Are you in your current line of work because you actually like it, or to make money? Or both?
I ask because I've gone down the road of choosing a career and then sticking with it just to make money. 10 years later, I was a burned out husk that Amazon spit out.
Most of my life was spent feeling like a broken compass: I had no direction because my needle was spinning in every direction.
How, exactly, do you discover your purpose?
- Take a personality assessment test
- Look at the Ikigai framework
- Try out an entry level job in the field
- See if you like it
- If not, try out another entry level job in a different field
- See if you like it
- If you do, then go to school for that to become a specialist
- Keep experimenting
- Learn to pay attention to your feelings on whether you actually like something or not
Personality assessment tests
If I could do it all over again, I would tell my 18 year old self to take the Myers Briggs Type Indicator test (MBTI). This personality assessment is 100% worth the $50 price to take it if you are unsure what direction(s) you should be looking at.
The MBTI will tell you what types of careers would be suited to your personality type, so it's a good list to start from for narrowing down the field.
This could have helped me figure out what to major in during college instead of in math...I could have made a much more informed decision, the impact of which would have cascaded through my life for the next 20 years.
Instead, I spent that 20 years floundering around trying different jobs and careers AFTER I'd already graduated with my college degree.
I also strongly suggest taking the CliftonStrengths 34 assessment by Gallup. I found that having both the MBTI and the CliftonStrengths data was very useful.
Ikigai framework for finding your purpose
I recently came across the concept of Ikigai, which is a Japanese concept that roughly means, "reason for being."
This framework tries to help you find the right balance in what you're meant to do through the intersection of four factors:
- what you love
- what you're good at
- what the world needs
- what you can be paid for
To find your particular Ikigai, you need to figure out what you're most excited or passionate about, and then find a form of expressing that passion in such a way that it satisfies all four of the factors above.
The idea of Ikigai is fascinating. I won't go into a ton of detail about it here, but you can read more about it in this Ikigai article on Forbes.
20 years spent not knowing my purpose
My parents have been asking me what I wanted to do since I was SEVEN. Hello? I’m seven? How would I know?!
I found a repeated pattern in my life where I avoided answering the question, "what do you want to do," because I didn't bloody know.
I didn't come from a family that encouraged exploration or self-discovery. My parents are from a generation that prioritizes making a living because that's your duty to your family. There wasn't really the idea of discovering your purpose—you just did what you were supposed to.
So they were bewildered at my jack-of-all-trades-ness, and the idea that I did something—not to make money, but for no purpose other than it was fun—was utterly mind-boggling to them.
I remember when I took up jewelry making as a hobby, and my dad kept asking me if I was doing this to sell jewelry and become a jewelry designer. My dad and my sister both kept wanting me to sell my jewelry, and I just didn't want to. The idea of selling it took all the fun out of it, but at the same time I felt guilty for not wanting to sell it.
My entire life I felt insanely pressured at not having a direction, and I didn't know how to embrace that uncomfortable feeling and just go with it. Even worse, I didn't know how to start thinking critically about this gigantic question and find resources to help me figure out a direction in an intelligent way.
That's how I ended up in law school, because I panicked in undergrad and realized that I had zero plans to get a job using my math degree.
$50,000 in debt later, I was a law school dropout and was once again spinning my wheels.
Instead of really thinking hard on what my next step would be, or what my purpose could look like, I spent the next 2 years anesthetizing myself by being a full-time gamer.
Eventually, I got a job as an editor in corporate tech in 2007, and I set my sights on climbing the corporate ladder.
When you have no goals, money typically becomes the easy goal
I really didn't love working as an editor for a team where I didn't feel like I belonged, so money was my only reward.
The people who have gone down this road already know the ending to this story: Money is not enough to keep you motivated and getting up in the mornings.
That's how I ended up working at Microsoft for two years, then at Avvo for four years, and then Amazon for almost two years. By that time, I was making more money than I ever had in my entire life.
Hello! 40k signing bonus, 180 shares of Amazon stock, and the highest salary I'd ever made. I was actually capped out in my salary range because I had negotiated my initial offer higher.
The really funny thing is that you will become good at anything if you're simply given enough time, and that's what happened to me—I was an expert in the online content field.
But if you check the Ikigai matrix above, my job working in content marketing satisfied three, not all four of the requirements. I didn't last because I didn't love it.
That's how I ended up really unhappy, and that unhappiness was leaking out of every pore. I became bitter and angry and an all-around toxic personality.
Be brave, experiment and take risks
Now, imagine if people actually bent this same kind of single-minded, devoted will and energy to something they actually love. The possibilities are ENDLESS.
Why don't more people actually do this?
It's mostly because of FEAR.
When you do something you don't love, you're not as emotionally invested. When you choose to go after something you DO love, that's introducing a level of vulnerability that is really HARD because what will it mean if you fail at the thing you love?
Most people can't contemplate a successful resolution to this question.
Here's the truth, though.
When you try something new, you most likely WILL fail in the beginning. It's because you've never done it before, so there's a learning curve to master.
But because you love it and therefore are more emotionally invested, that failure will seem bigger than it really is.
I'm here to tell you that failure is just data. Take what you can and keep moving on through that journey knowing that if you get all the failing out of the way quickly, you'll get to the success that much sooner.
So, do you love what you do, or are you chasing $$$ because you have no other goal? Time is precious, so DM me if you want help clarifying.