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When I was 7, I told anyone who asked that when I grew up I was going to be a journalist. I loved reading and writing, and sometimes I’d flip my mini indoor trampoline on its end and sit behind it and force a babysitter to “watch me on TV” as I read my version of the evening news.
When I was 15, I altered that to “journalist or lawyer” (because my teen years were the ones where I proved, mostly to my poor parents, just how good I was at driving my points home, debating anything and everything, and never backing down from a fight).
When I was 19, I decided to major in Public Relations because it was the closest thing to journalism that my school offered. And even though I was far from sold on either public relations or journalism, I didn’t know what else I wanted to do.
And when I was 22, I flirted with the idea of becoming an archaeologist, mostly because I’d majored in art history and loved it and had also watched The Mummy a lot as a kid.
Since then I’ve played around with the idea of becoming, in no particular order: A staff writer for an online women’s magazine, a relationship advice columnist, a marriage and family therapist, a life and career coach, and oh yeah … a private detective (my friends still want me to do this one).
You might think that these things are all really random. But they’re not. You might also think that it was hard to choose between them. But to be honest, once I knew how to choose, it wasn’t very difficult at all.
THE GOLDEN THREAD
Kristen and I have talked about this before (and we’re definitely not the first to believe this), but it’s worth repeating:
There’s often a deeper pattern — a “golden thread,” if you will — that ties the seemingly random things we’re attracted to together and makes it all clear in the bigger picture.
In my case, you wouldn’t think that being a lawyer, journalist, advice columnist, career coach, marriage therapist, archaeologist, or private detective have all that much in common, at least not across the board.
But when I don’t nit-pick each one — when I instead zoom out and look at them as a whole — there are some clear ties:
- To start with the easy stuff, they all require a ton of writing and research and verbal communication.
- And to dig a little deeper, each of them also involves persuasion. How can I say this just the right way so that the jury is compelled? How do I communicate my point to a client in a way they’ll resonate with? How do I make a case for why a certain culture that lived 2,000 years ago is relevant to us today?
- They each require a lot of emotional intelligence. You need to be able to understand how people think and feel, to have enough empathy to put yourself in their shoes and see the world from their perspective.
- Maybe most importantly, all of them are about digging into mysteries in one way or another. What happened here? Why did this person do, think, or feel this? What makes them tick? What’s at the root of this?
When I zoom out, it seems pretty clear that I could have been happy doing any of these things. And I think that logic applies to everyone else, too.
Most of us are attracted to a handful of themes that could manifest themselves in so many different ways.
And that’s good news, because it means that you don’t have to pick just one thing and do it forever. You can have multiple careers across vastly different fields and industries throughout your life.
But you can’t do everything right now. Which means that at least for now, you do have to choose (until it’s time to choose again).
So … how do we choose when any number of things might end up being “right?”
YOU’VE GOT TO STOP FOCUSING ON “WHAT” AND START FOCUSING ON “HOW”
Here’s why it was ultimately easy to settle upon becoming a life and career coach (and business owner), over everything else on my list:
Because more than anything, I value freedom.
The way I saw it, becoming a lawyer meant I would have to work in an office from 9-5 (or let’s face it, 5-9). I didn’t want to be chained to a desk or to a court schedule that I couldn’t control.
The same is true of marriage and family therapy. I didn’t want to have an office or “standard” office hours. I might be able to open my own practice and be in charge, but I would still be tied to a physical location.
With archaeology, one of the biggest problems was the funding. You can’t just go out on Indiana Jones-style adventures whenever you feel like it; your projects need funding (which means you can’t always control what you research). There would definitely be a cap on how much money I could ever make, which didn’t sit well with me.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. How you do something is just as (if not MORE) important than what you’re doing.
I wanted a way that I could be my own boss. I was always happiest when I was in charge of my own time and creativity, and when I could decide how much money I wanted to make.
That’s what owning my own business has done for me: I get to dig into mysteries, do a lot of writing, and use my emotional intelligence (i.e., I get to do WHAT I love), and I can do all of that in a way that honors my need for freedom (i.e., HOW I do it feels right).
None of those other careers could have done that for me.
HOW TO DO THIS FOR YOURSELF
Most of us have trouble choosing what to do because we’ve made the mistake of assuming that all of our choices are created equal.
When I realized how much I valued freedom, it became clear that all of the career options I was considering weren’t equal at all; one clearly stood out ahead of the rest.
The way you figure out how you’re meant to combine your passion with your work in a way that aligns with your deeper values is through your Passion Profile.
If you need a refresher, take the Passion Profile Quiz and read your result.
If you’re stuck and can’t figure out which direction to go in, stop focusing on the what and start paying attention to the how.
It’s like doing the second half of a math equation and getting frustrated when you keep getting no answer — you haven’t done the first part! How can you expect to find the answer when you’ve left half of the question un-done?
IF YOU NEED HELP WITH THIS, READ ON
The Passion Profile Short Course is like a recipe for your career path. It’s the “secret sauce” that takes the thought out of trying to plot your career direction and prevents you from wasting years of your life hopping from job to job, hoping that you eventually stumble across something you love.
The PPSC might be right for you if:
- You’re looking for a way to get un-stuck that doesn’t involve a lot of time, money, or complication (it’s a 5-ish hour video-based DIY course).
- You’ve been hoping for a simple answer to this whole “finding career direction” thing.
- You don’t know where to start and wish someone would tell you what to do about your career situation.
- You felt like the Passion Profile Quiz described you really well, and you thought, “How can I get more of THIS?” when reading your result.
- You’d like to narrow down the list of career options you’ve been considering to ONLY the ones worth pursuing.
Need more details? Check out the full PPSC page to see whether this is right for you.
Rachel (& Kristen)
I feel like this episode came at a really key time and I’ve saved it for a re-listen. Even though I’m still processing the PPVE, there’s a part of me that’s still unsure of what I should be doing. Do I hate my job or am I just feeling burnout? Is this still the right field for me? How does this job align with my Core Desired Feelings? Definitely have been asking myself a lot of questions lately and I really liked hearing your path to narrowing everything down.
I’m glad this hit you at the right time, Alyx! I think the fact that you’re still marinating on a lot of questions is very normal. Maybe the holiday season will be a good time for you to mentally clock out for a bit. A little space and attention on something else may allow some answers to come through in a way that they can’t when we’re super focused on trying to solve a problem, you know? 🙂