I had a friend in college who, while struggling to fend off what’s sometimes known as the “Freshman Five,” once turned to me in the cafeteria and said, “The trick is knowing what you want and not having it.”
She was talking about food, of course, and I do think you can stave off mindless nibbling if you acknowledge what you’re hankering for, and find ways to turn away from that desire.
But I also think naming what you want helps you get it, especially when it comes to careers. I’m not talking about that “Chant and it will come” philosophy, although I don’t suppose a little positive visualization could hurt.
So maybe, “Chant and work like hell and it will come” is an O.K. mantra.
After all, chanting and visualizing the work future you want do accomplish something very important – they drive you to articulate your goals.
I’m always surprised by how hard it is to figure out what one wants. Even in a restaurant, where my choices are limited, I have trouble making up my mind. Small wonder I can feel even more unsure when facing the smorgasbord of life.
Here are some tips to help us all think about what we want to do when we grow up, even if this seems a little late. By the way, notice I said “do” – not “be.” That’s because rewarding careers are based on doing things. Exploring what you want to “be” will distract you with thoughts of trappings like status, and that’s not what this exercise is about.
And now the tips:
- Forget about what you should want. This is about you, not your high school friends, your college cohort, your grandparents or society in general. Just this once, it is all about you.
- Forget what other people will say about what you want. See above.
- Forget about practicality. At least for a few minutes. Even if your dream job isn’t practical –like playing pro football when you’re a 5’5” middle-aged woman – knowing what you want can help you find a way to do something close to it. Can you say “sports marketing?”
- Focus on what you’d like to do, rather than what you’d like to be. This will get you away from dreaming about rewards which may or may not come, and gets you thinking about activities. Some might want to be rich, but rich isn’t something you do.
- Listen closely. We all have a variety of impulses, and they frequently conflict, so it can get a little chaotic when you start considering what you want to do. Sometimes people drift into doing things they sort of like, letting their dream job sail out of reach.
The key is making a conscious choice, whether you’re reaching for the brownie or a career.
by Danielle Dresden