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Finding the Career or Business That Fulfills You

By: Dr. Gwen Smith

I am highlighting my formal educational qualifications here, not because it is important to this discussion, nor to anything for that matter, but just in case you are among those who believe in surveys, observations and quantitative data collection as the only means of collecting ‘good’ data. I have doctor of philosophy degree in research and measurement, and I have successfully created many systems, coached a wide variety of people and led in large organizations (which also have people in them, by the way), alongside my own personal experiences and research. I am a highly trained quantitative researcher who has been highly successful in my field of studies. I am a master at creating quantitative surveys to gather any data that you desire, and I have the skills to run all the statistical analyses to determine, reliability, validity and correlations, etc. I am aware that there are many surveys available that can quite reliably pinpoint personalities and can also suggest areas that one is likely to succeed in as a career or business. However, I have found that that there is a qualitative side to gathering information that is impeccable, stands the test of the ages (I am old enough now) and is aligned with one’s internal “true north”. This qualitative side connects with feelings and emotions and has served as a great source of guidance to me in the most recent years. It creates a happy place to be.

As a quantitative researcher I was taught that if ‘it’ cannot be observed ‘It’ cannot be measured and therefore, ‘it’ does not exist. However, as hinted before, in my life the finer pleasures and things that give me the greatest satisfaction cannot be observed and measured with a physical or statistical scale. They come from a place where feelings exist, and they produce magical results in my wellbeing. Feelings cannot be observed, nor directly measured, however they can have powerful effects and affects on your life. Feelings are signals that if heeded appropriately, can gauge your choices of behaviors which in turn can protect you.When I talk about feelings, I am not simply talking about emotions that come and go based upon what does or does not happen to us. Not fluctuating feelings. I am talking about the steady deep heart connection, that deep gut sense and almost a sense of internal knowing. Do keep this in mind each time you read “feelings” in throughout this article.

Having said all of this, I am sharing with you my qualitative approach to finding my passion and hence a business that I love doing. It provides a spring board from which you can start looking at your own life to see what will fulfill you and what you should be doing for the rest of your life.  

For a long time I struggled with what I should do for a business. With a personality type like mine, finding pleasure in many things was not uncommon. It was a very daunting experiencing trying to settle on a single area as often, thoughts of not wanting to waste time only to discover that I was doing the wrong thing, would flood my mind. For sure, I had the nagging feeling of incompleteness when what I was doing was not really “it”. And I really paid close attention to those feelings, though sometimes I justified ignoring them. I typically did not make it far when I did, and I lacked a deeper internal connection with inner joy followed by the continuous nagging inquiry if I was really doing the right thing. As far as gifts, I had many, and that made the problem of finding an area for me to focus on even worse!

Happily, now, I find utmost pleasure and inner joy in what I do, and I no longer have the continuous internal inquiry of whether or not I am doing the right thing. I love making a difference in other people’s lives and my goal is to continue to do that through my writing, educating, coaching, seminars and live presentations. It took lots of introspection and effort for me to finally get to this point, and I can say that it really makes a world of difference in how I feel daily, my stress levels and what I exude to the world.

How did I get there? It really was not by my efforts alone: In general, I first had to be in tune with my inner voice before seeking out the other approaches to support and confirm what I felt. Then finally after looking at those resources, I turned introspectively to my own feelings to sort through the data I had gathered. This last step was the most important for me, as I knew that only I could tell what really lights me up, regardless of what others said. Here are the five steps outlined for you:

1.      Make a list of all of the things that you absolutely love to do (consider strengths, gifts and talents as well). Doing this first helps to streamline all the other information you will gather later, as you compare them against your own intuition. Use the following questions as a guide:

a.      Is there a certain “thing” or area or task that really gets me excited and happy when I am actually working on it or doing it? Write it down.

b.      What are the things in society that makes me angry?

c.       What are the things in society that makes me happy, ecstatic and lose track of time while I’m doing it?

d.      What do I currently do for a living?

e.      Why do I do this particular work and not something else?

1.      Look introspectively and connect with your feelings as you review each item on the list. As yourself how you would feel if you were doing the fits item, then move to the next and so on down the list. Write down the associated feelings next to each item for future reference. If you are internally connected, you will experience a feeling as you reflect on each of these individual items. Do not worry if it is not totally clear the first time around.

2.      Next find at three to five people who know you and ask them. Asking those who you work with, those at home, those you go to church or synagogue with, etc. is a great place to start. Really listen and write down what is said. In the end, though your strengths, gifts and talents are most often important, they should not be the only areas considered. Ask your people the following questions:

a.      What you do very well?

b.      What are your strengths?

c.       Why did they choose those strengths? You are working to get at what they saw you do (specific actions and results) that caused them to say it is a strength for you. This is data to support the information they are providing. Listen and take notes.  Look for common threads across all the feedback. Do not rule anything out at this point.  

3.      Get a free online test to help you sort your personality and entrepreneurial profiles further: Personality profile here: http://www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/JTypes2.asp  and Entrepreneurial profile here:  http://www.humanmetrics.com/sbp/BusinessTypesd.htm.  I am not claiming reliability or validity of these tests since I am in no way associated with the companies; however they seem to be somewhat associated with Meyers Briggs (a trusted company) in some way. Compare the information with what you know about yourself.

4.      Once you have compiled all of this, add to the previous list of things, then turn introspectively and spend some time in a quiet space, alone, working through each piece of information you collected and connecting with your feelings around each item from the viewpoint of how you will feel if you were actually doing it. Narrow the list down to your top two or three areas

5.      Now it’s time for you to test those areas. You can simply do a pilot of each of the areas. This means practice it on a small scale. The reason for this is that sometimes you can really feel good about doing something and after you start, you realize that you really do not like it after all. Do not be discouraged if this did not finalize the process for you. Simply do the process again and develop an awareness of your feelings as you move about your daily activities in life. Being in tune with what you feel is a great indication of what you like to do. Do not make it about the money. The money is only a symptom of your success. 

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