Facing the Future Without a Clear Direction

Thoughts • by Sven Reifschneider • 05 April 2015 • 1 comment

Graduated from high school, now what? Many opt for higher education, but why? What do we aspire to achieve in life? At 18 or 19, we face too many life-defining choices. This is Generation Y at its finest. In light of my 20th birthday, I want to address this issue that has preoccupied me for months.

Why Pursue Higher Education?

The more I discuss studying with friends, the more questions arise. Many don't even know why they're studying. It's just something you do, a societal expectation. Plus, it's supposedly essential for a 'real' job later and the desire to earn a decent living. The perception is that vocational training doesn’t offer much in terms of earnings or career advancement. Everyone defines themselves by the performance they can deliver, and this mindset is precisely where the problem lies. Life is about more than just career and work. Ambition is good, but for many, it turns into an obsession.

What Do You Want to Achieve in Life?

You go to school, graduate, enroll in university, get your degree, complete numerous unpaid internships, then work for 40 years. The same routine every day. Monotony. And then, your life is almost over.

When do you live? On weekends and days off. Eventually, you reach retirement age and that's when you can really start living. Life increasingly revolves around career and work, with everything else playing second fiddle. Friends, family, vacations, and such are often neglected, but that's considered normal. I read a fascinating article a few weeks ago about a young man who quit his well-paying job to pursue something different and become self-employed. He simply couldn’t take it anymore. Working 60 to 80 hours a week for a job that brings no joy, just to earn a lot of money you can't spend due to a lack of free time and social life. Instead, your job makes you outright sick.

Is this the right way? Is it healthy? Hardly. But many are heading in this direction because working a lot and earning a lot of money is perceived as good. It’s what everyone does. And this is precisely where we need a paradigm shift!


Your life is short. I always reckon with an 80-year life expectancy, leaving me about 60 years. And what do I want to achieve in this time? I want to see the world, start a family, spend time with good friends, learn a lot, pursue hobbies, and lead a beautiful life. And most importantly, I want to be happy. I have only this one life, and I don't want to waste it. The lyrics from Marteria - Sekundenschlaf are apt here: "I know you have so much to do – but slowly you hear this ticking in your ear."

But when can I realize these goals? On my 30 vacation days a year, on weekends, and when I'm "finally" retired. That's clearly not enough. And you probably have similar plans. What do you want to achieve in life? What are your big goals? Do you want to lie on your deathbed at 80 and reflect on your life, thinking: "Well, life is over. It was okay. Didn't have much time for myself, but I advanced the company and improved shareholders' dividends."?

You should feel free! You should be happy! You should lead a beautiful life! A job is necessary, but it should also bring you joy. Some may enjoy a 9-to-5 office job, but not everyone. If you don't want that monotony, then do something different!

"But That’s Not How It Works"

True. To lead a nice life, you need money. And for that, you need a good job that pays well. But what is "enough" money? How much do you need to lead a comfortable life?

Furthermore, ask yourself what truly brings you joy. There are likely many fields that could interest you, but you're not aware of them. The CHE University Ranking on Zeit.de and the Study Interest Test can be enlightening. Although focused on study programs, they offer a general overview of interesting fields and industries.

Also, ponder whether academia suits you. Would you be happier in vocational training? Answer this for yourself. Studying just because it's trendy, everyone does it, or for the prestige, is not the solution. I learned this myself. You don't need to be vain. Just because you've passed your high school exams doesn't mean you have to go to university.

The Lack of Perspective

This issue affects many people, a vast majority. Few at my age can tell me their life goals. They just study and see what they can do afterward. And many fail at university. I've become increasingly critical of it. But what can one do? It's a sad question that I've been pondering for some time.

But let's look at it objectively. Friends, family, happiness, discovering the world... these are all aspects we can work on. There are wonderful books and texts on these subjects. The real challenge of directionlessness lies in professional life. How can you know at 18 what will please you for the next 45 years? But don't stress too much about it. Many successfully switch careers every year. Careers seldom follow a straight line.

