Raise your hand if you knew your exact career path in high school, the job description through which you’d achieve a daily sense of pride, well being, and purpose; the course for your entire life.
If you have always known your calling: congratulations. Now please step aside.
To our fellow ‘aimful’ wanderers, who did not know…welcome. We have a place for you at this table.
It’s time to start thinking differently about our jobs, and more importantly, about the questions we ask ourselves to begin that process. It’s not an impossible dream to love what you do, but it can be if the definitions for career and success you sit with are from a generation passed. It’s not about asking “what do I want to be” but rather “who.” So shake up your career by thinking through these four basic ideas:
1. THROW OUT YOUR DEFINITION OF A “CAREER.”
Begin by questioning the very definition of a “career” that you carry around with you. For most of us, career (and success) are defined by an older generation’s notion of work: stability, longevity, repeatability. Times are different. Your definition should be, too. You will find a better answer by collaborating with others to help you break out of your rut, and reflecting on the fears and limitations that are holding you back. Start defining things differently. Consider that step one.
2. DREAM UP YOUR WORLD OF EXPERIENCES.
Develop a list of 20 experiences you want to have over the next 10 years (hone in on the ones that tend towards impacting the world). If you don’t actively seek out new experiences, you can just assume you’ll be in a similar spot in the future (but with grayer hair and more wrinkles). When you work with a broader canvas, you expose yourself to more opportunity, and your accomplishments will be more meaningful as a result.
3. DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL CHARACTER.
What are the behaviors and attitudes you want to define yourself by? Find mentors with unconventional careers; they might help you cultivate the kind of habits that get you onto a new track. You are fully capable of real, groundbreaking change in your personal life and in the deep-seated habits you define yourself by, but only if you are willing to take a step outside of the norm and think about who you are, and if that’s the person you want to be 10 years down the line.
FINALLY, REFRAME THE QUESTION.
Instead of asking “Is this the right career opportunity for me,” ask yourself, “Does this connect to who I want to be in the world and how I want to grow in my life?” Again, keep the big picture in mind. If you want fundamental change and a real, new direction in your life, you’ve got to be willing to think big.
The most important thing to remember is to cut yourself some slack.
The pressure you feel to know exactly what you should be doing, and for how long, is a monster of your own making.
Life happens, things change, priorities shift…(industries disappear and emerge!) It’s messy.
If you’re willing to question definitions you have held onto with for decades and pause to consider success on your own terms — rather than through the eyes of your high school guidance counselor — you will find that new opportunities emerge and that a better life is possible.