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Career Development

4 Exercises To Help You Unlock Your Dream Career

General Assembly
January 12, 2016
4 Exercises To Help You Uncover Your Dream Career

You’re not sure what your passion is? Or what if you have many passions? If either scenario is the case for you, then this advice remains vague and largely unhelpful.

I’ve worked with thousands of creative people on their dream career development since 2008, and what I kept finding was this:

It’s not about doing what you love or loving what you do. It’s about getting clarity on your lifestyle goals, and then figuring out what you need to do to bring them to life.

Simply put, a “dream career” is one that allows you to wake up in the morning, think about the day ahead, and look forward to at least 70% of it. If you’re doing work you enjoy with people you like being around, and it leaves room for your personal priorities, then you’re in the sweet spot.

Do you want your lifestyle to allow you to pick up your kids from the bus and spend quality time with them until bed? Then that’s a piece of your dream career puzzle.

Do you want to be able to work from anywhere, filling up your passport quickly? Then that’s a piece of your dream career puzzle.

Do you want to be able to attend a lunchtime yoga class every weekday? Then that’s a piece of your dream career development puzzle.

If you need to uncover your lifestyle goals, try these exercises:

1. Write a Dear Future Me letter.

I do this every January 1st to welcome in the new year (you can read them here), but you can write one anytime. Start the letter by writing today’s date with next year’s year at the top (for example, I wrote my letter on 1/1/16 by dating it 1/1/17) and then write about what you accomplished that year as if it already happened. Don’t limit it to your career, though. Talk about your relationships, your personal life, your hobbies, where you live and how you look. When you finish the letter, send it to yourself via on the date that’s at the top of the letter. No need to refer back to the letter during the year or make goals based on what’s in the letter. It’s not a checklist of what you have to do during the year. It’s really just a tool to get quiet and listen to what you want for yourself.

2. Stop putting the pressure on that you need a 5, 10, or 20-year plan.

Put the crystal ball away, because you can’t predict what’ll happen 5 minutes from now, nevertheless in 2021 (or 2036!). Ask yourself what your present and near-future self wants now. What’s a priority for you? What kind of boundaries, commitments and achievements would make a difference in your life? What would bring more energy and enjoyment into your life? By saying No to one thing, you’re saying Yes to another (and vice versa!), so give some thought as to which of your current obligations are not connected to the lifestyle you want to live and adjust accordingly.

3. Spend 15 minutes each day on something you want to do that’s not at all productive.

I think one of the saddest things that happens to adults is that we stop playing, and we discard the things in our life that aren’t connected to something we see as “productive.” I’d be shocked if there’s nothing in your head that you’ve been considering trying or going back to, but you haven’t because there’s not a good reason for it. Whether it’s learning the ukulele, digging into an adult coloring book, or picking your camera back up, I dare you to commit 15 minutes each day to doing it. That adds up to almost 8 hours a month, so it’s not chump change! And while the point of it is to play and not have it be productive, I’d be surprised if it didn’t lead you to realize what you want more of in your life.

4. Consider the obvious and focus on the ease.

I’ve found that my clients feel fulfilling and invigorated by their work when they know they’re helping in a way that’s meaningful to them. Yet, they’ve discounted it as something tied to their dream career because it comes too easily to them. Because of that, they feel it’s not special or unique to them, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Growing up, we’re all taught that we have to work hard to be successful, so we assume the work has to feel hard. I hope you breathe a sigh of relief when you learn it doesn’t. If you don’t know what comes easily to you, or what people come to you or compliment you for, start a Win Book and put all your Thank Yous in one place. You’ll soon see where you shine.

I’ve overwhelmingly found that dream careers are not delivered by blaring trumpets, lightning bolts, or cartoon lightbulbs. Instead of waiting for the angels choir to tell you what you’ll be passionate about forever, focus on what brings joys to your day-to-day. Only then will you be able to turn your dream career into your dream life.

Say “yes” to a career you love.

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