For much of my life I’ve muddled along with no clear idea as to what I really wanted to do. It wasn’t a bad life, it just wasn’t what I’d dreamed of when I was growing up. I’ve had a number of jobs and careers but because I was just bouncing from one thing to the next without understanding what I really wanted, they all followed a similar pattern. I’d start off feeling excited and optimistic about the job and for the first few months I’d enjoy the novelty and challenge of learning and doing new things. Somewhere between 12- 18 months I’d feel a frisson of doubt and question the rightness of this job for me. At about two years I was bored and wanting something different. I’d start spending a lot of time agonising over what I could do instead, then I’d make a change of some sort and the job loop would start all over again.
I’ve recently spent time with a number of friends who are all smart, confident, ambitious and hard working. Each of them has told me how frustrated they feel with their jobs and by extension their lives, at the moment. Each of them has said to me ‘I don’t know what’s the matter with me. I have a good job but I’m not really enjoying it. I don’t know what to do next.’
I believe one of the reasons I bounced from one unfulfilling job to another was because I asked the wrong question. Instead of asking what should I do, the first question I should have asked was WHY.
Simon Sinek in his book Start with Why – How Great Leaders inspire everyone to take action says we can only find fulfilment in our lives by starting with asking why, then look at how and finally what.
Few people take the time to understand what’s important to them or why they want to do something. Your values drive what’s important to you yet few of us understand what our values are. Values aren’t something you choose in the ‘pick and mix’ aisle of your local supermarket, you are born with them. If you don’t know what your values are, it like trying to reach Mars without understanding gravity, physics or algorithms. The odds are not in your favor.
If you are doing a job because of the paycheck or the approval you get from others, it will not be enough to satisfy you in the long term. Instead of looking for a new job that will give you a better paycheck or more approval or whatever else is keeping you there, focus your energy on understanding what your values and dreams are. Once you understand WHY, you will be in a much stronger position to look at what you want to do.
So how do you go about uncovering your values? You look within yourself. I’ve created a free worksheet that explains in more depth how your values make you unique and contains a series of exercises that will help you uncover your values.
If you’d like this worksheet, please click here to sign up to receive it by email.
Image by Virtual Eye See