8 Questions to Ask Yourself in 2015

Winter Trees_edited-1The New Year is brimming with possibilities to explore, good work to be done, and great things to be accomplished!  It is a terrific time to take stock of where you are in your career.  Are you happy with your present situation?  Is your work rewarding, fulfilling, and energizing?  If not, it may be time to consider what you really want to be doing with your precious time and talents and set some goals to make it happen.

Although I’m not a fan of resolution making, I do see the merit in setting goals as a first step to start making changes.

Here are 8 questions I find helpful to get the process going:

 

  1. What am I grateful for?As you review 2014, consider the good things in your life that you are truly thankful for.  What brought you joy or warmed your heart this last year?  What do you most value that you have in your life right now?  Is it your significant other, a loving pet, a fabulous climate, your family, your friends, peace of mind, good health?  When we get in touch with feelings of gratitude, it is easier to determine our priorities and start to create an action plan.
  2. What did I accomplish this last year?Often people make resolutions about what they failed to accomplish without giving themselves credit for their achievements.  Accomplishments don’t have to come in the form of awards or promotions either. Did you learn a new skill? Clean out a closet that had needed it for years? Get better at being on time?
  3. What did I intend to accomplish but didn’t in 2014?Instead of beating yourself up over missed opportunities, failed resolutions or missed goals, consider their relative importance.  So you didn’t lose the weight, get your dream job, visit the Grand Canyon, get a raise, exercise more, etc.  So what?  How important were those goals?  Are they still important to you?
  4. What do I want to accomplish in 2015?Are there unfinished projects or goals from last year that you want to focus on going forward?  (See #3)  Are there new things you want to bring into your life or accomplish this year? If you have a bucket list, it may be time to take action.  What are you waiting for?
  5. What is the benefit if I accomplish these goals?What is the payoff to you personally? How will your achieving these goals change your life/other people/the world?  Consider how achieving your goals will change your life.  Will you be happier?
  6. Am I making my goal or “resolution” for myself or am I trying to please or impress someone else? Answering this question requires us to be brutally honest with ourselves.  Often we make decisions based on how it will impact others in our lives.  It’s good to consider this aspect but at the same time, challenge your perception—is it really your goal or is it someone else’s goal for you?
  7. Am I basing my goals/resolutions on something I really want or something I truly need? What is your primary motivation for seeking change?  Is it long term fulfillment or short term gratification?
  8. What can I let go of that isn’t supporting me?We often put up with people, possessions, problems, and situations that aren’t serving us in a positive way.  What have you been tolerating that you can eliminate from your life?

 

Consider what needs to happen for you to live your life from a place of integrity and in alignment with your core values.  Then set your goals and take action toward achieving them.

May you do great things in this New Year!

 

Career, Passion and Purpose

sunset smllI recently created a new mini-course titled “Find Your Dream Job”.  In planning my two session workshop, I reviewed many of my favorite books and discovered a couple of new ones.  I found similarities and common themes on finding your calling, realizing your right livelihood, and building a career based on your talents and passions.  Here is the basic underlying message I concluded:

To create the life you want, you have to get clear on what that is. 

There is a story I often share to illustrate this:  You are in a restaurant looking over the menu.  The waiter appears and you say:  “I’ll have a soda, French fries and a cheeseburger”.  As he turns to head to the kitchen (or computer terminal these days) you call him back: “on second thought, I shouldn’t have the fries, so give me a small salad instead.”  Again, he turns and starts towards the kitchen.  You call him back saying: “you know I really don’t need the cheese, just give me a plain burger.”  The point of this story is that the cook in the kitchen can’t make your order until you can decide what you really want.  Think of the cook as “the universe, the divine, God or the source”.  It cannot bring you what you want in your life if you can’t place the order. 

If you look back on your life, consider:  have you started down one path or another only to change direction over and over?  It could be that you are simply seeking to live a life in alignment with your passion and purpose and haven’t quite arrived there yet.  Through trial and error, you may see you are steadily moving in a direction, you just don’t know where you are going yet.  If you keep returning to your core values, your passions, and stay in alignment with those through your thoughts, decisions, actions and goals, your purpose eventually reveals itself. 

You may be saying “that’s all well and good but I am just not finding my own purpose.  In fact, I am more confused than ever of how to find my best career direction, much less my life’s purpose.”  Let’s look at how the mind works for a moment.  Our thoughts are like monkeys jumping from branch to branch looking for a better banana.  Additionally, our entire physical system is driven by the instinct to avoid pain and seek pleasure.  When new information comes in, the brain goes into an alert state.  The amygdala is saying; “wake up, something’s happening, is it SAFE or is it DANGEROUS”?  When you are endeavoring to change your mind and change your life this causes some upheaval.  There are “bumps in the road”.  The old patterns you’ve set up in your brain tissue want to keep running and here you are, forging new links.  This process can result in feelings of confusion, you might feel unlike yourself.  Change can shake things up! 

