I notice people tend to think one or both of these methods is how people discover their right career path or “right livelihood”:
- That it will just come in a flash and then you’re all set for life, you know, like it did for so-and-so (supposedly).
- That you can do a few exercises in a book or take a quiz online to find the one right path.
Sadly, those thoughts are often accompanied with, “Since those things didn’t work for me, I must be broken.”
I have heard something like that so many times and it hurts my heart. Luckily I can reassure them right away, those paths don’t work for most people. You’re not broken, and there is a way to find your path.
I don’t think either of those expected ways is enough for something like deep clarity and choosing your own specific steps on where you want to go in life. You wouldn’t be here on this page if you could have figured it out on your own by now.
Figuring out why you’re here and how to make it work is big stuff! And yet, the steps to uncover that are simple, just not commonly known.
Why It’s Been Too Hard to Know the Best Path for You
The public schools in my part of the world were originally designed to create obedient workers, not naturally creative humans who want to truly contribute their gifts.
Maybe that obedience model was the kind of school you went to. I know I did. It wasn’t all bad. Just not enough to find my way.
We are also unconsciously influenced by money-driven mass media to focus on money, looks, and status as signs of success, but that is not satisfying to our hearts. I know you’re about more than that.
As a result, many people spend decades down a road that doesn’t feel “true.” I believe that all that time on a wrong path is the cause of a lot of misery, anxiety, and the so-called mid-life crisis.
Another factor is that most people actually can’t figure out their career path or life purpose alone, or at least not without some kind of a map and some input from outside your own head.
It’s not you. It’s just how we are built that we can’t see it without reflection back.
For instance, people often can’t even see their own strengths, which is a critical piece of the puzzle for choosing your best direction.
Ya gotta pick something that you’re naturally good at or it will lead to burnout and unhappiness. But if you can’t see it, how can you choose well?
It’s not your fault. But I’m confident you can take action to correct course at any age.
My Winding Path to Career Discovery
I remember as I was nearing high school graduation, I felt very confused about what was out there in the world and how I was supposed to fit into it. It just seemed like I was supposed to go a certain narrow way whether it felt right to me or not.
I remember meeting with the guidance counselor who was mainly focused on my taking more typing classes so I could be a secretary, apparently like women were supposed to be in her mind. I knew enough to know that was not my only option.
I remember even then knowing something was wrong with the system that the path would still be so foggy after 12 years in school. College only helped a little. I started grad school as another way to figure things out, but then dropped out to just go out and muddle through.
I tried out many paths less taken as a way to figure it out. Still, I remember spending years in therapy, reading career books, taking career assessments, trying new things, and still feeling like I didn’t know the best use of me.
I remember a few things were helpful here and there. Eventually talking to a career coach helped me choose a simple next step that led to some important awakenings and to starting the coaching business I have today.
I have continued learning and refining as I go, and I’ve reached out for help along the way too.
It’s not a destination, it’s a journey because we are always evolving. I’ve actually “discovered” my path many times, such as when I review what’s working in my business and make adjustments that make it even better over time.
Ironically, all that time exploring about the topic of careers actually led me to being a career and business coach. Turns out I was reading those career and business books for fun. A sign!
Where To Turn
There are lots of options for where to find some support.
- If you have some ideas but have trouble finding the words:
Consider hiring an experienced résumé writer who can find the positive story in the so-called mess. The process itself can sometimes help you find clarity.
- If you are tired of feeling like the only one in a career transition:
Look for a group of kindred spirits in the same boat because the transition journey can take a while and you might need someone to toss you a life jacket sometimes. (You can consider my small group community for Explorers.)
- If you feel like it’s time to fully regroup, rethink, or recover your work sanity:
That’s a perfect time for a career coach.
- For a low-budget starting place:
You can look for an online course by a career coach, to walk you through some steps. (Check out my career clarity course, “Simple Steps to Uncover the Best Use of You Now”.)
- If you want to take one small self-discovery step today:
Ask a trusted friend what they think are your strengths and for ideas they have for you. It might surprise you. They can often see what we can’t see.
If you’re going to pay for help, here are some tips for choosing:
- For introverts or highly sensitive people (HSP), consider finding an introvert and/or HSP specialist or group so they will get you easily and quickly. (Too often the typical advice is more geared for others.)
- In your initial call, make sure you feel heard and understood in general. The “click” means you’ll get faster and more useful results.
- If it’s easy to schedule a free initial call, that seems like a good sign too.
- The person you turn to doesn’t need to be local since these options can happen by phone or video calls.
In the meantime, I’m sending you much empathy for being in that confusing place. You don’t have to go it alone.