What are you meant to do? Is there a such thing as your dream job or a perfect job?
Today I’m sharing with you how to know what you’re meant to do in your career.
You’ll also know what to avoid when answering this question so you can identify the right next move for you.
What You’ll Learn
How to answer the question “What am I meant to do?”
The trap to avoid when deciding what will make you happy
What the Mario game can teach you about making career decisions
Featured in This Episode
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy.
At work and live the life you want.
If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. I am so happy to be here talking to you today and we are going to talk about what you are meant to do. Is there a perfect job for you? Does a perfect job even exist? These are super common questions and I’ve spent a lot of time pondering these myself over the course of my adult life. Really, even as a child, it’s been surfacing just how much. This has really been something that I’ve been thinking about throughout my life as I’ve been having conversations with my son who is in high school. He is a sophomore and he is getting more curious and exploring what he wants for his future as well. And so he’s asking me and Ellen, my wife, a lot of questions around how we identified our path, how we figured out what we love to do. And so I really wanted to come on here and I know I talk a lot about helping you find your next move and we’re going to explore this in a little bit of a different way today. So when I think about finding that what you’re meant to do kind of your purpose, right?
And thinking about this question a lot, this question applied to really all parts of my life. Like thinking, is this all there is? You create a goal in your life, whether it be for a certain type of relationship or material things or your career, and then you might get them and think, oh, this isn’t really what I wanted after all, but to talk off career for just a moment. I used to be super goaloriented, not in a motivating way, but in a really masculine way that was shaped by social conditioning. So social conditioning is simply the things that we are taught to want and to be. They are driven mostly unconsciously. They seem truthful like facts to us, a clear right and wrong, black and white thinking, when in reality there really isn’t such a thing. And we use these right and wrong ways of thinking to guide so much of our lives. It’s almost like we’re in boxes that we can’t get out of that we didn’t realize we created for ourselves. I saw a visual recently of a caged bird with the open door and the bird was staring at the door in this cage but not flying through it.
And that is how a lot of us operate. These boxes that bind us, they keep us caged. Even when there is an opening, we don’t see it. They kind of condition us to stay the course, to stay where we are. They tell us how we’re supposed to be, what we’re supposed to do, but the door is right there, and it’s open. But we overthink and analyze ourselves so much that we actually don’t go through it. So we stay caged birds. And this is all because of our social conditioning and the fact that we’re operating 95% of more in the unconscious. So there’s all these things embedded in our brain that we don’t even realize we’re necessarily making decisions based on the social conditioning. Our brain tells us that these decisions make sense. So how this showed up in my life is I had these external goals, these expectations and definitions of what success looked like, just like you do. Specifically, it was things like, I’m going to get married to a nice man. I won’t have children until I’m married. I won’t have children until I’m in a house that I own. I won’t have children until I have $10,000 in the bank.
These are rules I created for myself based on what I had experienced or better yet, what I didn’t experience. I didn’t have the perfect white picket fence childhood with parents who adored me. So my brain created these rules of what the ideal childhood and life looks like, and then it simply became a box checking activity. But to me, there were things I really wanted, and as long as I was striving towards them, they seemed like the right decision. But listen, I didn’t really know this at the time. I can apply all of my experience, my wisdom, education, expertise in behavioral science to know things now that I didn’t know then. But then it just seemed to all make sense. I got married to a nice man when I was 22 years old. I bought my first house when I was 23 years old. I already at that point had had more than I had as a child or what I saw Role modeled for me as a child. To me, I was on the right track. Then came the money. I had a good job working for Covance Labs, and my husband worked there, too, but we didn’t have that $10,000 in savings yet.
So at this point, I was 26 years old and having lunch with a friend, talking about how I wanted a baby, but it wasn’t time yet. I didn’t have enough money in the bank for me to feel secure enough to make that decision. I didn’t question or get to a deep level with myself on why I needed that money. But it really came down to me feeling safe to provide for my child or children and have them never go without or have to leave their house or feel unsafe. There’s a movie triple a long time ago called Father of the Bride with Steve Martin in it, if you remember. And they live in this big, gorgeous house, and there’s these parents that adore them, and they’re meddling in their wedding. And that is, like, ideally what I wanted to create for my children. So on the psychology of our childhoods, right? Like, we all have a background, whether we come from a really lavish lifestyle or we come from poverty or different countries, whatever walks of life we have, we all have experiences that have shaped us and have built beliefs and built guides in our brain that we don’t even realize are not always what we actually want, but what we’ve been conditioned to want.
