There are a few people I run into who know EXACTLY what they want to do with their lives but just can’t quite figure out how to make it happen. For the vast majority of the others, their struggle is to figure out what work are they meant to do while here on the planet.
If you are in a corporate job, this problem can be exacerbated, since one of the main things you learn to stay viably employed is to REPRESS your true, honest voice inside that says "I can’t stand this meeting and if I have to stay here one more minute I will destroy the PowerPoint projector with my bare hands!" or "If my knucklehead boss stops by my cube one more time with another thing to do, I will jump on my chair, scream like an ape and throw my stapler at him!"
In order to find your "life’s work," the stuff that Jim Collins says you are "genetically encoded to do," you must listen to your true, authentic voice. It usually speaks through our creative selves more than our rational, so get yourself a three-ring notebook and look here for clues:
- What is your favorite movie? Is it an action-adventure, romance, science fiction thriller or smart and intellectual foreign flick? Rent and watch it again, and pay particular attention to the parts that really get you engaged and excited. Write down what the characters are doing or saying that you find fascinating. (My favorite: Belle Epoch, a funny and highly entertaining Spanish film with a very young Penelope Cruz. I love it because it is romantic and funny with beautiful scenery, a zany plot and sexy characters)
- What are your favorite channels on television? Are you a PBS-only purist, or an E-Entertainment Network gossip junkie? Do you watch to escape or to learn? What kinds of programs really excite you? Watch a few of your favorite shows and write down why you love them (I was a former Law and Order-aholic, but now am fascinated by TLC’s Clean Sweep, a decorating and organizing show. I love it because it shows stressed out people and rooms transformed into clean, organized and beautiful spaces)
- What kind of art museums are you attracted to? Photography exhibits? Bleeding-edge modern art? Classic painters? Take a hooky day at work and visit your favorite museum. Play the cold-warm-hot game as you drink in the art and make note of the pieces that really get your creative juices flowing and your heart beating. Write down the artist, piece of art and why you love it so much. (I love many kinds of art, but remember being completely mesmerized by an Impressionist exhibit in Switzerland. I love the dreamy and idealized natural scenes that communicate peace and tranquility)
- What kind of music do you love? Are you a techno junkie, old school Motown fan or classical music aficionado? Pull out your favorite CD and listen to the songs. What do you love about the beat? The lyrics? The musicians and singers? Write down the title and lyrics of your favorite song. (This is another tough one for me since I love so many different types of music. But one of my favorite CDs is Mary J. Blige’s "No More Drama." I love her soulful, impassioned declaration of personal power and loving transformation)
- What kind of outdoor environment makes you the most happy? If given a choice, would you rather be sitting at an outdoor table on the Champs-Elysees in Paris or on a remote mountaintop in Nepal? Do you feel alive scuba diving with sharks or strolling lazily along a country lane? Where do you feel the most at one with yourself, happy and peaceful? If you can go to this place, do it and write about why you feel so good. If it is too far, close your eyes and imagine you are there and write about what you remember (I wrote about my favorite outdoor place Phoenix Lake in another post Call in Well Today. I feel connected to the trees and water, love the rich green colors and totally peaceful and meditative setting)
Your essential self is intimately connected with your creative self. Review all your notes about your favorite creative endeavors and places. You may be surprised what they reveal about your true life’s path.
What are your favorites?
Update: you may appreciate a follow up post to this one which attempts to answer the "so what?" that many feel after doing this exercise. http://www.escapefromcubiclenation.com/get_a_life_blog/2006/03/prologue_to_5_e.html