One of the best parts of my work is helping people figure out deep and meaningful personal questions such as “What am I meant to do with my life?” It is also one of the most challenging parts of my work, since the process to discover the answer is totally different for different individuals. Through my own life experience and witnessing those of others, I am convinced that the process, loosely defined, contains some of the following elements:
- Commitment to finding an answer. Not being satisfied that your current life is “as good as it gets,” you want to continually evolve and grow and get more and more in the flow of work you are meant to do. This is different than being perpetually dissatisfied … it is more a continued commitment to stay engaged and happy with what you are doing.
- Research, analysis and attention to the external world. It is important to expand your view of work from that which you have experienced personally to all the different ways work is done in the world. This will give you new ideas for both what you could do and how you could do it.
- Quiet, internal reflection where you tune into your intuitive and emotional self for answers. This mainly involves listening to your internal voice and gently quieting the one that screams “but how can you ever make money at that?” or “what kind of responsible corporate father wants to become a pastry chef?”
- Healthy, supportive environments where you feel safe to explore alternative ways to view yourself and the world, and are surrounded by people who like to do the same. These can be on-line or in person, and include the most important environment you frequent, your home.
- Attention to and reflection on the work you do every day. When do you feel energized? What drains you? What are you excited to learn about?
- Participation in a wide variety of formal and non-formal learning activities. This allows you to test new areas that you are interested in, surround yourself with others interested in the same topic, and develop specific knowledge and skills in new areas of interest.
- Engagement in creative and physical endeavors. This includes everything from visiting a favorite hiking trail to seeing an art exhibit. Although I have a hard time describing it rationally, there is something very important in this process about tuning into your body and expressing yourself creatively.
In my own journey to discover the work that I am passionate about, I did the following assortment of things:
- Voracious reading
- Workshops where I focused on this question exclusively, such as with my mentor Martha Beck
- A trip to the top of Machu Picchu in Peru
- Years of martial arts training where I pushed myself to the edge of my physical and mental limits
- Years of doing creative work and reflecting on what I liked and didn’t like
- Experience living for extended periods of time in other parts of the world
- A slew of personal assessments such as the DiSC and Myers-Briggs
- Some miserable personal and professional situations where I felt what it was like to not be doing work I was meant to do
- Writing, blogging, and connecting with those I am interested in working with
- Many conversations with my best friend Desiree and husband Darryl
I have taken some stabs at writing about this topic here:
5 ways to discover what you are meant to do with your life
Prologue to 5 ways to discover what you are meant to do with your life
Don’t know what you want? A picture paints a thousand words
Why do some struggle with their life purpose while others seem born knowing it?
Is “do what you love the money will follow” a bunch of new age crap?
Go in search of your people
The sweet spot of your work
But despite the fact that I feel extremely excited by my work, I still struggle with finding the best ways to help others answer the question: What work am I meant to do? So I was curious:
- For those of you who have figured this question out, what was your process?
- For those of you who work with others to figure this question out, what tools do you find the most helpful? Feel free to be very specific, and include links to books or URLs, even if they are your own! No shame in self-promotion here, if what you have to offer is relevant to the topic and audience.
- For those that are still figuring this question out, what has worked for you so far? What are your biggest stumbling blocks?
I don’t believe there is a magic potion to quench this deep personal thirst, as it is part of what gives each of us spice and intrigue as we journey through our life. What else would drive us to the top of mountains in Nepal, into jungles in the Amazon, to quiet cathedrals, temples or mosques or to enroll in yoga classes where we gaze at our belly buttons looking for meaning and purpose?
But I do find the pursuit of helping others answer this question to be a very interesting and exciting thing to do for the next decade or so. So let’s get started! I will share the helpful anecdotes, tools and processes I encounter with you and with my coaching clients, who are used to my strange and unconventional ways.
Thanks in advance for your wisdom!