By bringing your focus back to your passions, back to your pure intention to live your life in alignment with your core values, the path becomes easier.  For myself, I have found a regular meditation practice to be helpful in slowing down the sheer number of thoughts that zip through our brains (did you know scientists now say we have as many as 80,000 thoughts a day?).  When we stop “following the monkeys from branch to branch”,  we may hear our small inner voice, our intuition, our higher Self prompting us and nudging us to move toward that alignment of passion and purpose. 

Here are some of the books I recommend to help you find that dream job, your purpose, your passions…

The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose, Janet and Chris Atwood

Build Your Dreams: How To Make a Living Doing What You Love, Alexis Irvin and Chip Hiden

Inspired & Unstoppable: Wildly Succeeding in Your Life’s Work!, Tama Kieves

I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It, Barbara Sher

Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design, Lawrence Boldt

“We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.”   Joseph Campbell

Merging Work and Play

I love the sense of playfulness the artist captured in the movement and sheer delight of the two children in this picture.   I took this shot while waiting for my plane in the Greenville-Spartenburg airport in SC.  It is a reminder to have fun, to find time to play in our lives, and to experience light hearted moments.   I am heading there again this week and remembered this photo.  I got to thinking that the average person spends an inordinate amount of time at work and not enough time in play.

The traditional American work ethic is to indulge in leisure pursuits or “play” only when our work is done.  There is a common belief that work requires self discipline, long hours, and sacrifices.  As a career coach I often ask people what the word “work” means to them.  I get answers like; “boring, drudgery, wage slave, too many hours, frustrating, exhausting, routine, hard, meaningless, etc.”   I remember asking my daughter as a new college grad what came to mind when she hears people talking about getting a job and going to work.  She thought for a moment and then said:  “I see a sweaty bald guy in overalls dragging a ball and chain in a warehouse with a concrete floor and small windows and it’s raining outside and the water is dripping on the floor.”  I wonder how many other people have such dour imagery around the concept of work!  (FYI my daughter is an entrepreneur at heart and is enjoying being a freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver as I write this)

We are taught that we must strive for success and be our best, and work hard to get ahead.  Well meaning parents  teachers, and  other authority figures tell us to “keep your nose to the grindstone” and “pay your dues” and “climb the ladder to success.”  This doesn’t sound like much fun to me.  Does this advice motivate you to go out there and get a job?  Surely there is a way to make a living and be happy at the same time, a way to merge work and play.

What if we shift our perspective and start bringing a sense of  playfulness into our jobs?  Wouldn’t our workday be more pleasurable?  Absolutely!  Let’s look at the concept of play.  As in this photo, the children appear to be alive in the moment, are having fun and seem to be exhilarated.  (Considering they are sculptures that’s kudos to the artist.) How can we bring this joy, this sense of fun and being present into our daily work lives?  A good place to start is by looking at your situation with “new eyes”.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your work environment support you or deplete you?  
  • Are you doing work you enjoy and find satisfying?  
  • Do you feel valued and appreciated at work by peers and management?
  • If freedom and flexibility are important values for you does your current work provide these?

Think of play as an activity in which you are fully present, enjoying the moment, feeling free, valued and appreciated by the other players.  Whether you work for somebody else or are self employed there are ways to bring more playfulness into your life.  For starters, if your work environment doesn’t support you, change it.  This is easier to do if you are the boss but even as am employee there are often options to personalize your work situation.  Would you be more comfortable (and potentially more productive) with an ergonomic chair or an office with a window?  How about suggesting flex time or job sharing to balance your work and leisure time? 

What are you passionate about?  Can you create a livelihood doing things you are passionate about?  (See The $100 Startup for guidance on this.) Is there a way to bring passion into your work?  If you work with a team, do you mutually appreciate and value the other “players”?  What might you do to contribute to the well being of co-workers?   What needs to happen in order for you to have more fun at work, to feel energized and yes, playful?  Sometimes it is as simple as shifting your perspective and changing your attitude.

