Picture this: You’re working away, fully immersed in a project when the sudden “ding!” of your phone jolts you back to reality. How is it already 4pm? It’s Friday afternoon and you remember that you have a full weekend of fun ahead. You start wrapping up and scan over your to-do list from the week. Your priority tasks are checked-off, your projects are on track, and you even found some time to grab lunch with a friend. Seeing everything you completed this week feels good, and not just because you were productive. All of the things you spent time on were things you really cared about. You glance over your schedule for next week and feel a swell of anticipation. A smile tugs at the corner of your mouth. You close your calendar, grab your things and head out for the weekend. Life is good.
This is what doing work you love can look and feel like. It’s having moments of being so “in the zone” that you completely lose track of time, even on a Friday afternoon. It’s leaving work feeling happy and rewarded. It’s really feeling your strengths, passion and purpose coming together in the work you are doing. And best of all? The work that you love to do is out there, waiting for you to pursue it.
If you’re current career path feels far from what you love, know that you are not alone. In fact, about 70% of workers say they don’t feel satisfied at work. It’s a feeling I know as well. Before I was a career coach, I was in an inside sales job that wasn’t a good fit for me. Truth be told, I was totally miserable! At the beginning, I thought I would be working closely with people and building meaningful relationships, but soon I found that the company was fixated solely on sales and numbers and profits took precedence over people. On top of that I was doing a ton of detailed admin work, which is not my thing. I was stuck. I didn’t fit in this role or company and dreaded going to work. I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know where to start.
While that job will go down as one of my worst work experiences, it was also one of the best things to ever happen to me. It’s what led me to my own career discovery process and pushed me to figure out what I love to do – which happens to be helping others with this very thing!
There are many reasons why people stay in jobs they don’t really love and often times it’s because they are unsure of how to start making a change. It’s not knowing what the “first step” is. How will I find work that I love to do when I don’t even know what I love to do? The secret to finding meaningful work is to discover answers to that very question, what do I love to do? It’s getting in tune with the true you, what’s missing in your work right now and getting clear on what would make you feel fulfilled and rewarded.
It sounds simple, but we’re rarely taught how to figure out what we are passionate about and even more so, we’re not taught how to apply our passions to our careers. The good news is it’s never too late to get started. Given how much time and energy we spend at our job, the work to get into a career you absolutely love is well worth it.
Below you’ll find five exercises to help you get started uncovering what you are passionate about. There’s no wrong or right answers and no time limit while working through these exercises. Take the time to make sense of your discoveries and bring clarity to what your career could look like. Most of all, have fun with it!
Create some space. Starting off with a clear head will allow you to be open to understanding the strengths you possess and the possibilities that are ahead of you. Go for a long walk, hike, or bike ride in the fresh air. Practice meditation, even if it’s just a few minutes a day to. Quiet your mind and tune in to your inner wisdom – it can work wonders. With some head space, you’ll be able to see yourself, your life and your potential in a new light.
A few helpful resources for beginning meditation are the smartphone apps Headspace and Insight Timer and teachers like Kim Eng and Tara Brach.
Get curious about what lights you up. Ponder these questions and see what comes up. What were you doing the last time you completely lost track of time? When have you felt “in the zone” or really engaged and excited about what you were doing? Run with any and all possibilities that come to mind and write them down. Once you have your thoughts on paper, consider your answers with curiosity and without judgement.
Take the CliftonStrengths test. If you’ve never heard of it, the CliftonStrengths test is an online assessment that uncovers your unique set of strengths and talents, and it’s one of my favorites. Once you complete the questionnaire, you’ll receive your specific combination and order of strengths.
CliftonStrengths uses 34 strengths divided into four categories: Strategic Thinking, Relationship Building, Influencing and Executing. Only one in 33 million people have the same combination of top five strengths as you. This powerful assessment is one of the best assessments out there for helping people uncover their gifts and qualities AND discovering how to apply them to their work and life. I highly recommend purchasing the full report to see your order of all 34 strengths.
Discovering your strengths is one of the best ways to get clear about what you are good at and how you do your best work. Once you are armed with this knowledge, you can start building on what you are already good at rather than wasting your time and energy trying to fix your weaknesses. Donald O Clifton, Father of Strengths Psychology, said it best: “Find what you do well and do more of it.”
If you want to discover your strengths, go to www.store.gallup.com/c/en-us/assessments
Hear it from someone who knows you best. Your partner, your best friend, your sibling, your mom – go to someone who knows you well and will be honest with you. Ask them what you are best at and what they see as your best qualities. Listen to how they describe you and how their perception of you makes you feel.
Think of someone who inspires you. Who is someone that has inspired you? Maybe it’s someone you know personally, like a mentor or colleague. It may be someone you’ve never met in real life too, like the author of your favorite book series or a business leader that you admire. Once you have that person in mind, get a clear understanding of what it is that you admire about them. Write it down if it helps. Maybe your inspiration is an industry leader or has an interesting work ethic. Perhaps you draw similarities between yourself and your inspiration. Whatever comes up, take note and think about the qualities that you admire in others and how those relate to you and your work.
In closing, I hope these exercises helped to kickstart your journey to discovering more about the true you and what you’re passionate about. If you’re ready to dig deeper into finding work you truly love to do, download my *free* Quick Start Guide to Finding Meaningful Work You Love and get down to the nitty gritty of what you love to do and how to make it your career.