Some of you may be spiritual buffs and others may be ultra realists. I’m here to tell you that after 7+ years of personal experience as well as coaching others with career exploration, I have honed both practical steps you can take as well as a broader concept for how to figure out your purpose. If you’re at all interested in figuring out a career path that aligns with you, consider the concept below.
You may have read “The Secret” which ultimately shares that wherever your energy goes, you will ultimately reach that outcome. While I generally support this, I have a slightly alternative view or concept you can consider.
In my experience, we all have a higher-level path that either we’re operating in alignment with or we are operating out of alignment with (ie in our day to day decisions). Thus, we have an overall purpose (which takes time to figure out what it is), but it is often a feeling of whether our decisions do or do not align with what we know we should do.
Check out the below image (reads from RIGHT to left)
You can see that the “higher-level purpose” is something you can actually picture as a “higher” level. Then, your everyday choices either align with your path (get you closer to that purpose line) or get you farther away from it (don’t align).
It’s worth discussing how to know whether your decisions align or do not align and also how to navigate the overarching process to continuously get closer to and ultimately reach clarity on your higher-level purpose.
Transition or Decision Making
When you’re in a moment of transition or decision making, it’s a good idea to check in with your feelings, your intuition and even your subconscious in what’s really driving that decision (fear? Or clarity?). Do you feel focused in that decision or stressed, distracted, confused, or frustrated? How you feel at that moment can be a major indicator of what state you’re operating in. You don’t want to make big decisions out of a place of fear. Make sure to ask yourself how you feel about the decision and about each option at hand. If you don’t feel clarity, confidence, certainty, and excitement about the choice, then take a pause.
In order to adequately figure out your next step (where you can feel clear and excited about your choices), pursue these steps of exploration:
- Reflect on your interests as it relates to things you love doing and content/topic areas you love. Translate these interests into potential roles and industries.
- Once you have options for potential career paths, dabble in online research — what do these roles and industries entail?
- Once you have some basic research done, embrace networking as a way to learn. This is a great time where people can easily connect with you virtually to lend some mentorship and words of advice. The goal of this type of networking is to learn the reality of your options.
- You may learn about things you like and things you don’t like — lean in closer to the areas that sound intriguing. Keep learning until you’re only strongly considering ONE option. If you’re still comparing options, you haven’t learned enough.
- From there, you may be seriously considering a certain choice or path. THIS is the perfect time to try it out first hand — how can you gain in-person, direct, firsthand exposure to that choice? This is how you can test whether you’d actually like that choice before you choose it!
- Once you know your ideal next step, you can then ask yourself the best route or path to achieve that step.
This process can relate to choosing a career path, a college, a major, a graduate degree, or any other professional endeavor.
The bottom line in figuring out your higher-level purpose or ideal path is trying to figure it out. In persisting with patience through this process, you will reach the outcome of finding clarity in your next steps and in your overall path. As Steve Jobs says, “you’ll know” when you get there. It is a feeling both in the day to day choices as well a feeling that will indicate the a-ha moment for when you’ve crystallized your ideal path. Steve also reminds us “don’t settle” until you find it.
I’ll leave you with Steve’s full guidance:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”