Know and Do the Things You Want

Academic Guidance

Know and Do the Things You Want

We receive mostly two types of advice: (1) get into a good school, and (2) find your passion. Neither advice is particularly actionable by itself. Let us talk about the second one: knowing ourselves. Start with a video from Simon Sinek: finding the things that you like. He has reframed his enjoyment of the arts scene into a truth of sorts: he really enjoys being around new people and new ideas. He asked himself the questions “What makes me want to go to XYZ?” and “Why do I enjoy XYZ? What about it is the most attractive part for me?” Similarly, we can reflect on our activities to obtain insights.



  • What are my emotions when I do this? Are these emotions something I would like to experience? What would make me feel the opposite?



Keep asking yourself these questions. Notice patterns, analyze yourself. You may encounter a feeling of uneasiness, when your answers should be right, but something feels uncertain. Keep asking, and remember you answers. When you find the real truth, you will know it without doubt.


Here are a few more questions: In what other situations do I feel similarly? What could I change to change my feelings? What could I change in my behavior to get a different outcome? What feelings am I expressing with my behavior?


The answers may be simple, as “I have always wanted to work in physics.” Maybe, they will be longer, as “I wanted to work in physics, because I like solving difficult mathematical problems. In fact, I could also enjoy financial analytics. It pays more money!”. Maybe, the answers will lead to changes, as “I do physics because I was brought up to be good at it. I do not know much about whether I could enjoy other things, so I should try them out”


Do the things you actually like and want. We have conscious choice over our actions, reactions, and thoughts. With that, we have the responsibility over our fate. Do the things you want to do. If it is getting into college or graduate school that you want, do it. Pursue it fully, without fear or reservation. You are writing a personal statement? Make yourself proud of it. You are working in a lab? Make your mark there, leave a footprint. You are playing Starcraft? That is OK too, as long as you actually want to do that. This part is simple to say, but frightening to do, and there is no way around it. Own your actions consciously, because in any case you are responsible for them. In the future, we will discuss how to make it easier to actually DO IT.