Talk about frustration.
Everything you've been working on feels like a big waste of time, but you have no idea what you should be doing next. All you've got is this nagging belief that you should be doing something ... more.
I remember that frustration so well! That's why last week I offered a bit of consolation, and promised I would let you know exactly what to focus on so you could get where you're going as quickly and smoothly as possible.
And here it is:
5 Questions To Help You Find What You're Meant to Do
1) What do you love most about your current and past jobs?
Not what do you like, not what can you tolerate, but what do you love? And more importantly, why?
The answers might not always jump out at you. You might not love troubleshooting all the technical glitches in your company's WordPress website, but you might LOVE the fact that you're getting paid to learn new, marketable skills.
Get in the habit here of taking everything to the next level. WHY do you love writing? What is it, specifically, about teaching that lights you up so much?
And when you think you've arrived at an answer, ask yourself those same questions all over again.
2) What do you hate most about your current and past jobs?
Trying to stay positive can be a fantastic practice, but you're cutting out a lot of valuable self knowledge if you don't also let yourself explore the negative. Humans are wired to be not only sensitive but highly responsive to aversion. Often it's easier to figure out what we don't like than what we do like!
As with #1, make sure to ask yourself "Why?" and "What exactly...?" whenever you think you've found something. Go deep.
3) What or who makes you green with envy?
Again, a dark emotion that we don't like to talk or think about, and again, a place where you have to go deep.
I thank Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can't Stop Talking for bringing this particular gem to my attention.
4) What makes you curious?
When clarity eludes you, follow your curiosity. What sounds intriguing? What could you happily spend the next year or so learning about and talking about?
Maybe it's a way to shake up your routines and give a fresh perspective, or maybe curiosity is a manifestation of our intuition, that deep sense of knowing that can be so hard to hear at times. (Is that my intuition? Or fear? Or self-deluding fantasy?) Regardless, curiosity is wildly helpful.
When Elizabeth Gilbert became curious about studying Italian, she had no idea her decision would lead to her international mega-bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, and catapult her to fame. When Benjamin Franklin decided to prove to himself once and for all the nature of lightning, he wasn't predicting the vast economic windfall of harnessed electricity. But they followed their curiosity anyway.
5) What are you waiting for?
No, I'm not implying that you need to examine your personal psychology of 'playing small.' While that might be a valid question for another time, it can lead to a rabbit hole of self-recrimination that is unnecessary at the moment.
What I mean is that you can start getting familiar with how your future life will feel if you apply what you've discovered now, in your current job, rather than later, in some undetermined future. Because sometimes, even if you've been toning your awareness muscles and going through the hard work of clarifying what makes you tick, you might not yet have a clear direction about your next step. And that's okay.
Putting It All Together
Let's say you answered Question #1 by saying that you really love interacting with customers. And then when you ask yourself why, you realize that what you really love is that breakthrough moment when you help someone come up with a novel solution that they wouldn't have thought up on their own. And then you realize that what you really love about that is being able to stretch your mind creatively. You kind of lose yourself when you're doing it. It could be new ideas, new workarounds, new processes ... you don't really care. You just love coming up with something new.
So, great. Do more of that.
Now that you know something that lights you up, challenge yourself to come up with creative solutions not just with customers, but with coworkers, bosses, subordinates, suppliers, your friends, your dog.... Make it into a game to see if you can spend 20% more of your day doing this thing that you love.
At the same time, you'll be honing a skill that you'll invariably use one day in your dream job or ideal business (it won't be your dream job if it doesn't light you up).
And here's the other great thing: Once your brain understands exactly what you want to focus on, it will help you start recognizing more and more opportunities where you can use that skill.
By the same token, can you do less of what you dislike? Or can you creatively sprinkle in some of that newness / creative thinking that you like, in order to make it more palatable?
If you've found that you're envious of a specific person, only to realize that it's because everybody seems to view her as an authority and take her ideas so seriously, how can you start developing that for yourself? Again, if you envision your dream job / ideal life as a place where people take your ideas seriously, work on cultivating that now.
And curiosity? Just go for it. Download that audio book, join that club, sign up for that Italian course!
Don't wait, just do it. All of it. You'll be happier, you'll be more self-aware, you'll be improving yourself ... and really, you just never know when that unexpected job listing or business opportunity will come your way.
Here's to the wonderful benefits of knowing yourself,