Finding out what you want to be can turn out to be a lifetime’s work. Unfortunately, we are generally forced to make a conclusive answer to the question- what do you want to be when you grow up? Sooner, rather than later. For some - the answer is clear, but for most people it takes a lot of travelling and searching out.
Setting off on a career pathway is not a walk in the park. For most people, it is not a straight line either. Instead there are curving roads, hedged laneways, and roundabouts with multiple freeways and offshoots leading away from them. Which way to go? Which road to choose? Often the very number of choices available adds to the confusion.
Without other information or guides on how to make career choices, young people who are finishing school tend to go for obvious well-marked routes, or familiar roads such as the ones their parents took. This can mean costly detours, roadblocks and to carry the metaphor a bit further, a breakdown inside the vehicle when the decisions made by other people don’t make your engine hum. This can be every costly, in time wasted going in directions that lead nowhere, in money on courses or in emotions- feeling resigned or resentful when life seems without a clear purpose.
We are all used to seeing career directions in geographical terms and counsellors and others emphasise the need for a clear destination in mind, a map and a plan of how to get there. This works well if you have a clarity to start with, but people who know what they want to be and do with their lives at the young age of 16 or so are rare. The rest of us are unsure, still searching and finding out at 25, 45 or even later. So how would it feel to be relaxed and safe in your decisions, content that even without clarity life is moving in a way that benefits you?
One way of doing this is to shift the story around careers. What if, instead of a set journey on a bitumen highway finding out what you want to do with your life was a process? A hero quest as Laurence Boldt puts it in Zen and the art of a making a living. It might sound simplistic to say that if we change the metaphor we change the experience, but narrative, metaphors and analogies are the way we humans make sense of random, apparently disconnected events. Retelling an experience in a different way can alter the way we experience it. I have seen this and heard it myself so often, in my own life but also when working with coachees (clients) who are begin to be authors of their own stories and experience the power of words in doing this.
So picturing yourself as a hero on a quest to find the meaning and artistry of your life’s work has quite a different feeling around it than the one of trudging off down the career bitumen highway, sorry, pathway, looking for a sign or someone to show you the way.
You are in charge of the story… what will you make of it?