“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”  Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

 

Expand Your Career Horizons

Irishfest sunset

Are you tired of your work routine, burned out on your occupation, or struggling to please your boss or coworkers?  Maybe it is time to seriously consider a career change.  Here are 5 Action Steps to help you get moving:

  1. Evaluate your current life situation and how your work fits into it.  Do you live to work or work to live?  Are you staying in a job that you don’t like just to pay your bills?  If so, how is that impacting your family, your health, and your precious time?  How do you want to spend your days?  Where you do want to live?  What lifestyle is desirable and what are your most important values?  Optimally, you want to have meaningful, purposeful, satisfying work that energizes and enlivens you as well as pays your bills.
  2. Look beyond your occupation.  Just because you’ve always worked in an office as an administrator doesn’t mean you have to stay in this field.  What are you passionate about?  What are your hobbies and interests?  What are you doing when you feel most exhilarated, alive and engaged?  Do you love to cook and fantasize about being a personal chef or having your own restaurant?  Well maybe you can!  Just don’t go after “hot jobs” because they might be lucrative unless they are truly a fit for your skills, talents and personality.
  3. Do the research.  One of my favorite sites to share with clients is http://www.onetonline.org/  You can browse occupations by industry, by employment outlook, by how much education or training it requires, by industry or career cluster.  This Department of Labor website links with others to provide wage and data info, hiring trends, and growth patterns.  You can even find out the prevailing salaries of workers in an occupation in your geographic area.  (Handy to know when you receive a job offer and want to negotiate your paycheck).  Another consideration is the physical demands a new line of work may require.  For instance, it may not be practical to become a massage therapist if you have joint problems. Find out before you enroll in a program.
  4. Identify your transferable skills.  What skills and abilities do you already possess that are valuable in a different line of work?  We all have them but often overlook them.  I’m talking about non-occupation specific skills such as public speaking, writing concisely, gathering resources, implementing new systems, mentoring others, translating complex information, and building consensus.  Here’s a checklist for you
  5. Examine the market.  The bottom line here is who needs what you have?  Where is there a problem you can solve?  Does your community need another coffee shop or chiropractor or whatever it is you plan to do next?   Consider the timing.  If you need to go to a 4 year degree program to enter a new field, better be sure it is in a growth mode.  New occupations are arising all the time.  Five years ago “Social Media Consultant” wasn’t an occupation.  Today, it is a promising field along with distance learning coordinators, GPS systems developers, nanotechnology engineers, and about anything in the green industry.  Again, check out Onet for info on emerging careers, as well as the outlook for careers you are considering.

            “You don’t have to do any kind of work, there is choice.  Get the information you need to chose well.”

                                                                                                                    —Dee

 

 

Work: Labor or Love?

Labor or Love?

Work, is it a labor of love?

Today is Labor Day in America.  It became a national holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement following the deaths of workers during the Pullman Strike.  Fearing further conflict, the bill was rushed through Congress a mere 6 days after the strike.  Much has changed in the workplace since then.  Now we largely look at Labor Day as the last weekend of summer and the kickoff of the football season, a day off for fun and relaxation. 

If we view this occasion as it was originally conceived, it is a day to appreciate those in the workforce and celebrate employment. I ask you; do you feel celebratory at work?  Are you fully engaged and joyfully expressing your talents and skills?  Do you really like your job? Are you appreciated and rewarded for your contributions?  Do you feel energized by the work you do?  Sadly, I don’t think the majority of workers would answer yes to these questions. 

When my daughter graduated college, she had a hard time being motivated to get that first job.  I asked her what came to mind when I said the word:  work.  She thought a minute and then said; “I get a picture of a sweaty bald guy in a warehouse pulling a huge chain.”  My internal response was “yikes, she views work as drudgery!”  Sadly, I think many people view work from this perspective. (Happily, my daughter now loves her work as a blogger, freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver).

For many people, a job is tied to the idea of being in servitude to get a paycheck.  I’ve had coaching clients tell me they are miserable in their jobs but are locked into the “golden handcuffs”.  They feel they cannot leave their jobs for fear of losing health insurance and other benefits.  I ask them, “If you really can’t leave your work, can you find a way to be more satisfied with it?”

What would happen if you shifted your perception and viewed work as a creative expression of yourself?  How might you bring your natural talents and skills into your work life?  Can you see how your work could then become a “labor of love”?  I believe that each and every one of us can find or create work that is inherently fulfilling.  If you are currently in a job, consider how you can experience it with more joy.  Ask yourself:   

  • What is one thing I can do this week to find more pleasure and satisfaction at work?
  • How can I make the best contribution to my workplace, my co-workers, or my employer?
  • What can I change in my daily routine to make my job more interesting?   

