Woman with index finger to lips, who knows the secret to discovering what you really want to do for work

The secret to discovering what you really want to do for work

21 June 2017
Have you ever let yourself dream about what you want to do for work? not what's expected OF You but what you really want? 
Maybe you've tried but you've not yet put your finger on 'it'? Instead, you find yourself going round and round in circles like Klara.

Klara (not her real name) said she didn't know what she wanted to do for her career. She came to me to help her work it out. Within three coaching sessions, she'd discovered her 'thing'. And a deceptively simple secret. 

Here's what happened. [I'll share the secret with you too - read on.]
Session 1 - starting her self-discovery

Klara explained how she believed she had a larger purpose; how she wanted to make a real difference in the world. The problem was 'what'? 

We explored what Klara had enjoyed in her work to date and what had felt ‘right’. Together we looked for themes of ‘rightness’ and areas to discount.

I told her how I found her to be self-aware and logical. She agreed, so wondered why she felt so confused. She knew her present work was not ‘it’. By the end of first session, Klara had discovered that meaningful work for her was to do with people plus she knew she wanted to work in the third sector.
In preparation for our next session, I asked Klara to find out her strengths using Tom Rath’s “Strengths Based Leadership” tool.

She sent me her results before our next session. I was not surprised to find her top five strengths majored in the strategy, relationships and getting things done. 
Session 2 - trying to find clarity

I knew straight away that identifying her top 5 strengths had not helped - Klara was still confused.

I asked her to describe a situation when she felt she was living in alignment with her passions, talents and strengths. She did.

I listened and summarised back what I heard. My idea was to help her clarify her thinking. 

As the session progressed, I realised my approach didn't seem to be working.

I changed tack.

I challenged Klara to remember one time when she'd felt most fulfilled.

Klara got increasingly frustrated. She wanted to know the answer!
About 15 minutes before the end of our session, I said: “I think you know what you want.”
Klara looked incredulous: “What do I want then?”

“I don’t know, but I think you know. You just haven’t admitted it to yourself yet”.

Klara threw up her hands in exasperation and we ended the session early. She had a headache.

From my perspective, the session didn't end well. I like my clients to leave feeling better!

Session 3 - clarity and more

Waiting for Klara to join me for our third session, I felt apprehensive wondering if Klara was still frustrated.

As she walked towards me, she looked different - more settled and confident. Straight out she said:

“You were right. I did know. I thought I had to go through some big, complicated process to work out and prove to myself what I want to do for work but actually I did know. I knew all along and no analysis was needed”.

With this wonderful insight, we spent the session working on how she could articulate her ideal work and role to others.

By the end of our session, Klara was very clear. She wanted to work in HR in the social education sector, on the strategy side, developing and implementing cultures where people can thrive and be at their best.

One week later

Klara's feedback on my coaching was that it had changed the way she looked at herself and her future. Delightedly, she said, "I now know what excites me, what motivates me and what my life purpose is, really!”

Six months later

Klara was about to take on a role that really excited her. She told me, laughingly, that she’d initially struggled to find anything suitable, the irony being that because she was so clear about her ideal role, nothing was ‘it’. She’d then realised that her next role didn’t need to be fully ‘it’. It just needed to move her closer to 'it'.

If you’re like Klara was when we first met and are struggling to identify what work you really want to do, the SECRET is to stop over-thinking it. Listen to your gut instinct and give yourself permission to admit what you really want.

If you don't know how to listen to your gut instinct, try these easy-to-follow exercises: 

1. Draw your life map

Take a sheet of paper. Now, draw a timeline that takes you from when you were born to where you are now.

Draw on the timeline in the appropriate places, the events that are most significant to you as you look back across your life. Do not censor the events that come to mind. Trust yourself and capture whatever you want to capture. Notice how you feel as you remember the events.

When you have finished, look at your life map and ask yourself this question without censoring the answer. Just listen to the first thought that comes into your head.

"What is the work that only I can do in this world?”

2. Use free association

Relax and without censoring your thoughts, allow yourself to free-associate for a sentence or so in response to each of the following phrases:
As a child I loved to...

I just do.... I love it so much.

My secret pleasure is ...

When I have some spare time for myself, I ...

If I could wave a magic wand and spend all my days doing my favourite thing, I would...

What does this free association tell you about the work you really want to do?

Still struggling to know what you really want to do for work? Not a gut instinct sort of person? Don't worry. Download my free Rethink Your Life toolkit. It's a logical, systematic approach that your brain will love. The toolkit contains:

- My 7-step Rethink Your Life system that I use with my clients.
- The 7 questions you must ask yourself to create a career and life that's fulfilling for you.

About Jo Maughan
Jo Maughan is the founder of YourThinkingPartner. Her first career was as a FTSE 100 Tax Director. After suffering a fall and a significant brain injury, she overcame her fears to follow her calling as a coach and artist. She is now living the life she was meant to live, inspiring successful mid-life professionals at or near the top of their careers to rethink their careers & lives for more balance, fulfillment, purpose & joy. She and her clients use her 7 step system 'Rethink Your Life'. Jo is a sought after speaker and is currently writing her first book.
Career coach, Jo Maughan, in a red coat, smiling.
Quite Interesting....
  • 50-80% of people in the western world are unhappy in their jobs. Don't let this be you!
  • "Whether you think you can or you think you can't - you're right." Henry Ford
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