You may have been feeling burned-out or unfulfilled with your career for some time now. Perhaps the dissatisfaction has you endlessly searching for your next vacation destination, or numbing out on TV and ice cream every night. When your career doesn’t align with your true desires, values, and passions, you’ll get burned out faster, and you’ll feel less satisfied– even if you’re making good money.
What is Soul Searching?
It’s easy to trick yourself into believing that you don’t have options, or that you should just “suck it up” and be happy with the job you’re in. However, not only will it serve you to take steps toward aligning your career with your desires– it’ll serve the world, as well. After all, how much can you possibly help people when you’re feeling unhappy, tired, bitter, and dissatisfied day after day?
Your first step is to take a deep breath and remind yourself: you don’t have to “fix” your entire life all at once. You’ll overwhelm yourself by believing that everything has to be perfect, right this second, and then you’ll end up feeling MORE burned out.
After you’ve allowed yourself to relax, unclenched your jaw and your shoulders, and taken a few deep breaths, then you may begin.
How to do Soul Searching
1. Get To Know Yourself
Do you really know yourself? How much time do you spend with yourself? When you’re alone with your thoughts, do you distract yourself with TV, alcohol, food, and social media?
Being alone with our thoughts can be scary if we’re not used to it– so if this feels foreign, feel free to ease into it one baby step at a time. Spending time with yourself will help you to build awareness around what YOU actually like, dislike, desire, value, and want. Often, we spend so much time around others, watching TV, or consuming social media, that the boundaries between what WE like and what THEY like actually become blurred. This is how we end up stuck and unfulfilled: we don’t know ourselves.
Here are a few simple ideas to help you with soul searching:
– Spend time in nature. Being outside will have a naturally soothing effect on your – frenzied mind, and will allow you to observe your thoughts with greater ease.
– Journal. Research “journal prompts for self-awareness” online, pick your favorites, set a timer for 5-10 minutes and write.
– Meditate. Research guided meditations on YouTube; there are plenty for beginners which are only five minutes long!
2. Pinpoint the Problem that’s Making You Soul Search
Some pain points may be obvious: the pay isn’t great, your coworkers are passive aggressive, you’re not emotionally invested in the work, and so on. However, it works wonders to dig deep into how you truly feel about going to work every day.
Make a list of everything that you wish you could change about your current job– and I mean every single thing. Would you rather be working outdoors instead of indoors, or vice versa? Would you prefer more time for socialization, or maybe you wish you had more time for introspection instead?
The idea behind this list is not to be “ungrateful” or to make yourself feel even worse about a situation you’re not happy with. Rather, you’re practicing building self-awareness with this exercise. Noticing what you really don’t like will help you to bring awareness to what you DO like, which brings me to my next point…
3. Acknowledge Your Strengths
Sure, you may immediately think, “I don’t like anything about it”. Again, I want you to dig deep here! Even if there’s just one point that you really appreciate about your job, write it down.
Maybe your boss exercises compassion when employees need to take sick or vacation days. Or, maybe, you received a complimentary gym membership as a perk of employment. Think hard– what wouldn’t you change about the job you’re in?
These are some of the key qualities you’ll want to look for in your next job or career. Oftentimes, we get tunnel vision, and we tend to only look at two things: the pay, and whether we like the boss and coworkers after meeting them once. Making that mistake again, however, may leave you feeling unfulfilled once more after just a few months. So, make sure to take note of what you like, and look for those qualities in other jobs!
4. Ask yourself: how do you want to serve the world?
We all want to make the world a better place. And we all CAN make the world a better place, in our own small way. In fact, believing that we cannot make the world a better place, that we cannot help people improve their lives, even in the smallest of ways, is often what leaves us feeling stuck and unfulfilled. We end up taking jobs that make us feel like we’re hurting rather than helping the world, and then, it’s no wonder we go home exhausted and eager to numb out.
Remember: we can’t all serve the world in the same way. Some people help by becoming teachers, some become counselors, and some become engineers so that they can build better infrastructure for their cities. On the other hand, even a grocery store cashier can help the world in their own small way, by treating each customer with kindness as they send them on their way. So, don’t think that you have to work in a helping profession to serve the world!
You may start by writing on these questions: “How do I want to impact people’s lives? What natural skills, talents, or abilities do I possess which can impact people in this way?” You may be surprised by what you come up with!
In addition, you may be surprised how much it can help to ask the people closest to you what great qualities they see in you. Ask your best friends, your partner, or your family members what your most positive qualities are. Whatever their answer, ask yourself: how can I serve the world with these qualities? You may want to circle back to step one, and spend some time journaling or meditating on that question.
If you want to take this last idea a step further, ask the people in your life what career they envision you really excelling at.
Start Some Serious Soul Searching
Your next step is to start searching! What kinds of positive qualities, likes, and dislikes have you come up with throughout the course of these exercises? What careers or jobs are a perfect fit for your positive qualities and your likes? What careers or jobs do you need to stay away from?
Again, a key point here is to take it slow. You don’t need to rush, and you certainly don’t need to complete a career change overnight. Perhaps you need some extra training; could you sign up for a class? Is it time to consider going back to school?
Take it one step at a time. If you take one baby step per day, after a year, you will have taken 365 baby steps in the direction of a wildly rewarding career, and you will look back in awe at just how far you’ve come. Above all, show gratitude towards yourself. You are making the world a better place by striving to serve it with joy.