If you are looking at career options, consider these questions:   

  • What am I passionate about?  How might I express my passion through my work?
  • Is my work an expression of me?  Is the work I do in alignment with my value system? 
  • What kind of work would energize me?
  • Who could utilize my natural talents, skills, education, etc.?  Where is there a need I can fill?   

If you can’t find a way to “love the work you’re with” it’s time to look elsewhere. You might consider creative self employment, starting a small business or a combination in income producing endeavors.  Remember you don’t have to do a particular kind or work, you have choice!

“Follow the path of your potential and live the work you love”  –Dee

 

Making Enlightened Career Choices

Roads in the forest

Are you making enlightened decisions about your career?

Are you doing work that is fulfilling and rewarding? Does your current work give you an outlet to make a difference, to feel alive with purpose? If not, you might want to consider making some changes. You don’t have to do a particular job, work in soul deadening surroundings, or be “chained” to a desk in a cubicle. YOU have CHOICE! If you want to create a different career path you need to make choices that will propel you to new actions.

How do you typically make decisions? Are they based on:
• Shoulds – doing what you believe you should do
• Pleasing others – doing what others want or expect you to do
• Fear – choosing the safe route, or being afraid to make changes
• Habit and reaction – you don’t even think about what you’re doing–you’ve always done it this way

Or, are you consciously considering each decision and maintaining an awareness of these factors:
• Feeling empowered – to choose truly for yourself, not to please others
• Authenticity – you know who you are and choose in alignment with your core values
• Creative expression – you have talents and skills to share, and seek to express these through your work

To make more enlightened, conscious choices:

1. Clearly define your wants and needs. Get in touch with your sense of purpose. Listen to your intuition. Ask yourself; “Does this choice feel empowering or disempowering?” “Is this decision in my highest good?”

2. Consider your current situation and ask yourself; “Why am I doing this? What do I want to achieve?” It may be helpful for you to write down your answers and ponder them. Be more conscious of how you are spending your precious time, because this is your life passing by.

3. Stay out of the victim mindset. You alone are responsible for your life. When you accept this, you will claim your inner power and make better choices. Change often comes from nothing more than a shift in perspective.

4. Be open to new possibilities for yourself. Select one area of your life where you are unsatisfied, and choose something new, something more for yourself.

5. Simply notice opportunities as they show up. We miss so many options because we just don’t see them! Wake up and look around. You have an opportunity right in this moment to choose something new or different.

If you find you spend a lot of time in a job that leaves you tired, frustrated and discouraged at the end of the day, it may be time for “Plan B”. You have gifts, talents, work and life experiences, skills and expertise to create your next career! Identify them and search out how who needs them. Then you can make a plan to move in a new direction.

Location Independent Careers

view of travel career setting

View from my “office” in Myrtle Beach, SC

With summer in full swing, many of us have trips and vacations planned, or are dreaming about long days on the beach. If you’re tied to an office job or have limited time off, this can be a challenging season, and one that gets a lot of people thinking about working for themselves.

It sounds great, doesn’t it? You could be working from home, or – better yet – poolside somewhere. Maybe you could design your schedule so you have the best parts of the day free to be outside and enjoy the sunshine. Or maybe your ambitions are bigger – a lot of people who want to work for themselves picture life away from the office as one full of adventure, traveling to exotic places, having the freedom and flexibility to just pick up and go. If you’re one of those people, then this series of posts is for you.

Whether you want to live abroad or just travel from time to time, there are ways to make a living on the go. Over the next few weeks we’ll explore the pros and cons of location independence and go through some of the how-to’s.

Thanks to things like laptops and wifi, being location independent is far more feasible now than it ever has been before. But that flexibility only exists if you’re not still tethered to one place, which means being very deliberate about the type of business you start for yourself.

If you want location independence, you probably aren’t looking to open a restaurant or a storefront. There are dozens of ways to have a virtual business by selling a product online, or offering a service that doesn’t require you to physically be present to do the work.

Thinking up a business that can be done from anywhere that you have a laptop and wifi can be a challenge, but with a little creative thinking you can find a way to take your skills and passions and make a living from wherever you are. Often times it is simply a matter of looking at the business you want to start or the work you want to do from a slightly different angle, or finding the niche within it that allows you to be on the move. You can also create a business that is partially location independent, allowing you to travel frequently but still having a home base.

Many savvy entrepreneurs are successfully doing this:

  • Chris Guillebeau is traveling to every country in the world and writing about it and making money doing it.
  • Barbara Winter ventures across the country and around the world speaking, writing, and teaching.
  • Lea and Jonathan Woodward have been making a living from Mexico.
  • Corbett Barr has built an online business that supports him regardless of where he happens to be from one day to the next.

