In Po Bronson's book "What Should I Do With My Life?", he interviews a number of people who ask themselves this question. This question is a universal one, one that mostly everyone has asked themselves at one point or another in their lives. It is almost a truism that a person wants to know that his existence accounts for something, and that he has accomplished something significant in his life.
Very often, when this question is asked, it is applied to or assumed to be applied to careers. This association is understandable, because much of a person's identity is wrapped up in what he does for a living. A typical forty hour work week plus the average commute usually amounts to over fifty hours, or nearly half the waking hours of a person's life. But what a person should do with his life begs to be something more than just a work life. A person could be laid off, his career modernized out of existence, or disabled to the point to not be able to work at all. The question "What should I do with my life" begs at the essence of what it means to be alive.
Meister Eckhart, the German medieval mystic, said one should ask what he should be rather than what he should do. After all, a person begins at her heart. This makes her human and different than say, a chair. "What should I do with my life?" is a question that harkens more to the spiritual reality of a person. It is the seemingly unanswerable inquiry of, "Why am I here?", or "Why do I exist?". One particular job description would probably not be enough to satisfactorily answer that question. A person could spend his whole life doing, doing, and doing. Yet if he is unable to satisfy spiritual longings within himself, he will constantly look outside himself for validation, whether through work or some other role, like being a spouse. Outside validations such as these are tenuous in their reliability. They have a lack of permanence, being subject to change at any time. Even religious identity can be in flux, so relying on even this to validate oneself can lead to disappointment. A Christian person who is convinced of the Bible's infallibility in his thirties can go through life experiences at fifty when Scripture does not seem to satisfy him, or Buddhist teachings may suddenly make more sense to a person than the Islamic tradition that she was raised with.
Asking who you are or delving into your true identity is a scary undertaking. It can be easily evaded , but only until the soul forces you to face your own self. No matter what circumstances lead to the search, the question of who one is, and what he should be doing with his life, is a spiritual one that reflects on the humanity of the seeker.