Going After What You Really Want
Thursday, August 9, 2007.
By Kate Lorenz
So now that you've come to terms with the grim reality of work, are you wondering what you're doing? Are you truly content in your career and your life, or have you just settled because you've hit a few stumbling blocks and have convinced yourself that you don't have the time or money to pursue what you really want to do?
Are you approaching work with pessimism or dread rather than excitement and enthusiasm? If so, perhaps it's time to really ask yourself, "What should I do with my life?"
Po Bronson, author of The New York Times best seller What Should I Do with My Life? explored this ultimate question with a diverse group of people, young and old, each sharing how they successfully found their true calling. How did they do it? They courageously pushed their fears aside and dared to be honest with themselves in pursuit of their passion. Most of the 900 people he interviewed were searching for "a place where they can be content, grow roots a little, and make an impact."
Here are five points to ponder from Bronson's book to help you figure out your path in life:
1. From your fears come misconceptions.
The uncertainty of exploring your passion can lead to irrational fears and unlikely conclusions. Many are afraid that pursuing their passion will put them in the poorhouse. Others fear that the path to their true calling may lead them in some irreversible direction or limit their future options.
Bronson observes, "Often we burn 70 percent of our emotional energy on what we fear might happen (90 percent of which won't happen)." These psychological stumbling blocks are most often overblown, worst-case scenarios that keep people from finding themselves. He adds, "What I found is that, if you take care of these obstacles, you create an environment where the truth is invited into your life." Get rid of the fear factor and pursue your dreams.
2. Don't wait for clarity.
Many people wait and hope that their calling will come to them in the form of an epiphany. Don't wait for a "big moment" or a sign. Sometimes the obstacle isn't that you don't know what makes you happy, rather it's hard to imagine that what you love could be a profession. It's possible to bridge these two worlds together with a little hustle, training and determination. Having an epiphany is great, but so often they tell you something you already know in your heart.
3. If you aren't happy, don't stay.
Bronson's book is filled with stories of real life examples of people who left jobs that compromised their values, consumed far too much of their lives, were no longer interesting, or created feelings of constant fatigue or insomnia. They were doctors, lawyers and investment bankers who left the jobs that were dragging them down and have found happiness as a massage therapist, bakery owner or catfish farmer. It's not selfish to deny what will make you happy. Life will evolve naturally if you listen to your inner self and pursue what you truly enjoy.
4. Experience speaks for itself.
Real wisdom is found in experience, yet people too often ignore the strong message of their experience. They fail to embrace their experience because they believed their calling was to be figured out intellectually. If you have no idea where to start, there's some insight waiting for you in the experiences you've already had.
For some that may mean changing sides like the oil company geologist who was morally troubled by his environmental clean-up work. He took a county government job to fight the very same company he used to work for. For others it means finding a career in doing what they love more than anything. Bronson shares a story of a university graduate who had held 16 jobs in eight years.
His true passion was golf and he really wanted to use his love of the sport to help others play better. He had even designed a golf swing trainer and putter grip. With a little nudge and using his sales experience, he took a job selling golf equipment and has already pitched his ideas to the United States Golf Association (USGA) and demonstrated his grip prototype at a couple of golf expos.
5. Never give up.
It's okay and even normal to take many years before pursuing or discovering your calling. It's possible to have more than one purpose in life, and you can do them together or sequentially. It really doesn't matter as long as you are focused and pursuing them versus chasing other unimportant things like a job title that will impress people you don't really care about, a top-paying job that is uninspiring or a dream that is someone else's (your parents', your spouse's) and not your own.
Po Bronson is the author of The New York Times Bestseller "What Should I Do with My Life?" -- a book that chronicles inspirational true stories of people who have found the most meaningful answers to that great question. He is the author of two other books and has written articles for The New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for www.careerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article.