This blog contains an abbreviated chapter from my newly published book, Letters From My Grandfather: Timeless Wisdom For a Life Worth Living. Before he dies, a Grandfather writes a series of 14 letters to his granddaughter Emma to be opened at important moments in her life: high school graduation, 18thbirthday, first day of college, 21stbirthday etc. up through her 25thbirthday. Each letter contains wisdom to guide her through the challenges common at that stage of life. This chapter occurs on Emma’s 19thbirthday.
19thbirthday: The Dot Theory
After two months in college, Emma felt fairly settled socially. She got along well with her roommate and had made several other good friends on her floor. What was unsettling was her lack of direction. Many of her peers seemed to have decided on their major, yet Emma didn’t have a clue as to what career path she wanted to pursue. She felt confused, frustrated, and behind. On her 19thbirthday, Emma waited to read her grandfather’s letter until her roommate was asleep.
Happy 19thbirthday! I guess this is the first birthday you have experienced away from home, so I hope you have made some good friends to celebrate with. That first semester away from home can be daunting, with so many changes. I hope you’ve started to develop a new support system of friends you can count on.
I wonder what field of study you will eventually pursue. You have always been so well-rounded and good at a lot of things, so sometimes that can make it harder to choose. I remember even back in middle school you were feeling pressure about knowing your college major and career choice, so I thought I’d offer you a little advice and reassurance about the process of discovering your calling.
Do you remember one of our favorite activities we used to play together; connect the numbered dot drawings.These were the pictures where you’d look at the page full of dots and have no idea what the final picture would become. So, you’d start connecting the dots, one, two, three, four and so on. After a while a picture would start to emerge from the dots, and by the last point you could clearly see that it was a clown or an evergreen tree etc. It didn’t matter that you had no clue at the start about what the final picture would be. As long as you persisted in connecting dots, an image would develop.
Those drawings inspired me to create what I call my “Dot Theory”. This theory is a different way of discovering your life’s work.
I would suggest that instead of becoming stressed about figuring out your calling, just be open to dots. Dots are any experiences that cross your path that you seem drawn to. If it seems like it would be fun, if your gut is telling you to do it, or if for whatever reason it just seems like the right thing to do at the time, then by all means pursue it. Dots can look like a lot of things: a class, a job, volunteer work, internships, traveling, reading a biography, joining a club or group, trying a new activity, or having a cup of coffee with an adult you find interesting. This quote by Steve Chandler describes this process well.
Listen to the clues. The next time you feel real joy, stop and think. Pay attention. Because joy is the universes way of knocking on your mind’s door. Hello in there. Is anyone home? Can I leave a message? Good! The message is that you are happy, and that means that you are in touch with your purpose.
You don’t need to get so stressed out and overwhelmed because you don’t know the answer to questions about your college major or your career. Take the pressure off and be open to dots that present themselves, follow your heart, and then allow the picture of your life and career to unfold, marvelously, in its own way, and in its own time.