Phil had it made. He was 18 and playing for Manchester United, one of the most respected football (soccer, for us Americans) teams in Europe. He had already played on their youth team for a couple of years. What more could a guy want?

But vying for midfield with David Beckham, Paul Scholes, and losing out on playing time wasn't exactly a glorious career. He moved to a much smaller club in hope of a little time on the field. But things didn't get better. Injury struck, more than once. As he moved from team to team, he wasn't getting playing time or recognition. What was he to do with his life?

All of us ask this question at least once in our lives. We want to do something worthwhile, make a difference, leave a mark on the world. There are over six billion people on the face of the earth - how can we possibly stand out, really accomplish something with our lives.

The instant gratification that the media constantly pump at us - sex, drink, drugs, adrenaline - it only satisfies for a fleeting instant, and we're most often left worse off. What's our mission? Where is our real adventure?

We could be a surgeon and through our skill and effort cure countless people of life-threatening illness. We could be a Marine - not just any soldier, but one of the elite ready to defend our country and the values it stands for. We could be a businessman, creating opportunity and wealth that allow not only us but many others to improve their standard of life as well. We could be a priest, sacrificing a family, riches, and his independence to give his life to help the millions in today's world in need of guidance and love. These and many others
How to tell? There are so many great options. How do we decide? The numbers of the salary? The benefits? What it will do for our reputation? Maybe it doesn't even matter - they could all turn out the same anyway.
What we're really talking about here is more than just a career. When we talk about a vocation or life choice, it isn't just whether we are going to sell insurance or bag groceries. It's about what kind of man do we want to be? Or better what kind of man were we made to be?
Obviously we're all capable of doing many things, and even well. You might make a great farmer, businessman, and doctor. But there is certainly a long-term plan for our lives that ensures our happiness, or in other words someone made us with a certain mission in mind. How to find out?
Unfortunately when we're born, we don't come with an instruction manual. We are projects constantly under construction. One of our jobs is just that, to figure out and undertake OUR vocation.
It will take each of a lifetime to figure this out for ourselves. But some elements are necessary for all - married, single, or consecrated; soldier, doctor, priest, or whatever else.
1. Meaning.
What is our life all about? We have to answer this question for ourselves. There is no book, Life for Dummies (at least not that works). We have to think, reflect, and find the truth.
This kind of goes back a little bit to what I mentioned about true happiness. We were created to be happy and fulfilled. Someone gave us the gift of life and freedom, and he calls us to cooperate on the path of our lives.
The world needs heroes and saints not just nice guys. Do we want to make a difference? Are we willing to put in the effort?
2. Prayer.
If we want to follow the plan, we've got to talk to the guy who made it, God! It's through prayer that we get to know who he is, who we are, and what he calls us to.
Unlike going to the fortune-teller or the palm-reader, we're going to have to do this for our whole life. The plan of our lives isn't a Google map route that comes with all the detailed instructions, street-view, and everything. It's something that will continue to unfold and develop in ways that we never imagined. Just take Mary, when she said yes to having Jesus as her son, she didn't see the fine print and the cross. But it would come, and she was ready.
3. Guidance.
Since we don't have God's cell number and as of now, I haven't found his FaceBook account, our communication with him is real but very different. His voice isn't physical, and often we won't understand all his signs.
So we need someone else who knows him and us well to help. They can look at our situation and help us to make some objective judgments and decisions.
4. Others.
Even though the process of looking, reflecting, judging, and discerning is very personal, we can't just close in on ourselves. The "I'm not leaving my room until I have it all figured out" will not work!
The plan for your life includes hundreds, maybe even thousands and millions of other people. We belong to the human family and are made to love and be loved. So start now - find a way to help the less fortunate. Often we find what we enjoy, what we were made to do, doing it.
5. Just do it.
In German there is a word,  Verpflichtungsangst, which is as scary as it sounds. It means fear to commit. And guys, let be honest, this is all around us. It's much easier to just enjoy life without getting serious.
Why get married when we can have all the pleasure of sex without the obligation? Why not get drunk when we can have a great time without even really being responsible for our actions? Why make a serious decision and commit to one thing when it eliminates hundreds of other possibilities? Isn't it better to keep our options open?
At some point, we have to face up to reality, not the reality of FaceBook, where every comment can be deleted, every friend, unfriended, and every status revised.
No we are talking about the reality of life! We have to make a decision, commit to what we thing is best. Once we have seen where we are supposed to go, it's or no. There won't be any lightning bolt or vision, but once we have hear that voice in our heart, once we know, we have to respond.
And of course, every door shuts a few others behind us, but it opens toa new world. Every decision carries with it all the consequences and obligations but can bring unimaginable joy and success.
Some retired athletes run pubs (nothing wrong with that), but Phil decided to train to become a Catholic priest! He heard God's call and answered.
See the  complete article on Phil Mulryne.
What about you? What are your doubts? What helps you to decide? And I would be happy to share my story if you like.  Please send me your comments.

Copyright 2012 Br. Mark Thelen, L.C.