What is your purpose? What makes you get up in the morning? What keeps you going when the going gets tough?
Understand your values and purpose. Then take a critical look at what you are doing right now. Be willing to experiment and take risks. And always keep your eyes open for opportunities that present themselves.
The passion trap
In many ways we are over-emphasizing purpose and passion today. We tell High school kids that they need to find their passion when they pick a career. An impossible task at that age. Many people actually never discover what their passion really is.
Doing something, that you are sufficiently interested in, with full dedication until you head towards mastery often turns into passion. This is in fact a more likely way to find something that you will be passionate about, than soul-searching for the perfect occupation.
Passion doesn’t come magically for free. It requires dedication and hard work.
Alignment with core values counts
However, at the same time too many of us spend our lives in settings, that go against our core values and our purpose. We do things and execute work that we don’t agree with in principle.
Both trying to find the one thing that will make you happy just by its nature as well as sticking with something that fundamentally disagrees with your core values and purpose are futile.
It is much better to understand what your core values and purpose are, and then experimenting with different things. Once you find something that aligns in principle and peeks you interest, go deep and give it your full self.
What makes you tick
Self reflection and self awareness is not easy. For some of us it comes more naturally, others never truly find it.
If you are not clear about what inherently motivates you and what turns you off, you can start journaling your mini-motivators. Throughout the day, what did you like, what felt great, and what didn’t. When you watch other people, what do you admire and what do you despise. What would you want other people to say about you, and what would you rather not?
Those should be small and in-the-moment things. Don’t overthink it. Jolt down the random reactions and thoughts as they come, for example ‘those meetings as sapping out my energy’, ‘it felt really good to help Joe through his problem’ or ‘it was awesome to solve this situation my way’.
After a few weeks look at those micro-motivators and see what patterns emerge.
Brainstorm on new options
Then reflect on how much those value and purpose patterns are matched in your current occupation. If they are not, make a list of other careers that would get you to a closer match. Don’t go for perfect match, chances are you won’t find that (lucky you, if you do!).
Make a list of those close matches and be aware that you will still have to work hard for them. Nothing will be rosy all day every day. Just setting expectations here.
Make a change, reinvent yourself
Let’s assume that your values and passions don’t align well with you current occupation. That’s nothing to feel bad about. For one, it’s super hard to find good alignment from the get go. In most cases we don’t know enough about the job as well as ourselves when we begin. Also we are (luckily!) changing over time and what might have been the perfect milestone a few years ago, might not fit anymore as our path leads us to the next one.
Start experimenting with the occupations that made it to your list. Or something completely different that just feels right for reasons that you cannot explain.
If we talk about big shifts in your occupation and trajectory, really experiment. Don’t go full in right away without really knowing if you like where you’re heading. Try out a few things on the side. Volunteer in the new occupation rather than leaving your current job only to figure out after a few months that the grass actually isn’t greener on the other side.
Experiment, be flexible
Experiment a lot. Learn from those experiments. Adjust what you know about yourself and tweak the list of things you want to do based on that knowledge.
Recognize open doors and opportunities as they present themselves and find the courage to explore them.
Don’t put yourself under the stress of having to succeed with the first thing you try out.
One of the life lessons I learned from my martial arts teacher was to have a plan but remain flexible.
Have a plan, but always keep your mind open for opportunities that present themselves. Have the flexibility and courage to leverage them. Life is a winding path, not a straight line.
Looking at my own winding path, I can point out at least four rather big shifts in the direction I was heading for. Each shift has set me back a little in short-term – as big change always does – but propelled me toward a much better place in the long-term. I don’t even want to imagine who I would be if I had been stuck in my initial (subsequent, current,..) choices.
Did you like this article? Want to read more?
I will keep posting articles here and I have them lined up way into summer 2020. However if you want to get it all in one comprehensive, structured, and grammar-checked (!) view, check out our new book:
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