Finding and doing what you love

This article is written by Peter Hawke, Programme Leader at Redesign Your Life who has been running his own public and in-company personal development and coaching programmes for 12 years, helping people make big and small changes to their personal and business lives.

Life’s too short to spend it doing what you don’t love. We probably all agree on that, yet over 80% of those in work are doing jobs they don’t enjoy1 . Typically we’ll be spending about 100,000 hours working, which is a long time if you’re doing what you don’t love.

And to make matters worse, if you ask people to describe what their ideal job is, most will at best give you a list of what they dislike. It’s hard to sit down and establish what you really want in your ideal job and from there it’s an easy compromise to apply for jobs that look possible but aren’t the right fit.

But there is a solution. The process to get there starts in a different place. Stop asking “what do I want?” and start asking “who am I?”

Getting the right foundations

Going straight to the “what do I want?” question is like building a house but ignoring the

foundations. So let’s put the “what do I want to do?” question on hold for a moment, and focus on the foundations first.

It’s all about finding out about yourself, researching ‘you’ in a structured and organised way.

This will focus around how you’ve spent your time up to now, what you love doing, what’s important to you and what you believe about yourself. It will ask what makes you angry, what fires you up and what makes you come alive. You’ll want to reflect on what you’re good at, and what you’re known for, as well as asking those around you to explain how they see you, “the good, the bad and the ugly”.

Building on those foundations

Doing this then creates the foundations for the next step.

As you start to find out who you are, you can then start to explore what you might want to do. And typically having a clear and detailed perspective on this opens up whole new areas of potential work and opportunities.

And because you’re starting to know who you are, you’ll grow in the confidence to actually start taking steps towards doing it.

Real-life examples

Let me introduce you to two people we’ve been working with on a recent Redesign Your Life programme, Tom and Ellie.

Let’s start with Tom. He’s recently finished university, with a good degree. Having worked in “fill-in” roles since then, he’s now stepped into his first longer term job, during the final stages of our programme.

He was very honest, explaining how he previously was only half-heartedly looking at jobs, not putting effort into any particular area. He lacked direction, not knowing how to market himself which left him feeling disheartened.

Not having that sense of who he was as a person, Tom had only vague ideas of what he wanted. He talked of how “working in the ‘fill-in” job at the time, showed me how I wanted something more than that, but I didn’t really know what”. Tom recognised he needed a greater depth of knowledge about himself. Without this, he was only too aware that he was stumbling across work that was not satisfying, but he didn’t know why it felt like that.

Building this type of foundation was a big part of Tom’s success in getting his current role. He talked of getting a “boost of confidence” and a focus to know how to market himself. He explained how he developed “a language to apply for the jobs”, talking of being able to talk of his strengths in “a much more eloquent manner”.

Ellie is further down the road, three years out of university. She enjoyed her degree course and followed this into a good job in a related career field, thinking it would take her into the sort of role where she would feel fulfilled.

She’s a good example of the person who looks like she’s making perfectly good career decisions, with a good job, learning lots of worthwhile things, and creating good “CV experience”. Yet she talked of feeling uncomfortable at a ‘big picture” level, realising that “the satisfaction of just doing good work, doesn’t really motivate me”.

At the end of the programme, Ellie talked of loving now having “tools to focus the thoughts rattling around in my head”. She said she’d come thinking she wanted a list of possible jobs, but was leaving “with something deeper”. She really valued “now being given the chance to evaluate who I am, with the ability to make better informed decisions, wider than work”.

So what next?

We started the piece with “life is too short to spend it doing what you don’t love”.

In our experience, most of us think this at some point in our lives, but usually only after an often long journey of false starts and disappointing cul-de-sacs. Leaving university, faced with a daunting array of internships and jobs in areas that might be right for you, it’s too easy to jump first and think later.

The good news is that building the right foundations to make great decisions can be broken down into small achievable steps, that over a matter of hours can start giving you a whole new view of your world. The questions seem to boil down to:

  • do you know who you are?
  • do you know it in a way that enables you to take the decisions you need for the next stage of your career?

We’re running a Redesign Your Life programme at the Enternships office in Aldgate, in 2 stages –

  • part 1 – Saturday 5th March from 9.00am-1.00pm
  • part 2 – Saturday 12th March from 9.00am-1.00pm

Be sure to grab your tickets now as spaces are limited!


1. Gallup Workplace Engagement Survey 2011/12


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Natasha Hodgson is the Content and Community Manager over at Enternships. She loves writing about inspiring things, and Nicolas Cage. Luckily, those two things are not mutually exclusive.

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