My biggest joy when I work with coaching clients is the moment they gain clarity on what they want to do.
Here's the thing though.
Finding the right path for you is often less about the job, and more about your connection to it. If you know what lights you up, then it is a lot easier to know if you are in the right job or not.
The ancient Japanese concept of 'Ikigai' - a combination of finding the perfect balance between what you love doing, what you are good at, what you can get paid for doing, and what the world needs - has experienced a recent boost in popularity outside of Japan, helping people find their ‘reason for being’.
Why is it so hard to know if you are on the right path?
Life events, societal views, relationships, expectations, and beliefs can dim your awareness of where that light is shining. Often times, to such an extreme, that we no longer even see it at all.
Financially secure, well-regarded, executives are increasingly describing feelings of disconnection, emptiness, and anxiety - in many cases leading to depression. Working with clients in these situations often reveals a ‘lack of’ in their role. Mostly around meaning but also around worth. Six figure salaries won’t help your sense of worth if you can’t articulate the importance of what you do. Many find that their career is constraining their values, but haven’t explored ways of enabling these within their existing role or company.
Some people are very intuitive and find careers that are incredibly fulfilling for them intellectually and spiritually from the outset. From my experience, that is the minority, and most people have several goes at finding the best path for themselves. Some may never find it. But it is not always the case that your path has to take you outside of our current job.
But work isn't meant to bring us joy right? Is it?
I once worked with a client who was an incredibly talented and accomplished musician but had stopped playing years earlier. She had gone so far to separate from this side of herself that she no longer participated in any musical activity, despite acknowledging the immense joy and energy she got from it. Sometimes the thing we want to do the most is the thing we go out of our way to avoid - fearful of letting it in case we enjoy it too much.
The idea that work needs to be difficult starts back at school, maybe earlier for some. We are made to dress the same, do the same things, and keep the same timetables. The concepts of good and bad, success and failure, are embedded in our reward psyche by at least the ages of 7 or 8. It doesn't feel like fun when all you really want to be doing is climbing trees, designing new worlds, or dressing up as new character. But parents and teachers remind you that it is what you need to do to get a good job one day. The harder you work, the more successful (and rewarded) you will be.
"Hard work pays off"
This ‘hard work pays off’ mindset can follow you into your choice of career and jobs (possibly even relationships, but that is another post). It's hardly surprising then that many mid-lifers reach a point of feeling disconnected and quite frankly a little disappointed. Once the flurry of promotions, marriage and children has passed by they are often left asking what they are doing and why. In a job that might be viewed as 'successful', you can still feel completely disconnected from anything that feels meaningful to you.
Finding your path isn't always easy. It can take a good deal of soul searching, perhaps a change in career or pivot - but not always. Whatever approach you take, it is undoubtedly a journey worth going on.