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Here's a simple question

  1. Jul 29, 2008 #1
    How does one know what study in college to be happy in the future?

    I know its a pretty open-ended question but its been bugging me for a long time. I'm going to study aeronautical engineering at Clarkson University (anyone at PF been there?) but I'm not 100% sure its what I want to do with my life. I like mathematics and learning, I also like solving problems since I'm a very analytical person. But what matters most to me is being happy. Life is nothing without being satisfied or getting a sense of fulfillment. I don't want to spend my days working a typical 8 hour shift at a cubicle office, I want to do great things with my life. I want to be remembered for something or be put in a textbook for a discovery or a contribution to society. It's a very big demand out of life but its what I'd like to achieve. I like rockets, fighter jets and watching things shoot from cannons (all of which involves aeronautics) but there are other things in my life I love too.

    I've always found it fascinating how people behave on a micro and macro scale. There are plenty of idea's I've written down about psychology. Actually its reached a point where I'm almost considering buying a notebook just to keep them organized and coherent.

    Magnetism has fascinated me as well. Ever since I learned about the basic properties of magnets I've wanted to research and help create new uses for magnetic fields. This goes hand in hand with electromagnetism. I was so fasinated by the potential usage of magnets that I went and built a small linear homopolar motor (basically a railgun). Of course when I went present it to my highschool physics class (it wasn't a project or anything but the teacher wanted me to present it - I didnt want to) it didnt work of course. After class my teacher and I looked at it and it turned out that I didn't have enough amps going through the rails. Once we increased the current the little axle literally flipped off the whole gun.

    Again my point is how does someone know what they want to do with their life? I know I dragged on my stories but this question is really bothering me. I don't want to make a wrong decision and end up unhappy. Does anyone have an answer about how they knew they wanted to do in college and eventually life? Could someone please compile a small list of things an engineer should like in order to be happy?

    Sorry for the long post but I had a few things on my mind. Thanks for reading.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2008 #2
    I wanted to be a computer scientist. Then I wanted to be a philosopher. Then I wanted to be a session guitarist in Nashville. Then I wanted to be a physicist. Then I wanted to be a mathematician... which made me want to be a physicist again.

    You can't lock in happiness with a single decision (and with the exception of pathological counterexamples, you can't lock it out!) You have to live your life each day and be willing to work hard to chase what makes you smile, even if that means jumping ship from time to time.
  4. Jul 30, 2008 #3


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    There's no formula that will guarantee happiness.

    I think there's a few misconceptions out there about the way the world works. Maybe they're just myths propagated by our popular culture, or mayber they're more deeply rooted in our Jungian archetypes. Among them are the notions that you're going to find and fall in love with the single perfect mate by the time you're eighteen, and that by the time you finish high school you will discover your passion and know exactly what you want to do with your life.

    As far-fetched as these notions may seem, I think they are the source of an enormous amount of undue stress in the world, and they don't need to be.

    How does one know what to study in college?

    One doesn't.

    The best you can really do is take the time to really think about your path in life, assess your skills, aptitudes, and interests, and then make a judgement call. And then you have to live with the consequences, good and bad. This is what gives us the wisdom to make better choices as we get older.

    One saving grace is that you can always reassess your situation. If the path you've chosen isn't working for you, you can always try another one. Very little is set in stone. Of course, if you do this too much, you'll have a hard time really getting anywhere.

    Happiness is more a state of mind than it is a result of circumstances. There's a study that's often quoted by personal motivation speakers (although I've never seen the formal reference) that assessed the happiness of of two groups of people - one that had won the lottery, and one that had suffered a traumatic accident leading to paraplegia/quadraplegia. Within a few months of the life-changing event, there was no difference in the reported levels of happiness between the two groups. (One does wonder exactly how you quantify happiness, but I hope you get the point.)

    People can be happy shovelling horse manure and they can be miserable as rock stars.
  5. Jul 31, 2008 #4
    I also started college planning to be an Aerospace engineer. That plan lasted a whole semester. I was so enchanted by my freshman physics course that I knew right then that physics was for me. At least, I thought so until I discovered upper level algebra classes. Then I got sucked into mathworld, and have been oscillating between math and physics ever since while spouting off favorite objects and theorems to friends...

    the point is, I think you will find the way. You can't really know how you will grow or change in the next few years - many scientists believe that your brain doesn't fully develop its adult personality until you are at least 25, so imagine how much you will change in a 5-10 year period. Just take a broad range of classes - see if anything pulls out at you - and don't be afraid to try something new when it comes along just because it doesn't fit into your mind's image of what your life is going to be like.

    There is no wrong choice. The only wrong would be no choice. :smile:
  6. Aug 2, 2008 #5
    To be happy in life is to mature and become an adult. To have complete command over the things you decide for yourself. Freedom, self-fulfillment etc. Very relevant things to consider.

    When you get older, you will stick to certain things, get an idea of what you need to do to realize yours dreams. To know what makes your brain tick, your heart to feel joy, and other people to depend on you.

    I chose engineering. Because at first, it was about the pay and prestige. Now I really want to learn the coursematerial and actually be able to apply it in the real world. Rise in industry, touch peoples lives and make a positive lasting impression. Constructing technology for the betterment of the human species. When I knew I wanted this for myself? maybe last year or something. But I begun engineering and it transformed me, from a young adolescent into a young adult with high hopes for the future.

    The thing is, you need to set a course, and see where it leads you. Discipline, work ethic and sticking to your choices even when it bestows you with hardships is what makes adulthood worthwhile. I am looking forward to getting older and wiser.
  7. Aug 2, 2008 #6
    I don't think people are meant to be happy- but that's neither here nor there.

    The best you can do is research the fields you think you might be intersted in. Read books on the subjects, talk to people etc.

    Another thing is, let's say you get a degree in engineering, it doen't necessarily mean you'll go on to work as an engineer, you might go into banking or whatever! Look at Angela Merkel, she was a physics professor and now she's the German Chancellor!
    People tend to have several different jobs in their life-time anyway, doing different stuff.
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