My daughter, Nicole, enjoys a lifestyle where she’s got a home base and an office in Denver, but she travels at will – last weekend she was working from a resort in the mountains, and this week is sending me emails from funky coffee shops in Minneapolis. I took the picture above a few weeks ago while enjoying time with my mother at a Myrtle Beach resort (and still serving my clients’ needs) and will be traveling to Denver and Rochester, MN in coming months and conducting workshops.

Some of these people are writers, some are teachers, some are techies. There are many more examples out there, of people who sell crafts or products, do design or consultations – I’ve even heard of a woman who teaches remote voice lessons using a program like Skype! The thing they all have in common: they are inspired, innovative, and determined to find creative ways to earn a living while jet-setting, living abroad, or spending more of their time away from their offices than in them.

What do you want to do for work? How can you begin to reconfigure it to support your wanderlust?

4 Ways to Discover Your Passions

Passions excite us, enliven our being and reflect our heart’s desire.  Do you know what you are really passionate about?  Are your passions able to be expressed through the work you do?  How do we identify our passions?   For some, their passion is ingrained in their being from birth.  They just know what they want to be when they “grow up” and find a way to live their life around what they are passionate about.

1. Discovering your passion through just “knowing” from birth


Heart shaped leaves

discover your passions


My Dad for instance, was fascinated with flying and spent his life in aviation, first as a Navy pilot then as an aeronautical engineer with NASA. When he retired he continued following his passion of flight and built an airplane in his garage.  It took him 7 years to plan and then build the plane and then another year to get healthy enough to fly it.  He was in his late 70’s by then and had to have cataract surgeries on both eyes before he was allowed to pilot his beloved little plane.  He really lived his life around his passion!

2. Discovering your passion through an epiphany

Sometimes life hands you the insight in an epiphany.  I’ve heard many clients report a crisis of sorts prompted a sudden realization of what they wanted to do with their life.  I call this the “wake-up call”. It may be precipitated by a dramatic life event such as a losing a job, going through a divorce or experiencing a serious illness or injury.  For me, it was facing being downsized from my job as a recruiter in a staffing agency.  It was literally like a switch was flipped in my brain and I made the mental leap from “guess I’ll need to go look for another job” to “what if instead of looking for candidates to fill companies staffing needs, I championed  individuals and helped them find satisfying work that really fits their needs?”  (read more on my story on the About page)

3. Discovering your passion through trial and error

The third way to uncover our passion is by trial and error.  I think most people do this to some extent.  We take classes we have some interest in and explore various careers.  The process of trying out a variety of work situations can lead us to realizing what we do and do not find rewarding. We may stumble into a great job or end up in a fulfilling occupation simply by circumstance and the process of elimination. My daughter for instance, studied a variety of subjects in college and ended up with a degree in cultural studies and comparative literature.  Not exactly a fast track to a solid career. Over the next 5 years she worked in office administration, retail sales, taught karate, became a licensed massage therapist, was a tour guide and concluded that what she was really passionate about was being creatively self employed, helping people tell their stories and throwing theme parties.  She now lives in Denver and happily juggles multiple income streams as a freelance writer, editor, social media consultant and wedding planner. You don’t have to pick just one occupation or career.  Keep experimenting until you find work that makes your heart sing!

4. Discovering your passion through introspection

When we respond to a yearning to have creative self expression, to do work that is in alignment with our core values and beliefs we have begun the process of looking inward.  Conventional wisdom teaches us to go to school, get a good job, work hard, and save enough money to someday retire. However practical this path seems to be, there may come a point in which our heart overrules our head and the sensible path is no longer enough for us. We start to question the status quo, we become restless, anxious, stressed or depressed. We began to really want to be able to express our passions, to work enlivened, to be intrinsically in alignment with our deepest yearnings.  Responding to this call of the heart can be life changing.

Tama Kieves in her book, This Time I Dance poignantly describes her experience of leaving her law practice in order to do pursue her love of writing.  She talks about searching for answers by reading self help books like she was “in a library on fire” and by challenging her own beliefs about the work she was “supposed to do.”  Today she is a successful author, speaker, and workshop presenter who inspires others to live their creative dreams.

Who knows what you might become, what inspiring work you may do?   If you’re in the looking inward process seeking to identify your passions and discover your natural talents, one of my earlier posts may be helpful: “12 Questions to Help you Find Your Calling


“My heart guides me tenderly and truly.  I find ways through the wilderness.  My heart finds paths through the desert.”  –Julia Cameron


To find your passion, listen to the wisdom of your heart,

Dee