FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO

September 1, 2011

Post image for FIGURING OUT WHAT YOU WANT TO DO

I don’t know what my problem is, but I have had trouble most of my life figuring out what I wanted to do. A couple of years ago I found myself in a lurch trying to figure out what new direction I wanted to take in work and business.

A close friend recommended Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek which gave me a lot of motivation and inspiration, but no answers on a path to take. I did personality tests that identified my type and for me were accurate, but didnt shed much light on what my passions were. I have done StrengthsFinder 2.0 to see where my strengths were, here again not much direction on what I really wanted to do.

BACKGROUND

Since 1997 I have been in the tech field. I really enjoyed being in technology as it afforded me a chance to use my mind. I would go to work and do it well, while soaking up what I could. I learned what I could on my own and by experience. I would go home and do more work or more reading on tech related things.

I found much of the technology that was interesting to me was also intuitive to me. In a short period of time I went from doing tech support at call centers to enterprise level IT support to consulting. But in the last few years I have experienced mind-numbing burnout and boredom that I have been unable to shake.

As a result I decided that it was time to make changes. I still liked technology, but my desire to do it as a career was gone.

After hitting some low points in my life in the last few years, I began to think seriously about what it is I wanted to do that would hold my interest. This for me is where things got hard. It was frustrating to see people every where who just know what it is they want to do, or were enjoying what they were doing.

I would say it has taken me the better part of two years to get to this point… that is thinking through things and taking action. Starting this blog and really liking the change. I am not supporting myself with this blog (yet), but it is a change of direction, something new and it is something I have enjoyed doing so far.

If you are having a hard time figuring out what you want to do with your life, below is what I used to help me figure things out:

SEEK DIRECTION

Talk with people that are interesting and ask them about their successes and failures. Find out how they arrived at what they are doing. There is wisdom in the council of many. You would be amazed at what different people may say that may turn on light bulbs in the idea department.

Be diligent to read content related to your search or to things that interest you. There is so much out there now that can inspire you and get you thinking.

Seek direction with the Creator of the Universe. Be in prayer praying for others before you pray for yourself. When praying for others you can appreciate what you have and you open other doors when you consider the needs of others. Prayer is a form of powerful meditation and conversation with God.  Make it respectful and make it honest.

FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU DON’T LIKE

When I was trying to figure out my direction, I searched out material that would give me insight on how to figure out what I wanted. In a nutshell, what I found was I needed to take stock of what my interests and talents are to figure out what I wanted to do in life. That is fine and dandy for others, but that was not helpful to me.

I was taking inventory of talents and interest and nothing was coming to me about my new direction, which was frustrating. My interests were many, wide and varied; my talents I was not sure about. So nothing was really grabbing my attention.

That is until I applied a bit of advice I received in a conversation with a fellow entrepreneur.

This person told me that when I started contemplating my next business venture to make a list of all the things in my current and past businesses (or jobs) that I didn’t like. Think upon the lessons you have learned in business. Then whenever I came up with ideas for doing something new, consult the list of things I didn’t like about being in business or being employed. If the new business had any of those negatives, I either needed to change the business plan or drop it all together.

I took that advice and fit it to what I was doing. I made a list of all the things I did not like with my business or past jobs. My list of negatives included:

  • Micro managers and bosses in general
  • Being told what to do or having decisions made for me
  • Meetings
  • Tasks with no discernible point or purpose
  • Dumb procedures and inefficient processes
  • Office politics
  • Rush hour traffic
  • Profane or vulgar co-workers and clients
  • Repetitive or mindless tasks
  • 80 hour work weeks
  • Job/technical interviews
  • Income limitations caused by the limited number of hours in a day
  • Late nights

While the list of things-I-do-not-want-to-deal-with-ever-again did not get me to 100% figuring out what my new direction would be, it did help me narrow down the possibilities and give me focus. It definitely helped to make my brainstorming more potent, and kept me from getting overloaded with possibilities.

MIND MAPPING

I am a visual person, so I was happy to discover mind mapping  a number of years ago. It has been a tremendous help with brainstorming. While searching for my new direction in life, I used mind mapping to chart and connect interests, talents, passions and goals.

It was for me a good exercise in taking stock of what I knew about myself.

This also did not get me all the way to knowing what I wanted to do, but it did open my mind and keep me going in the right direction. You can mind map with pen and paper which will be more creative and personal, or you can use free software like FreeMind to do mind mapping on your computer.

I suggest Lifehack for a list of mind mapping applications that are worth a gander, IQ Matrix to see galleries of very detailed and creative mind maps, and Thoughtwrestling for the basics on making a mind map.

MEDITATION

I used meditation to think through things and reach logical conclusions. I used the above exercises to find things to focus on and meditate. I like mind-full meditation because it takes my mind places where it normally wouldn’t go when trying to force a thought process.

My meditations are more effective when I am in motion; I like walking and I really like driving. My meditations will vary in style. Some are silent, deep and thoughtful; more creative than they would be when I am just trying to think of something. Other meditations are verbal conversations with myself asking questions out loud. Probably not what you would normally think meditation to be.

Whatever your style, I highly recommend focused meditation in solitude. Let your mind explore the possibilities you are considering. Give consideration to your purpose in life, and figure out what were you made to do.

SIMMER

Simmering to me is simply letting things go a bit. Putting things on the back burner and see what kind of connections the mind makes. Being reflective and allowing the passage of time and process of thought to eventually bubble something up to your conscious mind.

It might come as a sudden inspiration, a dream or something more subtle like an internal whisper. For me, it has been a mix of sudden inspirations and ideas waiting for my full attention.

PLANNING & ACTION

Fight the fear, get motivated and start laying the ground work. Make your plans and take the action needed to execute your new direction. If you don’t do this, everything else has been for naught and nothing changes.

When I started searching out my new focus in work and business, I planned out and tried new things and found some of those things weren’t for me. But doing it was the only way to find out over weeks or months if that something I chose for myself was what I wanted to do.

BE PATIENT

It won’t happen overnight and it may not happen over a few months. This is after all something you want to steer your life towards. Anything worth doing will take some time. Don’t force it and don’t rush through it.

Float a while and try out new things. As you succeed, fail and learn continue to revise and refine your direction. But don’t stop until you find the that thing that can’t stop thinking about.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments area down below and don’t forget to come back and visit. Be sure to share this post with your friends and subscribe while you are here.

MORE RESOURCES

How To Ruin Your Career With A Highlighter by Illana Burk

Article by Chris Harris @ Between the Temples. Image credit: Mariano Kamp

{ 4 comments }

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: