“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
– Mark Twain
I quit my career as a corporate lawyer to become a blogger and financial planner. This was an easy decision for me because I knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to be a financial planner, freelance writer, and blogger. It was easy for me to leave because I was being pulled in another direction. But what if you’re not being pulled in another direction? What if you just don’t like your job?
I spoke with a friend recently who was in this exact situation. My friend didn’t feel particularly fulfilled with her current career and she wanted advice on what to do. The problem was that my friend didn’t really know what it was that she wanted to do.
This may be the situation you’re facing, and I’m going to tell you what I told her – there is not a quick answer to help you determine what your calling is. However, there are several actions that you can take to help you figure it out. These actions will help you peel back the layers of your career life and enable you to know yourself better. You’ll understand what you want from life (what you really actually want – not what people tell you what you should want).
Here are 6 actions you can take to figure out your calling.
1. Listen to Podcasts
Start listening to podcasts about self-improvement. The reason that listening to podcasts will help you get closer to your calling is that podcasts help you think differently and grow as a person. If you don’t know what you want to do with your life professionally, the worst thing you can do is nothing. The best thing you can do is work on improving yourself. By doing so, you’ll learn more about yourself and what makes you fulfilled.
There are no right or wrong podcasts to listen to. But at the risk of sounding obvious, I will say that you should be thoughtful about choosing podcasts. The point of this exercise is not for you to get a hobby, lose weight, or work on your finances. So listening to a podcast on how to lose weight is not going to help here (unless you’re seriously considering a career change as a personal trainer).
I recommend looking at the top charts of self-improvement and motivational podcasts to get started. Subscribe to the ones that you like and ditch the ones you don’t.
I use the iTunes app and listen to podcasts during my commute (it’s a great way to use your driving time on something productive). Some of my favorite podcasts include: Michael Hyatt’s This is Your Life, Knowledge for Men, My Wife Quit Her Job, Smart Passive Income, and Andy Stanley’s Your Move.
2. Read Non-fiction
“Feed your brain or stay the same” is a quote I’m reminded of when I think about the value of reading. If you want to grow as a person and find your purpose – find what makes you tick – then you should read non-fiction books. These books will help you peel back the layers of your true self, which will help you make better career choices because you’ll learn more about what makes you fulfilled.
Five books I highly recommend you read are:
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
- The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
- The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes
- Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker
Start by reading one book a month (at least). I hesitate to recommend reading career-based books because they are often geared toward the 22-year old who is just graduating college and trying to figure out how to get a job. Assuming that you have a job and you are simply unfulfilled at your job, a better approach in my opinion, is to read self-development books.
Start journaling like it’s your day job – with commitment and intention. Writing is incredibly powerful and will help you uncover your likes and dislikes – it will bring you closer to your purpose. The problem with journaling that you must overcome is your own laziness. The rewards that come from journaling only come after consistent journaling over a decent period of time. So, you need to journal daily for at least 20 minutes over a long period of time — for months. Then, you will start to uncover things about yourself that will help you.
If you’ve decided you will journal, you need to know what to write about. Reflecting on your day or any thoughts that you have is a common way to journal. That’s a good place to start. However, if that doesn’t turn out to be as rewarding for you, I recommend digging deeper and with more structure, like using the 8 life categories and examining how you feel and think about each area. What I would do is write about how I feel 1) in the past, 2) in the present, and 3) for it in the future in each category. The 8 life categories are: your life as a whole, health, relationships, finance, career, personal / spiritual (religion), recreation (fun), environment (organization, home), and service (volunteering). Sometimes adding a structure to your journaling is helpful because it forces you to go deeper and discover what you want more of (or less of). Trial and error is a good idea for journaling — stick with what works for you.
4. Shadow Someone
An obvious way for you to be proactive about figuring out what you want to do with your life is to shadow other people who are doing things you think you may want to do. Often, our idea of a career is very different than what it’s really like to work in that space (this was the case for me being a lawyer). So, if you think you want to be something in particular, reach out to someone and ask if you can shadow that person. It may feel odd to do this as an adult but it’s worth it – anything is worth it if it brings you closer to determining your passion.
5. Focus on Your Pain
Think about pain you’ve had during your life and consider a career in this space. Using your pain as a way to serve the world is very effective because you will have a deep connection and passion for that space. I heard this tip in a documentary about happiness on Netflix :). Humans are moved by empathy and pain.
For example, if you grew up in a dysfunctional family, you may find a career in social work or family therapy to be fulfilling. Similarly, if your mom had cancer when you were young, a career in the medical / oncology space may be a good fit.
Not all pain will make for good careers, but the idea is to consider it. If the traditional way of choosing a career path hasn’t worked for you, this is another way to help you get closer to what will work for you.
6. Attend Meet-ups
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you want to find out what is fulfilling people, start asking your inner circle if they like their careers. If they don’t like their careers or feel particularly fulfilled seek out people who really enjoy their jobs. This may be easier to do in a new group of people than your current circles. Meetup.com is a great place to start (in addition to any community activities or young professional organizations). This can help you learn more about yourself and what you want out of a fulfilling career by connecting with people who find fulfillment in their jobs.
A Final Note!
All of these exercises are meant for you to learn and grow as a person and get out of your comfort zone. By doing so, you’ll peel back layers and discover what makes you fulfilled. The more you keep learning and growing, the better chance you have at discovering your purpose. This will help you. Now that you’re focused on changing your career, you can keep your career in mind as you grow, knowing that the point of these actions is to get into a career where you’re fulfilled.
Remember the quote: “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain