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What should I do with my life?

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

I recently came across The Odyssey Plan, a method to help navigate big decisions, and to answer the age-old question of "What should I do with my life?" It goes as follows:

  1. Write out, in detail, what your life would look like 5 years from now if you continued down your current path.
  2. Write out, in detail, what your life would look like 5 years from now if you took a completely different path.
  3. Write out, in detail, what your life would look like 5 years from now if money and social obligations were irrelevant.

Because I'm writing this at 1am after a weekend on-call for obstetrics and gynaecology, I'm in an over-sharing mood so here's some of what I wrote for Q1.

I’m 30 years old. I’m doing less-than-full-time training in anaesthetics, working 3-4 days a week. I’m living in Cambridge in a slightly bigger flat / house with the current one on rent. I’m supervising physiology some evenings at a college or two where I’m a bi-fellow. The YouTube channel has gotten pretty big, although growth is slower than it once was. I’m making some generic medicine videos, some vlogs, continuing the tech and productivity stuff, with annual videos about my desk setup, what’s on my iPhone etc. I’ve branched out into book-themed content as well, with a few new series. I’ve got a portfolio of online courses and an e-book that’s bringing in a ridiculous amount of passive income every month. I’ve caved and bought a Tesla that I’ve made a few videos about. The podcast is continuing and is my weekly catch-up session with Taim [my brother and podcast co-host]. We get guests on occasionally but it’s generally just the two of us.
I’ve been going on occasional dates here and there for the past 5 years, but haven’t yet ‘met the right person’. Each time I get on with someone, I wonder ‘I’m not sure if I’m attracted enough to them’ to justify entering a relationship. I often think ‘I’m 30 now, I should just pick someone and then we can make it work because most of the success of a relationship is based on how much effort you put into it rather than pre-existing compatibility’.
Taim and I have made enough money between us to pay off Mimi’s [our mum's] mortgage. She now lives in a slightly bigger house in St Albans that doesn’t have the sound of traffic.

When I was writing this out, I honestly felt a bit depressed. I had a feeling of "is this really it?". I guess it's similar to the classic mid-life crisis that you're supposed to have when you hit 40 when you realise that your life is basically over.

Don't get me wrong - this future-vision is a pretty idyllic life. But there's nothing particularly... cool about it. It's just a very standard result of the path I'm currently on. And if I think about the climb, the process of getting there, it's pretty pedestrian - I just have to do more of what I've been doing for the past few years, churn out more YouTube videos, launch a few more online courses, and next thing I know, I'll be 30, looking back and wondering where my twenties went.

A few days after writing out these different answers to the Odyssey Plan, I stumbled across one of my highlights from Tim Ferriss' The 4-Hour Work Week (via the daily email I get from Readwise).

Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your “passion” or your “bliss,” I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement. This brings us full circle. The question you should be asking isn’t, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” but “What would excite me?”

The universe has an interesting way of lining things up, because the day after I re-read this quote, I met up with some medic friends who had uprooted their comfortable lives in London to move to New York for their medical residencies. They gushed about how the move to the US was the most adventurous thing they'd ever done, and how they wouldn't change it for the world. They talked about the new friends they'd made, the opportunities they'd stumbled across, and the smell of bin bags piled up on the streets of New York. I found myself imagining moving to another country (maybe even the US) to practice medicine and thinking "damn that sounds really exciting".

I suppose if there's a lesson here, it's this - try out the Odyssey Plan for yourself. Map out where your current path will lead in 5 years time. How do you feel about that? Is it really where you want to be? Does the process of getting there excite you? If so, great - keep doing what you're doing. But if not, then maybe think about why you're following the Yellow Brick Road if you don't like the idea of getting to Oz.

Have a great week!

Ali


This week on Not Overthinking

Not Overthinking is the weekly podcast hosted by me and my brother. If you enjoy these emails, you’ll hopefully like that too. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Castro (my favourite podcast app) or any other podcast app - just search for ‘Not Overthinking’.

"Lad" Culture - An Insider's Perspective | Not Overthinking

In this episode, we have a guest appearance from Jake, a junior doctor and recovering "lad". We discuss the meaning of being a "lad", the experience from inside the group and the feelings of those of us who feel implicitly excluded from boisterous, alcohol-heavy group dynamics.

My Favourite Things this week

1 - Podcast - I really enjoyed this episode of The Art of Charm podcast about how to tell better stories. It's worth a listen for anyone who wants to improve their social / storytelling skills :)

2 - Article - I ended up highlighting most of the paragraphs of this excellent piece called How to Read. It makes a great case for starting tones of books, but finishing very few.

3 - Video - I came across The Odyssey Plan in this video by Unjaded Jade. I found myself 100% relating to the not-knowing-what-to-do-with-your-life feelings, and found the framework for dealing with that incredibly useful.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it. If you go to church every Sunday for twenty years, you have evidence that you are religious. If you study biology for one hour every night, you have evidence that you are studious. If you go to the gym even when it’s snowing, you have evidence that you are committed to fitness. The more evidence you have for a belief, the more strongly you will believe it.

From Atomic Habits by James Clear. Resurfaced with Readwise.

This week's video

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.