When I was 32, I was the Dean of Students at a small, women’s liberal arts college. At that age, this would be considered a major score, yes? The only problem was, I liked the idea of my position more than the actual work.
Sure, it was rewarding to be a part of an administration that wanted to implement change + growth in their students and it was impressive to my friends and family, but I just wasn’t loving it like I knew I should. I had worked so hard for years towards that role but something just fell flat when I finally arrived. It made me feel so confused –I was supposed to love that job, but…I didn’t.
I wondered: how did I get so far down the rabbit hole before I took a moment to figure out if it’s really where I wanted to go?
So, I started examining why I got in that line of work to begin with rather than always looking at how. I have a flexible mind set, good organizational skills, I am trustworthy and reliable; I knew I would be good at that job, but my underlying motivation was: I wanted to help people become better versions of themselves.
From that realization, I saw that I could work a lot of different jobs and still help people become better versions of themselves–there were many ways to pay the bills. When I saw that I was using my skills, but not involving my heart in my work, I knew I needed to tread a different path in order to feel full-filled.
Instead of trudging through years of uncertainty and ignoring the signs of restlessness, I did what any normal, responsible person would do: I quit my stable position without another job to go to. (Ok that wasn’t very responsible, but it felt right at the time.) I went back to school, I started temping at a low-stress office job and I explored hobbies I had ignored for years (oh hello, paintbrush). It was an amazing transformative period; both a professional and personal metamorphosis.
What had never occurred to me before, but what I know know is: you can be in the ideal work scenario and still feel unsettled, confused or dissatisfied. Figuring out the why of your work will catapult you to a different level of happiness and fulfillment. Focusing on the why you do what you do will motivate you to finding the perfect what for you. When you are doing work aligned more with your heart, life is a lot easier and a heck of a lot more fun.
So how do you figure it out?
- Start looking at what you do in your spare time. Can it be a part of a new career direction?
- Reminisce about what you used to dream of being when you ‘grew up’. There’s a lot of wisdom in childhood fantasies.
- Think about what people consistently point out to you, that you’re good at. Chances are, it may be a hint to a great new path you could explore.
Give yourself the opportunity to explore. Dig around and see what comes up–have an open mind because it may not always make sense at first. Does it inspire you? Do you feel excited about it? Are you motivated to get moving everyday? These are the questions you want to answer “yes!” to. Trust your gut and have fun in the process.