I have been out of college for six years now and have held several jobs during and after my studies. Although I’m gainfully employed, I don't feel fulfilled or even as if I am doing the work I am meant to be doing. I feel lost and am not sure how to find my true interest or "calling." Any advice?
Jenn, there's a great quote from Howard Thurman that goes like this: "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
Therefore, the FIRST question to ask yourself is, "What would I do even if no one paid me?" That will give you a clue as to where your true interests lie. It might also help to think about the things you loved when you were a child. Oftentimes, our passions show up early but, as the years pass, we push them down in an effort to be "responsible."
Once you have a better sense of what lights you up, start volunteering in that area. For example, if you love party planning, join a committee for a nonprofit and serve your community while building your skills (and reputation) at the same time.
It's critical to note that fulfillment isn't the result of what you do, but who you are. When your identity is linked to external factors, like your career, your self-confidence will go up and down based on what you do or don't have. That is a recipe for unhappiness. It’s much better to gauge your success on how well you're managing the one thing you can completely control—yourself. In other words, even though you might not know exactly what the next step is, commit to showing up and being excellent right now in this moment.
That's the secret, by the way, to finding "your calling." We like to think it's some big flash of clarity where all the answers suddenly appear, but that's not the case at all. It's a series of small opportunities that will only be big in hindsight because only then will you have the perspective to connect the dots.
So, don't waste time (and make yourself miserable) searching for fulfillment and calling. Focus on being great right now and a remarkable future will take care of itself.
Emily Bennington is the founder of AWAKE EXEC, mindful leadership coaching for professional women, and the author of Who Says It’s a Man’s World: The Girls’ Guide to Corporate Domination.
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