Steering Your Life: How to Find A Meaningful Career

I recently worked with a client who told me he doesn't know what he wants to accomplish professionally and left me with these two questions: (1) "Is anyone happy?" and (2) "Is it possible to achieve happiness?"

It is when you feel lost, when you have no sense of direction, that you start to lose hope. It's like getting into your car without a destination in mind and wondering, "do other people also get into their cars without knowing where to go?" "Do other people figure out their destination and how to get there?"

The answer to both question is a resounding YES. You are not alone if you lack #clarity about your future. In fact, many of my clients have stated that they don't know really who they are. They are unclear about their #identity and therefore have a hard time figuring out what would be a fit for them professionally.

I shared with my client my personal journey to illustrate a point. When I was 18 years old, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college, but I needed to figure something out. I started by doing some exploration. I took some introductory classes, including an Intro to Psychology class, an interior design class, an architecture class, and a language class. I wanted to see what would stick.

I enjoyed all the classes. I happen to have many #interests, and like some of my clients, sometimes the difficulty is not in finding what to pursue, but in narrowing down your choices. The Intro to Psych class was most intriguing. I also noted that many of the books I was reading at the time were centered around psychology. There seemed to be a theme there.

Next, I considered my #vision - how I wanted my life to look and how this choice of being a psychologist would fit with my values. The three biggest driving factors in making a decision were around a sense of purpose, financial stability, and creativity. When I envisioned my future life, I didn't want to be like some of the people I heard from growing up. They would moan about having to go to work every day. I was determined to find a career that would be fulfilling and meaningful, a career that I would be excited to get out of bed for.

I knew that while I am motivated by serving others, I didn't want to be struggling in my own life. It was important that my career afford me stability so I could be self-sufficient. With a degree in psychology, I knew I would be able to get a job anywhere I chose to live. Lastly, because I have such diversified interests, I didn't want to feel confined by my profession. The attraction to psychology also felt strong because it would allow me to reinvent myself if I so chose. I could work in a clinic or hospital, I could be a professor or researcher, or I could become an entrepreneur and open up my own private practice. Having options was appealing.

While realistically we need money to live, I wasn't driven by that factor as much. I wanted to be able to be comfortable and afford to live a balanced life. I wasn't looking to kill myself with overtime and I wasn't looking to become a millionaire. Lifestyle was a driving value more so than money.

As I relayed all this to my client, he came to life. He became inspired with some ideas bubbling in his mind. He understood the journey that it takes to create clarity. He noted that he has a #passion for life and wants to do great things, but was feeling #stuck. He understood the importance in the differentiation between stability and money as a motivator. He was excited to start his journey of self-exploration.

If you identify with my client and want to figure out how to find your professional identity, here is a recap of the landmarks to look for (and some bonus tips) while you're cruising around:

1. Explore your options. What do you like to do? What do you like to learn and read about? What are the common threads?

2. Sift through your options. Which of these options best matches your #values? Where is the fire?

3. Find people who inspire you and ask what drove them? Alternatively, find people who are in the field that is of interest to you and find out how realistically this line of work aligns with your values. What are the steps you need to take to make this a reality?

You have more control than you realize. This is your opportunity to reinvent yourself. You may not yet know what you want to do, but you can start by tuning in to what makes you tick. Start with your values, set an intention, and get going down the road toward a happier life.

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