someone who trained to be a police officer for a couple of years. During that time, he was offered a very lucrative position in a beer distribution company. On top of his income, he would have access to all types of beer. He was so dead-set on becoming a police officer though that he declined the position. This was a decision he soon came to regret when he found police officer jobs difficult to come by and he was forced to take a low-paying job elsewhere.

Keep Going and You’ll Get Somewhere

Patience, planning and persistence are important areas to success in any area of life. But seizing on opportunities by being flexible and adapting is just as important. It reminds me of a quote by Allen Saunders, “Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”

Just make sure to not be blind to the life going on around you. Be flexible and adapt to the opportunities that come your way or those plans of yours might just end up making you miss out on the success you’ve been searching for.
photo credit: Lori Greig

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  1. I just wrote a blog about how I’m changing directions in my life. I always thought I wanted to be a marine biologist and got my bachelor’s degree in marine biology. I even worked for a year in the field, but now I’m realizing that what makes me happiest is travel. So I have to change directions to follow my new goal, that is not anywhere I would have pictured myself before. I’m trying to be flexible and let go of my old vision so I can follow my new passion. It’s not easy, but I think it will be worth it!

    • Katie, I’m glad that you found a new direction that works better for you. I’ve noticed that the more I follow the things that make me happiest, the better my life becomes. Good luck in your new goal.

  2. Nice!! I think this is what motivates me to act. The fact that my actions on something could bring about a whole new outcome. One I had never intended or imagined.

    What makes it so exciting is the fact that it is unknown. We begin to think about ourselves in new ways which leads us to consider things we didn’t think possible.

    Some of life’s greatest inventions came from unintended directions. Blaise Pascal was experimenting with perpetual motion when he invented roulette.

    Great topic Steve.


    • Hey Chris, I love your story about Pascal. It’s very true that some great things come from unintended consequences. And I think that’s why it is important to be flexible about the directions you take. You never know where life will take you so you should be prepared for anything.

  3. I just wrote a guest post and I ended by wondering if I was the right path. My plan is to be a full time blogger and derive income from the Internet. I may or may not reach my final goal but I’m glad I’m taking action and moving forward. I’m certainly keeping options open while I’m on this road.

    • Taking action is sometimes the hardest part so I think you should see that in itself as an accomplishment. Even if you don’t reach your goal, you might find something else just as good.

  4. Great site. Thanks for the motivation.
    Too often folks view life as a punishment. They stay where they are because they reason that it’s ‘for the best’.
    What wonders are yet to be discovered when we push aside those limiting beliefs and attack life. What makes one happy today may not be the same next year. We should allow ourselves flexibility. This thing called life is an awesome gift, but only if we want it to be.
    I will be back often Steve.

    Live it LOUD!

    • Hey Rob,

      Life is so full of wonders for us to explore. Some people just seem so rigid in their journey to what makes them happy. I’m definitely someone who wants to live it loud too.

  5. I would originally have said that I was the first type since I chose my college major when I was a junior in high school and did use it for awhile…but I’ve now found myself in a different place, equally happy. As planned out as my life is, I have to say that I admire the “directionless” if only b/c they have such a carefree outlook in life that I just don’t have.

    • I like the carefree outlook on life too. A lot of the time, I like to go with the flow. That’s probably why I’ve ended up in a different place than I expected when I was in college.

  6. Steve,

    To me directions are extremely important. What is a life without goal? It may be a pointless exisitence. When I travel unless I already know where I am going I like to have a map with me. I don’t like to waste precious time going down streets in my life that I could have avoided. Now the funny thing is I also like to take the scenic route so when life gives me the opportunity to see or experience something I have never done before I am flexible enough to change direction…I hope. This post was full of great details and has me thinking deeply about the decisions I have made and the direction I hope I am going in in my life. Am I flexible? That is a good question.

    • Frank,

      Goals can give your life meaning. But they aren’t necessarily the only places you can find meaning in your life. I’m with you though that I don’t like to waste precious time going down side streets. Knowing when to change directions really helps, especially if I get lost on that scenic route.

  7. Steve, I reckon your spot on with the words, ‘Patience and Persistence’. Life can sometimes be tough, and not everything will go your way. In times like these, you must never lose sight of your goal and always keep aiming for it.

    In my book, as long as your slowly moving in a forward direction that’s fine, but if you start standing still, then you may as well be going backwards (if that makes any sense?). Another interesting, but once again motivating read.

    • Hey Jason, it makes sense to me. Unless you’re completely satisfied with where you want to be, you should be heading in the direction where you want to go. I agree that you should just keep moving forward even if things don’t go your way.

  8. I wish I knew what I wanted to do when I grow up. I have specific goals, but the finish line is still kind of blurry for me (I just need to get the right prescription to see it more clearly). The one thing I try to focus on is enjoying the journey until I figure it out. Good food for thought!

  9. I have just turned 30 and I’m still trying to decide what to do when I grow up!

    • Me, too except it’s 40. And, I’m loving every minute of it. Who says you can’t live two childhoods? As it turns out, I like this one better.

      Live it LOUD!


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