So my friend says to me at this lunch, melissa, you have all the things that you want. You have more than most people. If you wait for things to be perfect, they never will be. Your life is now. No time will ever feel right. There will always be something that will keep you from making this step forward. That was really good advice. And it’s easier to hear or take that when it isn’t your own, right? Like, you can tell yourself, oh, there’s never going to be a perfect time. Just make the leap into that new job. Just make that leap into this new thing you want to do. But when you tell yourself, it’s a little bit harder to take credibility than if someone else tells you. So you can probably tell yourself as it relates to your career that it’s just not the right time or it’s not the right move, even when the signs are there. And this is really a power that we have within coaching is not just friendly advice, but having someone observe those thought patterns and be able to get to the root of why they’re there and help you move past them really in a very efficient way.
So anyway, I thought about what she said on my way home from Red Robin. So super fancy, Melissa, back in 2006. And I thought, she’s right. Plus, I had been with my husband at that time for several years. I had never gotten pregnant on accident, as they say. So maybe it would take a long time anyway. Maybe I would make the decision, take the sleep of faith, and it might take me years to get pregnant. And so that thought right there, that is an air and more of my conditioning that I had. I was giving myself some comfort in that thought process and thinking it might not happen anyway, right? It’s like we tell ourselves things to get us to jump the hurdle. Like, if you’re looking to apply for a job and you’re like, oh, I don’t know, I don’t think I’m qualified, or what will happen if I get it, I don’t even know if I want to leave, right? Like, you might tell yourself, oh, I might not get that job anyway to get you to push that submit button. So I went home and I told my husband, okay, let’s have a baby, like, right now.
And guess what? I was pregnant within a couple of weeks now. I have the most amazing 15 year old son, who is almost 16, that I was just talking about in the beginning of this episode, having all these conversations around what he wants to do with his life. Okay, so why am I telling you this story? Because this is a great example that isn’t related to a career of something that I wanted. But all of this social conditioning was telling me that was not possible, what I needed to have first, what I needed to wait for, and delaying me from actually getting what I wanted, and those reasons that I shared like a certain number of dollars in the bank, owning a home, being married, all of these things. Those are things that maybe a lot of people want before they have children. But I had used it as a box where I no longer was looking at possibilities. I was no longer looking objectively at what was possible. I wasn’t even necessarily considering what I really wanted. I was just focused on these boxes and these checks that I needed to make. And this theme happened really throughout my life, and even with how I made choices in my career, with how I handled conflict in my marriage at that time, with how I talked to myself when I was unhappy and felt I should be more grateful.
All of that is social conditioning and operating out of the unconscious. So when my clients come to me and they say they don’t know what they want next, I don’t know what I’m meant to do, I say, with so much love. Of course you don’t. And we talk about how I help you know who you are meant to be first, who you really are. Then we decide what you want to do. We have to release some of the social conditioning that makes your possibilities seem so limited. Now, I was going through the career discovery process that I use with a client recently, and the client was answering the questions and responding, thinking each answer that she was giving me was a decision that if she answered one way, it was going to mean a certain thing, when this was just exploration, right? If you think of it wasn’t a question like this, but if you think of a question like what is your favorite movie? And then you get all in your head about how to answer that question because you think if you say Forrest Gump, that’s going to mean something about your career and you might not be ready to make that choice.
Or if you say Wakanda forever that that means something else, right? When we’re really just getting to know you, we’re really just pulling apart who you really are, those parts that you probably forgot about, that you have a hard time answering, and we’re really uncovering who you really are and exploring what you want to do for your work, because they’re very intertwined. But that is how ingrained our social conditioning is. It’s why when someone asks you what you want, you might not know it’s why basic questions about what’s interesting about you or what your strengths can be. Like if you ever do two truths and a lie and you’re like, is there anything even interesting for me to put in here? That’s why those are difficult to answer on an unconscious level. We’re balancing our authentic self with the conditioning of what we think the right answer is. So now let’s talk about the question of finding what you’re meant to do. I want to offer that instead of asking what you’re meant to do, to ask who you are meant to be and then letting that answer guide your choice and what you want to do, this makes so much sense because you’re going to change and evolve as a person.
