Following on from my previous post Are You Living Your Purpose?, here are some specific suggestions to try out to help you can gain greater clarity about what you want and what you’re good at and help you generate ideas and create new pathways and possibilities.
- Think about what really matters to you? What feels important? – When we’re intrinsically motivated (a sense of meaning, fulfilment and drive that comes from within), as opposed to extrinsically motivated (in the form of external rewards, status, power etc), we’re more likely to be working and living ‘on purpose’. For some people their guiding purpose may be altruistic – the desire to help, teach or care for others in some capacity. For others, it may be to break barriers or explore new territory – to be a leader, innovator or pioneer in their field or someone who develops cutting edge research and ideas. Or perhaps it’s the desire to craft and create that lights you up and sustains you – whether that’s creating art, performance or experimenting with using different media etc.
- To explore more on this theme, check out the famous TED talks by Simon Sinek on finding your Why? Simon argues that it’s not what you do that people buy or consume – but why you do it – so that’s an important factor to keep in mind as it’s what will drive and motivate you and also make you credible to others and help to establish your personal brand.
- What’s your ‘easy’? What comes effortlessly and easily to you? Sometimes we take our gifts and talents for granted and don’t realise that what comes easily to us may be what makes us unique and is in fact very valuable, useful and in demand! Maybe you’re good at fixing things or problem-solving, or you offer sound advice and a wise perspective? Or perhaps you have a gift for teaching and instructing or can motivate, inspire or lead other people?
- Think about your unique qualities and attributes. Are you someone who has a lot of patience and good concentration? Someone who sees the bigger picture and is good at thinking strategically? – or in contrast someone who is very detail focused and enjoys organising and getting things done? Or maybe you’re a blend of all of these? – for example, it was only when I trained as an MBTI and NLP Practitioner (see below) that I realised that my combination of being a strategic thinker AND detail focused person is quite an unusual combination and that most people tend to have a stronger preference for detail OR strategy and not both. We often think that everyone else sees and perceives the world in the same way that we do – but that’s not always the case!
- What kind of personality do you have? This may affect the environments and work cultures that will suit you and where you’re likely to feel most energised. You can carry out personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or other tests such as the Big Five Personality Test. You can arrange to take a test with a trained professional or through an accredited organisation, but for starters, you can try a free version of the Big Five Test here and free version of the MBTI profile here which will help you to evaluate your personality type. These can be useful tools to develop greater insight and awareness but I always advise my clients to use them as a guide and not let their personality type dictate the careers that they can and cannot do! For example, many introverts are really great at working with people so shouldn’t avoid careers where they have to interact with others – as long as they ensure that they have opportunities for inner reflection and re-charging their own energy as well.
Seek Feedback from Others
- Seek feedback from other people. Often others can identify what you’re good at and what you’re valued for and this can provide good clues as to your purpose. Sometimes you can seek feedback formally – many businesses engage in processes such as 360 Degree Feedback – where employees receive confidential, anonymous feedback from their work colleagues, including their manager, peers, and direct reports.
- Or you can seek informal feedback. Ask ten people whose opinion you value and trust to provide constructive feedback about how they perceive you. Try and choose a mix of people who know you in different situations. Ask them what they think your unique talents and strengths are? What do they ask your advice about or come to you for? Be sure to provide the context as to why you’re asking – say you’re trying to identify your purpose and would appreciate their insights and then they’ll be more likely to give honest, heartfelt feedback in a way that will be useful.
- You can also ask them to identify any areas where they feel you could improve – other people are often better at spotting our blindspots than we are! A word of caution – this exercise requires emotional courage. You need to be willing to receive and act upon this feedback and not feel criticised or take negative feedback personally – use it instead to develop greater self-awareness of how you come across to others and think about any changes or improvements you may be able to make. You can also use this to identify any areas of weakness and choose whether you focus on those or try and find a career and work where these qualities or characteristics will be minimised.
Explore your Strengths and Skills
- Explore your strengths – take the VIA Character Strengths Survey – a free, scientifically designed tool to help you discover what your top character strengths are. You can use your top character strengths to help you achieve optimal outcomes in your personal and professional life, including your purpose and career. Once you’ve discovered your strengths, you can explore the careers or roles in which you can best utilise these.
- As well as your strengths, try to identify what your core skills are. These are the skills that you naturally excel at, or that you’ve build competence and capability in through training and experience. You can identify your core skills by looking back across your career and life to date and identifying the skills that you had to use in each role (this can be through formal, paid employment and your other roles in life too – such as parenting, volunteering etc.) Try to identify any recurring themes of the roles that you most enjoyed or found easy and engaging – it’s likely that these will be the ones where you were using your core skills.
