On Finding Yourself
Do you sometimes feel like you’re stuck in a rut, doing the same joyless job month after month and year after year? Like you’re stagnating professionally, trapped in an occupation or a position that no longer challenges or motivates you, yet afraid to rock the boat because of your dependency on the stable income the job offers, to say nothing of benefits such as health insurance?
While you may have resigned yourself to a humdrum existence — and even feel as though you should be grateful just to be gainfully employed in so precarious an economy — the good news is that you needn’t let go of whatever aspirations you may still harbor to be able to do something in life that you really love.
True, it may be easier said than done — but it may also be a lot easier than you think to put yourself in a position to audition for a new, more fulfilling role when the opportunity presents itself. In other words, to set the stage for your own reinvention.
To accomplish that, there are certain concrete things you can do — starting right now.
First, you have to write down precisely how you’d like to see yourself. You might even try pretending you’re still an adolescent and asking yourself what it is you’d really like to be when you grow up. Because the fact is that it’s never too late to change careers, to learn a new craft, business or skill. But in order to become what you envision yourself as, you first have to define it clearly in writing. You have to imagine the reply you’d like to be able to give when someone asks you what you do for a living, describe it on paper (or on your computer screen), and practice saying it out loud. In other words (as I noted some years ago in my book, The Detachment Paradox), write yourself out a “mission statement” — one that answers the question, “for what purpose was I put on this planet?”
The next step is to start reading up on whatever field it is that you really find captivating, and make yourself an expert in it. While colleges and universities charge tens of thousands of dollars to give people the knowledge they’ll need to pursue a particular field of endeavor, what they’d prefer you didn’t know is that you can essentially acquire such information all on your own. True, you might require a formal diploma to practice certain professions — but there are still plenty of disciplines at which you can succeed by becoming self-taught, as some of the world’s most renowned entrepreneurs have proven. And you never know to what heights such enlightenment might lead you (as I was reminded when reading the obituary for Tom Clancy, who used the knowledge acquired from extensive reading on military technology to go from being an insurance salesman to a best-selling author.)
Often, it can take no more than a week or two to master the basic subject matter, if you’re willing to apply yourself. Setting aside a minimum of two hours every day would be ideal, but whatever time you can spare, be it an hour a day or even less, can get you off to a great start. You might try devoting the time you might ordinarily spend surfing the web or idly watching a situation comedy or reality show to Googling sites that can help enlighten you on your exciting new passion instead, or even peruse books on the subject.
Once you feel well enough acquainted with the essential aspects of whatever pursuit you’ve chosen, you might start talking to people who are also familiar with the subject and who will add to your understanding. By this time, your enthusiasm will be contagious, and before you know it,, whole new horizons and potentials will have opened up for you — so instead of the mundane routine in which you thought you were trapped, you may just find yourself achieving success and recognition in something totally new and different that makes life interesting again and all things seem possible, whether it be a creative pursuit like becoming a writer, musician or movie producer, or an entrepreneurial one such as opening a restaurant or founding a company. But you needn’t immediately quit your “day job” in order to make such things come about. You can start slowly, dipping your toe in the water, so to speak, perhaps by becoming a consultant or getting spare-time gigs in your new enterprise, gradually building up a clientele or perhaps even developing a “fan club,” until it gathers sufficient steam to become a full-time venture.
In essence, you can reinvent yourself in whatever role you always secretly dreamed about. And if it involves a “road less traveled by,” so much the better, because you may well discover that you’re the sought-after expert who has no real competition and is being interviewed on the evening news for your unique specialty.
Then, too, even if you’re happy and successful at what you’re now doing, there’s no reason why you can’t expand into other endeavors and activities that will infuse your life with renewed vitality. In any case, why limit yourself when there are so many things you may be capable of doing well — and don’t require a degree to pursue?
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