Just like there are fairy tales in the world of romance and relationships, so too in the realm of work and careers, there are cultural fairy tales. One of them goes like this: “I, at an early age, naturally found what I most loved and wanted to do for work, dedicated my education towards it and went on to have a very successful career in that field for the rest of my life.” Do you see how unrealistic this is? So many of my clients come to me panicked and stressed because things aren’t working out this way. Not that this can’t be the case, but there are just so many reasons why my journey and your journey are likely going to look different from this fairy tale.
While I think everyone can and will be happiest if they find what they most love to do, what gets them into a flow state and excited to get up everyday, the notion that we will just happen to stumble upon it before our mid-twenties is kinda, sorta nuts. Up until then we’ve spent our whole life in school memorizing stuff and going through the motions while being offered up a rather limited range of possible things we can be when we ‘grow up’. When I graduated from university I could rattle off maybe a dozen professional categories that were suggested to me by my teachers/academic institution and family and it seemed to me that if I didn’t pick one of those I would fall off the face of the planet. No wonder we end up in professions all wrong for us. In reality there are 1000’s of different jobs and careers to be had and there’s one out there perfectly suited for each one of us to thrive.
So, what do you do if you find yourself in a job or profession you’re realizing is not your jam?
First, don’t blame yourself. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were just following along with the guidance you received from teachers, family, society etc. They’re not necessarily to blame either. They really do want the best for you, but only you can know what that is.
Second, don’t panic. You haven’t messed up your life or wasted ‘all those years’. I also often hear some variation of, “If I change my career now, I’m going to be behind.” Behind what? Behind in the accumulation of material wealth and status? I suggest you take a moment to reflect deeply about the implications of placing those as higher priorities over your enjoyment of your life. And I’m not saying you can’t have wild financial success while following your bliss, I’m just calling attention to priorities.
Lastly, now that you know what’s not for you, you’ll want to start to move your life in the direction of what is more you, more aligned with who you are and what you like. The stumbling blocks to this are usually that 1) you know what you want to do, but your mind throws a up a million objections on why you can’t, shouldn’t, it’s too scary, everyone will judge, what if X,Y,Z happens?! Or 2) you have no friggin’ clue what you want to do. Just a list of stuff you hate.
These two stumbling blocks are where I spend a lot of time coaching clients. They’re totally valid challenges and it’s actually very helpful to get someone else to help you navigate the path forward. We never knew we would find ourselves here. It’s not part of the fairy tale. But, that’s ok because we can still get to our original goal; happiness.