Are you focused on your entire journey or the next step?

Today is January 27 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “Are you focused on your entire journey or the next step?”

Those who navigate the chaos challenge themselves to focus on the next step of their journey instead of the entire path. Such a process usually involves learning how to deal with uncertainty. It is that uncertainty, however, that provides opportunities for tremendous growth in self-awareness.

As social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and humanistic philosopher Erich Fromm noted “the quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.” If you are obsesses with being certain you are most likely prohibiting yourself from experiencing other aspects of life. The question “what are you going to do with the rest of your life?” to any young person in high school, college, or even in their 20s is a classic example of the certainty v. uncertainty discussion. But asking the wrong question here can have serious consequences.

Asking “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” contributes to the rise in mental health issues among college students and recent graduates. For the past 20 years there has been an alarming increase in the number of students seeking help for serious mental health problems at campus counseling centers. The 2010 National Survey of Counseling Center Directors (NSCCD) found that 44 percent of counseling center clients had severe psychological problems, a sharp increase from 16 percent in 2000. The most common of these disorders were depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-injury. Another survey by the American College Health Association found that 45.6 percent of students surveyed reported feeling hopeless and overwhelmed at some point during the past 12 months.

To help alleviate some of the stress among college students, they should refrain from asking the question “what do you want to do with the rest of your life,” and simply answer “what is your next step?” Changing the question offers individuals the opportunity to think more clearly about what is next instead of being overwhelmed by thinking about the rest of their life. It’s simply unnecessary to ask someone about the rest of their life.

British author Oliver Burkeman said “if we can find ways to put one foot in front of the other without necessarily knowing where we’re going, we’ll actually end up in some far more interesting, thrilling, and meaningful places.”