First off, I want to thank all of you who sent in responses to my last post that asked you to share a topic that you would like to hear more about in exchange for a chance to win one of five free strategy sessions with me. Not only the number of responses but the depth of your emails really touched me.
As a consequence, I feel so inspired this week to write about a topic that a number of you brought to my attention as posing a particular difficulty: How do you figure out and follow what you really want to do for your career.
No doubt, this is a difficult topic that causes a lot of confusion for people. I have been there myself. If you have had a chance to read my story on my website’s “about me” page, you know that I went through total professional confusion. I was on the road to medical school when I found myself completely unhappy, burnt out, and creatively stunted. It wasn’t until my back started hurting so bad that I returned to Germany to have surgery that I finally began to listen to myself and admitted that I was not following my true professional passions. Getting unstuck for me required taking off the pressure both mentally (“it’s ok if I don’t know all the answers yet”) as well as physically (taking off the pressure from my herniated disks that caused pain to shoot down my legs).
I truly believe that your real passions and your truest desires will unfold when you create the openness within yourself to receive answers.
As long as you try too hard to squeeze out answers, you create rigidity, inflexibility, and tunnel vision that will keep you blind. So when the answer, opportunity, or challenge comes your way, you won’t see it. In addition, when we apply pressure onto ourselves, we are de-friending ourselves and the negative self-talk starts. How is anything truly awesome and revolutionary going to result from that?
Now, you are probably wondering how and where to begin this inquiry. Of course, every individual is different, which is why one-on-one coaching work is so powerful (we can really laser in on specific confusions and personal patterns of stuckness). However, there are a few courses of action that serve as a great starting framework to kick off this deeper inquiry and create the openness to receive clarity.
1) Align with your strengths (and recognize them as such).
What are 3 things that you do pretty much every day that come completely natural to you? What could you do all the time because you basically never get tired of it? What fuels you with energy and inspiration? In what situations do you find yourself in flow?
Think about these questions because they are giving you valuable feedback about what sort of tasks should constitute the basis of your job. Keep in mind that these do not have to be job focused tasks necessarily. They are only meant to inform who you are as a person. Approach this exercise in a playful way.
Here is an example from my own life: When I was getting my Master’s degree, my class did an exercise that explored when we felt in flow in our lives. The first thing that came to my mind is that I love lighting candles and placing things in my apartment in beautiful ways. That basically means that I love creating atmospheres that feel warm, intimate, and filled with loving attention. I feel in flow when I am creating and nurturing. Supporting people to reach AHA-types-of-moments fuels me with energy (I get this giddy feeling in my stomach). In addition, empowering women by listening to their stories and sharing what I have learned in my life thus far inspires me. This is why I coach women through transitions AND also do workshops (where I can light as many candles as I want –Hooray!). By combining different seemingly unrelated things that come naturally to me, and that I feel passionate about, I now came up with a rough outline of how I chose my career path.
2) Let go of perfectionist ideas and take action.
You do not have to know all of the answers today or even tomorrow. Barely anything turns out exactly how you planned it anyway, so if you get too stuck on planning everything before hand, you a) never start and b) set yourself up for a whole lot of frustration when the slightest shift happens. Shifts and changes become threatening and uncomfortable instead of potential opportunities. You end up with tunnel-vision.
Instead embark on your journey with openness and curiosity. For example: You do not need to know what exactly you want to do professionally right from the start. Use your answers from question 1 to pursue a direction/field/area of interest that exposes you to opportunities where you can use your identified energy-fuelers and then learn if this field is right for you (versus thinking you “might” like a certain field). The point is to START and ENGAGE.
Another good way to engage, is this: If you know someone who is in a career that you admire and think you would like as well, take that person out for coffee or lunch by saying something like: “Your job sounds fascinating. I would love to hear more about what you do. Can I take you to lunch next Thursday?”
The answer to your confusion is not hiding under your couch, so stop ruminating, pondering, and second guessing yourself and go out there and engage with your ideas and potential interests. That’s the only way you will find out if it’s right for you.
3) Trust that good things will happen for you.
If you tell yourself over and over how difficult it is to find out what you want to do, it will be difficult. See, we humans want to be right, so unconsciously you are looking to proof your own expectations. Instead, tell yourself that you are ready, open, and excited to finding a profession that will fit your passions, talents, and skills (from question number 1). Can you see how this simple reframe sheds a completely different light on your journey? Feeling positive, light, and excited is a way for you to set yourself up for success.
In the comments below, I would love to hear about your journey or confusion and how you might be able to apply the above points to move from confusion and stuckness into clarity and action.
I know you can do this!