Review your Life Experience
- Focus on the journey, as well as or instead of the destination. You may find that what you thought would bring you satisfaction and fulfilment doesn’t in practice. Or as your life evolves and interests and priorities change, then you feel the need to shift direction. For over 15 years, I’ve worked with multiple clients who may have achieved the career of their ‘dreams’ or reached the pinnacle of their profession – but some of them then realise that they don’t enjoy what they do or that it no longer fulfils or fits them. Sometimes they also realise that they’ve been on a continuous path of achievement throughout their life and have never stopped to actually question who they are and what will actually make them happy!
- Think about what your life experience has taught you or given you? Sometimes, our purpose evolves through what we’ve lived through or had to overcome. Often moving through challenging times or adversity can provide insight, experience and wisdom that maybe others could benefit from – so how could your experience help others? A note of caution here though – choose something that you’re passionate about, feels enlivening and can see yourself doing for a while (as I outlined in my previous post, it’s a case of following the breadcrumbs). It may be that you’ve overcome something but want to move forwards and beyond it, rather than being continually reminded of what you’ve survived when you make it your day to day business and the way that you earn your livelihood.
- Look to your childhood for clues – what did you spend hours doing as a child or in your adolescence? What activities and interests did you find engaging and absorbing? Often our interests and passions from childhood will provide good indicators of our strengths and talents. Think about ways in which you can incorporate these aspects into your purpose and career or re-ignite your childhood or youthful dreams and inspirations in your work in some way.
- Take time and look for opportunities to expand your reference points. Often we choose careers based on what we ‘know’ and what is familiar to us – maybe following in the family footsteps and pursuing the same career as our parents or other family members without ever exploring any other options. Cultivate an attitude of curiosity and find out about what other jobs or types of work exist and what people do. If you like the sound of something, see if you know anyone in your network who either does that role or something similar – or who knows someone who does and arrange to have a chat with them to find out more.
- Take action! Take regular, consistent and incremental steps to help move you towards your goals and try out new things. This is an iterative process so everytime you try something out you’ll get feedback and develop greater self-awareness of whether this feels like the correct path to pursue for you or not and then you can either forge ahead or make the necessary changes.
Generating Ideas and Making Things Happen
Once you’ve explored any or all of these suggestions, it’s helpful to pull all of your findings together in some way. One technique is to create an ‘Ideas Bank’ – a place (physical or digital) where you can store any ideas, information or inspiration about careers, jobs or work that you find interesting and appealing. Maybe it’s an article or a job advert or some images that resonate with you about the attributes and qualities that you would like to have in your life and work. Or you could create a vision board of images or text that you find inspiring and put it somewhere where you’ll see it every day.
By collating and collecting these ideas and continually revisiting them, it will help those ideas to marinate and percolate in your subconscious and you may find that different themes or pathways start to become clear or emerge. Maybe new, exciting opportunities will arise or openings will be created in your life as you’ve now created intention, focus and alignment with what you want.
These will either be pulled into your path of awareness (like when you decide to buy a particular make and model of car, you often start to see more of that model as it’s now in your field of focus and awareness), so maybe you’ll see an advert for the perfect work opportunity, have a happenchance meeting with an old friend, or a colleague or client will provide you with a key networking contact that is able to open doors for you.
You can also increase your chances of making your dreams happen by setting clear intentions and visualising yourself actually doing what you want to do or being in this role. Imagine yourself working in your ideal environment, creating and performing work that you feel engaged, enlivened and energised by. Then keep revisiting this vision on a daily basis. The law of quantum physics suggests that anything that’s created in our physical reality is created on some level in our consciousness first. So this will mean that you’ve sowed a seed of possibility and intention and have given the Universe a clear signal of what you want and so it can now do it’s work to create that potential and bring it into fruition for you!
A final note is to canvas the help and support of family and friends – share your ideas with them and they may able to offer further insight and ideas as well. It also means that you are on their radar if they come across any opportunities or relevant information that may match what you’re looking for. If they don’t ‘know’ they can’t help you!
If you like these suggestions or have found any other ways of discovering what lights you up and inspires you, share them in the comments box below!
MindFlame supports individuals and organisations to discover and evolve their potential and help them find more purpose and meaning in all that they do. If you’re an organisation looking for support with your leadership or career management and development needs, or to help your people to get clarity and discover their why and their purpose – we offer Executive, Leadership and Team Coaching and Mentoring Packages, plus MindFlame’s Consultancy Services and our bespoke range of innovative Training and Development Courses. We also support individuals with our specialist Career Management and Career Development Coaching and Life Transformation, Resilience and Wellbeing Coaching Services.
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