Learn how to find the right career path by figuring out why you’re walking that path in the first place.
When I work with people on their careers, they usually start off feeling lost. They want to do something else in their career, but don’t know what it is or how they are going to land that great job they long for.
They’re always surprised when I tell them we are not going to figure that out right now. I tell them, “Before we work on what you do, we need to figure out why you do it. How can you possibly find the right path except by chance unless you know why you are walking on that path in the first place?”
There’s a famous TED talk by Simon Sinek about how people do not buy what you sell, they buy why you sell it. Well, you’re no different: You don’t “buy” what you do, you “buy” why you do it. You cannot expect to have a rewarding career you love unless it ties to your underlying motivation.
So many of us went into careers without really stopping to think, “Why?” Or, equally likely, the person we were when we started working is markedly different than who we are today. Our values evolve. Our life experiences and situations change. We have different responsibilities.
Subsequently, our motivations may evolve. It may also mean we have not yet found that real, enduring, profound motivation that is our “why.”
Creating the right kind of motivation to ensure you are successful means really knowing yourself: your fears, your aspirations, your insecurities, your hopes, your dreams, your interests, your disinterests. That can be scary and it can seem daunting.
To help get there, I ask four key questions to help people discover true motivation:
- What are your most important values that define your sense of right and wrong, good and bad?
- What is so important to your very being that you can’t imagine losing it or not having it in the first place?
- If someone were to look back on your life, how would you want him or her to think you lived it? What do you want him or her to think you lived it for?
- No matter what happens, what will you always care about?
With every answer, challenge yourself. Ask yourself why that is the answer. For example, if you say honesty is your most important, defining value, ask yourself why that is. Try to get under the surface of why you believe what you believe.
Answering these questions may not immediately spell out your own true motivation, but they’ll help you understand yourself and what makes you tick so that you can pull your motivation from that deeper understanding. That’s the tough part of the process, but the part that is most crucial to create a true, lasting drive to do better and be better.
We take that drive, apply it to a goal, like finding the perfect job, and get at it with each day we do.
This post is inspired by my best-selling book, “Do a Day: How to Live a Better Life Every Day” available in print, ebook and audiobook formats. It originally appeared in my Inc.com column on July 19th, 2017.