The Solution

So what's the solution? We define ourselves too much by our achievements. Being an academic is seen as great. But is it? I see so many people at university with perfect facades, but you don't know what's happening behind them. University can be damaging to your health.

Nobody wants to settle for an average life. Neither do I – as evident from my text. But perhaps that's the solution? Being happy with a simpler life rather than striving for greatness and being crushed by it. It almost feels like Social Darwinism. Only

the strongest survive. Those who lead an average life get devoured. The fear of failure is immense. Everyone wants to be perfect. But who really is? Ambition is good, but it can quickly become too much.

I particularly like the article "At the university, I saw only perfect creatures" on Zeit Online. The comments are also very thought-provoking.

Joy and Happiness

Study what you enjoy, not what might be lucrative later. Many shy away from studying philosophy, linguistics, or similar humanities because they believe there will be no jobs. Others choose these fields without real interest and fail miserably. I often refer to Zeit.de. Their Study Interest Test opened new perspectives for me, and the CHE Ranking provided an overview of potential study programs and fields. Never tell yourself you won't find a job post-graduation. Hardly any graduate remains jobless! And even if job hunting takes a few months, you can use the time wisely.

Find a career that brings you joy. That's what I did, and now I have a plan for the future. It's evident that I'm part of Generation Y. So many decisions, and it's easy to feel lost. In the end, we live only for achievements because society drills this into us.

Do what makes you happy. And if that means pursuing a trade, so be it. If you prefer to be a baker rather than studying law, that's fine. Follow your path. And if it doesn’t work out, you have failed, but you’ve become stronger and closer to your future. "Don’t live someone else’s dream – live your own," says Conni repeatedly, and she's absolutely right.

My Path

I enjoy programming. I’ve fixed countless computers, laptops, and smartphones. I know a lot about networks, and it’s all incredibly fun. So, I thought a computer science degree was right for me. However, there's a big difference between theory and practice. My practical knowledge, which had already earned me money, became suddenly irrelevant. University computer science is theoretical. A lot of math and logic, not much programming ("Computer science is as much about computers as astronomy is about telescopes"). Some of this might be useful professionally, but only a small part. The university trains academics, and many overlook this. I was blind too. Many change universities or majors each semester. But that's okay. You learn from mistakes. Much can't be known in advance. It's about gaining experience, and that's good.

So, I accept my errors, did extensive research, read a lot, and decided on Applied Computer Science. I enjoy being self-employed, trying to work as a Web Developer and Photographer. If it doesn’t work out, I can always look for a job alongside my studies, even though it's tough. And if self-employment succeeds, I gain a lot of freedom. The world is vast, and there's a right place for everyone, even if it takes time to find.

We just need to stop overthinking. Worrying less. Living in the present is beautiful. My plan didn't come from information sessions, career counseling, or divine revelation. I simply listed what I enjoy and what's important in life. This usually indicates where my path should lead. You can do it too. And if not, I'm here to help.

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Sven Reifschneider
About the author

Sven Reifschneider

Greetings! I'm Sven, a tech innovator and enthusiastic photographer from scenic Wetterau, near the vibrant Frankfurt/Rhein-Main area. This blog is where I fuse my extensive tech knowledge with artistic passion to craft stories that captivate and enlighten. Leading Neoground, I push the boundaries of AI consulting and digital innovation, advocating for change that resonates through community-driven technology.

Photography is my portal to expressing the ephemeral beauty of life, blending it seamlessly with technological insights. Here, art meets innovation, each post striving for excellence and sparking conversations that inspire.

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10 Nov 2015, 19:26

Hey cooler Artikel,

leider scheint es heutzutage für unsere Generation unheimlich wichtig zu sein einen Plan zu haben. (Ob das früher auch schon so war?) Leider wird sich heutzutage nur über Performance definiert, da uns das während des Studiums eingetrichtert wird.

Dein Lebensentwurf hört sich jedenfalls klasse an, viel Erfolg 🙂