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Finding What I Want To Do

Updated on October 7, 2012

Finding Work That You Love

What do you want to do? I asked myself that question a number of few years ago after working for some time in the corporate world. I wasn’t completely in love with what I was doing but I also didn’t hate what I was doing. I was doing ok but it wasn’t that great. I wasn’t doing work that I felt expresses myself fully, work that I truly loved. The key word was fulfilling. I wasn’t completely fulfilled in my work. At this stage, some people may be asking, but you need to put food on the table, you need a job so that you can continue to survive. Believe me, I’m just like you. I had exactly the same thoughts. Do I want to risk a good job finding something else that does not pay as well, even if I can still make enough to get by? Why risk all this?

I found the answer in a question, triggered from Stephen Covey’s classic book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. The question is “Imagine yourself many years from now, when you are an old person, sitting on the front porch of your house, looking out to the horizon. You are reflecting on your life, thinking about how you’ve lived your life all those years. Did you live the life you had wanted to live? Are you proud of yourself and the decisions you’ve made?”

A simple but profound question. I reflected on it for many days... I finally decided that yes, I want to look back on my life with no regrets. I don’t want to regret not trying to find work that I truly love. And so, that’s how it all began – my quest to find my life’s work.

Where do I look? How do I find out what I want to do?

Many of us, myself included has gone through this phase as seen from the story above. You could be a student about to graduate or a professional currently working and you want to find work that really fits you, energizes and inspires you. You want to do the work that you were meant to do, work that engages your unique talents and work that expresses your life purpose. In a nutshell, you want to find work that you love. When someone asks you, “how’s life or how are things at work”, you want your reply to be “Fantastic! I love my job! I really enjoy what I’m doing”.

I believe that it’s just natural for all of us to want to get up in the morning, eager to get out of bed and look forward to do the work that we love. If you don’t feel that way currently, or at least feel optimistic about going to work, or looking to find work that will allow you to feel that way, read on because some of the ideas and lessons here will help you get there.

What are the elements you need to consider to find work that you love?

I have found 4 elements to be useful – Interests, Personality, Values and Talent.

What is covered here is just the description and initial suggestion about how you can get started. I hope to do a more in-depth examination of these elements in my future postings.

Interests - The clue is in the word love. Start with your interests. What interests you? Take out a large piece of A3 paper or your diary or notebook and start jotting down your interests – anything under the sun, anything in your life, it doesn’t have to work related, anything at all. Take your time, think about it, look out the window or be reflective. A great way to trigger thoughts is to cast your mind back to when you were a child, when you were growing up, when you were a teenager, when you’re in school, what activities did you enjoy doing. By the way, this exercise should put a smile on your face – if not, you’re probably not doing it right! Come back to this list frequently and add more items as you wish.

Personality – The next clue is in understanding your personality. Your personality is a characteristic that is unique to yourself. Do you prefer structured thinking or do you prefer conceptual thinking, do you prefer to spend time alone to recharge or do you prefer socializing with others to recharge? There are many personality and behavioral preference profiling tools out there (MBTI, Enneagram, LIFO, DISC, etc.) that can help you better understand your personality. A word of caution – all the personality profiling tool does is to help you better understand your preferences; it doesn’t define us because we are too complex to be defined by a few psychological measures. We behave differently under different situations under different moods – there is no one fixed way we will behave even though the instrument may say we prefer to behave that way. Take the personality or behavioral test to gain better insights to your personality and temperament. Taking more than one instrument is highly recommended.

Values – An important element to take into account is your values. What are values? Values are the intangible things in life that are important to us. Values are an essential part of what defines our identity – it defines who we are. When you honor your values, you feel fulfilled. Values are not something we have or something we do. It’s a state of being or a quality or a character trait. Out of doing an action, we honor certain values. For example, money is not a value although the things we do with money could be considered values, such as fun, creativity, service (to others).

What do you value in life? Take your time to do this because this is important work. When you have come up with a list of values important to you, rank them in terms of importance – which value is most important to you? Just go for 80% feel if it’s too difficult to rank one over another. The purpose of the exercise is to get you to reflect and heighten your sense of highest values. Understanding what you value will help in finding work that aligns with those values or work that allows you to express those values. For example, if your highest value is learning, work that aligns with that value could be teaching, training, coaching or mentoring. If you highest values are about service, related work could be therapy, counseling or nursing. Bear in mind that values is just one aspect to consider.

Talents – The next important element is to see if there is anything that you do particularly well. Talents are not just the traditional talents like singing, playing musical instruments and painting. Talents could be a specific skill that we do extremely well and that comes easily to us. For example, your talent could be writing or it could be even more specific like writing jokes. The smallest thing, the things we take for granted could be talents simply because we do it better than others. Another example – your talent could be your ability to empathize with people (believe me, not many people can truly empathize), or it could be your way of thinking (e.g. ideas come easily to you), the list is endless. How to figure out your talents? You can ask others – ask your parents, your siblings, ask your friends or people who know you well. You can reflect and think about what you think you’re good at and enjoy doing. Then ask others if they see that in you. There are also tests that you can take to see if you have aptitudes in certain areas.

The objective of examining these four areas is to identify any common items, themes or patterns. The insights you gain from integrating these four areas will be the first powerful clues that will help you find work that you truly love.


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