Directing your own life

Starting this school year, the government will give an annual HK$500,000 grant to each publicly-funded secondary school. The purpose is to strengthen career and life planning guidance for students. Is finding a high-paying job the ultimate purpose of life planning?

YOUNG people today are criticised for lacking a sense of responsibility. Some are called ‘hidden youths’ because they ‘hide’ at home like recluses, doing nothing gainful with their life.

The failure to act responsibly is also common among those who are working. Some young people simply do not show up for work when they come across problems; others choose to resign by WhatsApp, and do not even bother to write a proper notification letter to their employer.

Some commentators blame inappropriate parenting methods for producing an incompetent generation. These include overprotective ‘helicopter’ parents on one extreme, and draconian and overly-demanding ‘monster’ parents on the other.

These views may or may not be accurate or fair, but the unsatisfactory performance of young people certainly indicates one thing – the lack of proper life planning.

Life planning = career planning?

LIFE planning and career planning are related concepts. Since one’s career is a major part of life, career planning must be part of life planning.

As life and career planning are intertwined, teams providing career and guidance services and life planning education in schools are also often simply referred to as the Career Guidance Team.

However, the scope of life planning is much larger. It concerns not only students’ choice of profession, but also their broad direction in life. It is ultimately about what a person wants to get out of life.

In life planning, the questions to be asked should include:

‧ What is the purpose of my life?
‧ What is my mission and calling in life?
‧ How do I achieve those goals through the role I play and the work I do?

After setting life goals, we must then work out how to accomplish self-actualisation and build self-esteem, which are essential elements of a meaningful life.

This involves identifying personal strengths and interests, as well as seeking self-understanding to increase one’s level of satisfaction in life.

Only when we have sorted out these fundamental questions can we make a decision on what kind of career we want and how to find a job.

Throughout life, everyone plays different roles – student, employee, son or daughter, husband or wife, parent, and member of society. To play each role well, we must never lose sight of our life goals, mission and calling.

Pick the right career

“STUDY hard, find a good job and earn a lot of money.” Students in Hong Kong must have heard this advice many times as they grow up.

In fact, many people in Hong Kong believe that only when you have a lot of money can you have a good life.

So, it is hardly surprising that many young people set their life goals to be ‘make money, save up and buy one’s own home’.

If making the greatest amount of money is the prime objective, young people’s career choices become restricted.

This mindset prompts them to pick a profession that they thought will help them earn the highest amount of money, and not one which they are interested in and passionate about.

But working in a job that is unsuitable for one’s personality leads to regrets sooner or later. It is in fact quite painful to have to keep doing something you do not like day in and day out.

It is only through self-understanding that young people are able to break out from a money-orientated mode of thinking and find a path that leads to a fulfilling life.

Goals + values = right direction

IT is never too early to start life planning. First, gain a deeper understanding of yourself. Ask what gives you the biggest satisfaction in life, and what are the things that are most important to you.

You will find yourself at many crossroads in the future, and a wrong decision could take you in the wrong direction.

But help is available. There are many books that you can read, and your teachers are also there to give you guidance.

Five key strategies

What then should schools do with the new life and career planning grant? Experts have suggested five key strategies:

1. Provide information

This can include information about the nature of different professionals and recruitment information, which can be provided in the form of brochures or through the internet.

2. Self-directed activities

Schools may ask students to set out their goals in life by answering a set of questions, or by taking part in discussion sessions.

3. Running courses

Schools may run classes to teach skills on how to enhance selfunderstanding, or give students personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

4. Counselling

Schools may provide guidance to students individually or in small groups.