“What Should I Do with My Life?”

The quote above is the title of a career book I recommend to some of my clients. Written by Po Bronson, it contains 56 stories that he gathered through interviewing nine hundred people about their search for fulfillment, meaning, and genuine connection with their life’s work. He examines people in their 20s and people in their 70s. Today I’m going to share with you some of the wisdom from this book, along with some personal commentary on that wisdom:

The traditional search for a career begins with the question ‘what am I good at?’ But that’s often not the right starting place for finding a calling. You can get good at what you need to serve whatever you believe in. You can learn Spanish, you can learn budgets, you can learn to listen. The true search is for what you believe in. When your heart is engaged, the inevitable headaches and daily annoyances become tolerable and don’t derail your commitment. Let your brain be your heart’s soldier.”

“Does it make sense to wait for overpowering (career) clarity? Probably not. For most people I talked to, very little was clear. It had to unravel slowly, over time. Powerful epiphanies are actually very rare, and some of the most amazing ones didn’t bring clarity at all.”

“So, all the diverse ways of trying to puzzle out the right fit (referring to the many stories he learned about) – do they share anything in common? Certainly, and here it is: Initial guesses might have been guided by palm readers or aptitude tests or well-reasoned hypotheses, but the real wisdom was in the experience.”

Regular readers of my blog will not be surprised that I’ve selected the quotes above. They reflect my deeply held beliefs about the search for career fulfillment, beliefs buttressed by my experience of working with hundreds and hundreds of people of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities. So often I hear stories from those people about the career testing that they’ve done, that they’re ENFPs or ISTJs, that their signature strengths are creativity, or leadership, or curiosity, or spirituality, that the Strong Interest Inventory told them that they’d do well as….. But the results of these tests hasn’t really helped them figure out in which direction they need to head (or, more importantly, what is the VERY NEXT STEP they need to take in order to start the “figuring out” process).

Fortunately, by coming to me they’ve already taken a very vital step in the process (“coming to me” sounds a bit grandiose; what I really mean is consulting a professional with wisdom and experience who can objectively engage in the kind of discussion that illuminates paths worthy of exploration).

Towards the end of his book Po states:

“The people in this book didn’t fix their situation overnight, For most, it took many attempts over many years. When I began my research I thought this was a weakness in their stories; I wished they had exhibited more commanding control over their changes. Now I admire their patience, and I find it more interesting that they’ve made their changes despite lacking control.”

Take heart, readers! The process may be a long one, but by holding to the truth of “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” you will see that once you’ve finally discovered a true calling (as I am fortunate enough to have done), you’ll see that all of the steps along the way had value.

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