When I divorced, the part of me that tries my best to stay upbeat and positive was honestly excited at the possibility of what my life could become, especially with regards to a career. Yet many months later, I still felt stuck going nowhere.
I was completely without focus. I had a lot of exciting ideas bouncing around in my head, but was easily distracted. I found myself first chasing one possibility, then the next, then the next. I didn’t know what I truly wanted and because I didn’t know, it was easy for me to lose my way.
Once I finally took the time to discover who I was and understand what I really wanted from life, things started to fall in place. Because I knew exactly where I wanted to end up, I could make better decisions about how to spend my time. Because I was making better decisions, I felt more productive and more confident about my future.
What do you want?
What do YOU really want? Who knew answering this question could be so difficult.
As we go through life, we often become what others wish us to be or we simply fall into a profession or a lifestyle without giving it much thought. Whether you’re divorcing and looking at re-inventing your life, facing ’empty nest’ syndrome as kids get older and move on, or just looking at life and realizing it’s not yet what you want it to be, nothing in life is permanent. We can decide at any time to change and create a different future for ourselves.
Even when we want and need change, deciding what we want that change to be is no easy task. The questions and suggestions below should help you begin to figure it out.
1. Remove limits.
There will be time for a reality check later. For now, remove all limits and allow yourself to dream big. What would you choose to do with your life if there were absolutely nothing to stop you? Be as creative and as descriptive as you can possibly be.
- Would you go back to school or learn a new trade? Don’t let fear that your too old, don’t have enough time, or can’t afford it change your mind. Others have done it. Why not you?
- Do you want to start your own business but think you’re not as smart or as capable as others and therefore can’t? You’re as capable as anyone else, and if you lack a certain skill it can be learned or outsourced.
- Do you want to travel or move across the country or loose weight or start bike riding… but you tell yourself you can’t? Why can’t you? Figure out what is stopping you, then figure out how to work around it.
When we listen to internal talk which tells us we can’t do it, or we shouldn’t do something, we restrict our options and hold ourselves back. Instead of instantly telling yourself why you can’t do something, say ‘I can!‘, then brainstorm how you can make it happen.
2. Ask yourself lots of questions, and write them down.
Get out pen and paper (or download and print this worksheet) and answer the following questions:
- What do you want to do? to be? to have? Make a list of at least 20 things.
- What are you good at? What do others say you’re good at? For what skills, talents, or abilities are you noticed? What are you able to do significantly better than most people?
- When you were a child or young adult, did you have any talents or skills for which you were recognized? Did you have a dream then of what you wanted your future to be like?
- What do you love to do? When do you feel the happiest? What type project keeps you awake at night because you can’t put it down?
- Do you enjoy helping others? Who and why?
- Based on your passion and talents, which careers are best for you? Which of these can earn you a living?
3. What do you need?
Sometimes easier than ‘What do I want?’ is answering the question ‘What do I need?’ These needs are sometimes referred to as your ‘core values’. They are non-negotiable things you need in your life in order to feel happy and fulfilled.
I need to feel needed. I need to feel financially secure. I need my home to feel comforting and relaxing. I need stability. I need to know my kids are well taken care of by me instead of a sitter. I need to be creative.
What are your needs and how do these needs fit in with your list of what you would like to do?
4. What do you NOT want?
Equally important is knowing what you don’t want.
Even though I like to help people and to feel needed, I don’t enjoy being around sick people. I find it depressing and know that I couldn’t be happy working in a hospital setting.
I also don’t like temperature extremes and wouldn’t choose to work outdoors. For others, working at a desk all day would not suit them.
What do you absolutely not like to do, and how does it change your idea of the perfect job?
5. Get help from others.
It’s not always possible to recognize our own strengths, and we’re always more critical of ourselves than anyone else would be. Ask a friend who knows you well to help, or use an online career quiz to help you think of possibilities. Here are a few online sources to get you started:
6. Imagine yourself at 90…
When you’re 90 years young and looking back at life I don’t want you to have any regrets. What do you want to have accomplished? Where do you want to be living? For what do you want to be known? How do you want your kids to remember you?
Decide what you want, then start now working toward it every day.
Please share in the comments what you’ve learned working through these exercises. Do you know what you want out of life?