When you think about what you want to do with your career, sometimes it’s hard to think about what you actually WANT to do. Or LIKE to do. Or dare I say – LOVE to do!
As we age, we tend to lose touch with what excites us in favor of what pays the bills, takes care of our family, conforms to societal and family expectations, etc.
But you know who totally knows what you LOVE?
Your ten-year-old self.
That little chick is multi-passionate, and she gets up every day ready to rock all her dreams and interests and she kills it!
When I was that little girl, I knew what I wanted, what mattered, and what lit me up.
Of course, I didn’t have the answers about how to put it all together as an adult, and I surely lost touch with her once puberty reared its ugly head, but despite wearing glasses, being teased for being too skinny, and frequently humiliating myself in gym class with my inability to do a cartwheel, I was confident and I pursued my passions.
When I did this exercise recently, I was able to connect all the dots between what I loved to do and how I had FINALLY manifested a career life I love!
I had never thought to visit with her until I started my career coaching practice, and up until then, I had truly figured everything out the hard way, through painful and confusing trial and error.
When I was a child I LOVED to write, and I gave it up when I went to junior high, and I FINALLY published my first book at 46. That was kind of an easy dot to connect, so I felt like that was the big puzzle piece, and I had it all figured out and my exercise in delving into the deep past was done.
Then I remembered. And a whole additional layer came to light.
I loved to play school with my little sister, who was 6 when I was 10.
I would make lesson plans for her and stand up in the front of the room and teach her.
I would do research on my lessons and make quizzes.
I even had a couple of friends who were willing to play this game with us. I am certain that my friend Maria is now a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon due to her intelligence and willingness to play school at a Saturday night sleepover.
But despite recalling this childhood fun, I know for sure that I never wanted to be a teacher. Of children. In the public school system.
BUT – I love training, speaking, engaging audiences, and motivating people to learn and grow.
I just prefer to do it with adults.
I was amazed by the power of this exercise, and I wish I had tapped into my little girl wisdom a LONG time ago because the Clues were right there all along.
My hope for you is that you save yourself time and energy by having a talk with “little you”.
As you can see, peeling back the layers uncovers vital Clues, and digging deeper into those “ah ha” moments produces juicy nuggets of useful information.
Don’t just think about what you were doing – clearly, I didn’t want to be a teacher, and I thought “writer” was out as a serious occupation due to instability.
But upon further inspection, the activities and skills used to play school gave me much insight into what I enjoy and value.
Here’s another example.
My friend Lauren and I loved to play superheroes in my backyard. This is prior to my ten-year-old self as we moved from that neighborhood when I was 9.
My sister was all about joining in on this one, and when she was as little as 3, she liked to pretend to be the “Beeonic Woman.” (her little girl pronunciation)
Lauren and I usually wanted to be Wonder Woman, Batgirl, or a character we created – Queenie. Unfortunately, we don’t remember much about Queenie and her specific powers, but a few years ago we discussed this time period on Facebook, and Lauren remembered the name.
Why is this relevant? “Superhero” is obviously not a viable career choice, unless you want to play one in a movie, and if so that’s a pretty cool goal.
It’s relevant to us because of the skills and experiences we were emulating running around my backyard, pretending to have powers and capes and bullet-deflecting bracelets.
Superheroes are powerful women. Leaders. They get stuff done. They are fearless.
And those are the qualities I have reclaimed as I started my business, leaving the (false) security of the corporate world and a predictable paycheck behind.
I could share many more examples, but I think you see the value of having this deep chat.
Once you do, please record it in your journal and begin to connect the dots. You can make lists, diagrams, charts, or draw pictures.
Whatever way you process the info on paper is up to you. It’s for your eyes only. So be very honest with yourself.
The little girl inside of you will appreciate you giving her a voice.
Once you have unearthed some of these Clues, let me know if you’d like to explore deeper career work.