And if you’re always looking to what you’ve done before or what makes sense or finding that perfect thing for you to do, you likely won’t find it or be happy because you’re looking in the rear view mirror instead of looking into the present and the future. Look at who you want to be for this time in your life, what you enjoy, the impact you want to make, your values, the lifestyle you want, the technical skills you want to take with you. This is going to be so much more rewarding, but we get so caught up in what we’ve done before. I’m not saying that your technical skills or advanced degrees are irrelevant. I’m just saying you don’t have to use them to keep you in a box or keep you in a cage like that bird, think of it like this. I grew up on Mario, the game Mario on the Nintendo. OK? Mario is my favorite and I remember when it came out when I was in elementary school, I wasn’t fortunate enough to have a Nintendo game system. But I had a friend at the end of the block that did and we loved going there every day, taking our turn to play Mario in that duck game.
And I still play Mario on the switch. I have Mario monopoly. It is my jam and really the only video game that I play. So what I like about it is I like the levels, the superpowers, and the way that Mario advances and progresses in skill and the levels get harder and harder and they’re kind of linear and I just started thinking about that recently. So when you think of Mario and how when he advances levels and worlds, he gets access to new skills and powers. He has fire power and freeze power. He has the leaf where he can fly, but those aren’t all introduced on the very first level. As he gets to each new level, he can use different powers that are useful to him at that time. But as he grows in the game. He always has access to the ones that he had before, too. They’re in his toolkit, just like your experience and education are in yours. But when Mario, let’s say, on world five, and he chooses to use the leaf where he can fly to beat the level of where he is at at that moment, do you think he has mind drama about it?
Do you think he’s thinking about the fact that he also has access to the freeze power and then he can’t decide which one to use or that he’s leaving that behind, and so then he just doesn’t do anything because he can’t take his whole toolkit with him to the next level? Of course not. He chooses what he wants for that level to help him get where he wants to go, knowing he can always use the other tools or powers when he wants to. So it’s almost like when you’re focused on what you’re meant to do and worried about what a future decision could look like and how it might change what you’ve already done, so you stay stuck. It’s just like you’re playing Mario. But without using the best powers for the levels because you’re so concerned about your toolkit and all the things you’ve done before. And like wanting to have everything fit in the toolkit and wanting to bring it all with you. Instead of just thinking. What would be really fun and awesome for me to do right now. What do I really want to solve. What are the problems that are challenging to me that I want to work on?
And what are the tools that I have right now that I could use for that? Otherwise, you’re not setting yourself up for success or happiness, for getting to the castle in the game and having everything you want. You can’t even see it as a possibility because you might be stuck ruminating on everything in your toolbox. So I want you to consider looking at your life like a game that you’re in control of. You have so many powers and so much potential, you don’t even have to play it like Mario, where it’s sequential levels and worlds one step to the next. You can write your own game. Mario came out with a game on the switch called Odyssey. And I told you I was really accustomed to the sequential levels, very linear. And Odyssey is very, like, open. There’s no map. Well, I guess technically there is a map, but you get into a level and there’s no just going step stepsteps up, and you just follow along. You have to explore the whole world and discover what’s there. Right? And I loved it once. I kind of acclimated to playing Mario that way. It was the funnest of all of the Marios to have that exploration.
Right? And so that’s something you consider when you look at your career, is what do you want to explore? What do you want to do that you haven’t done before and have that thought process or work with me or find another avenue to get in touch with who you really are and how you want to play, how you want to explore before you sit down and say, okay, what’s on my resume and what can I do? Or maybe this is just the way that it is, that maybe there’s not an opportunity for me elsewhere. Maybe this is just the best I’m going to get. I get a good enough salary. Before you go down that path, just consider that it’s a game and that you get to explore who you are first and you get to decide what powers do you want to use, who are you meant to be, what powers or tools do you want to keep in your toolbox for right now? And which ones are you comfortable setting to the side? Then you can start to discover what you want to do. Pretty cool, right? So think about that this week.
Start exploring who you’re meant to be, who you really are, and what that might look like as it relates to your work. I promise it’s going to open up a whole new world of possibilities. And now I have Aladdin in my mind. So when you get into the role that lights you up, you’re being the thought leader that you really are, it’s all going to be worth it. Because you are a thought leader. You do have a contribution to make that is greater than the one that you’re making right now. And if you’re thinking, I don’t even know where to start, or you definitely want to do this, work with me by your side, guiding you every step because I have a proven process. Schedule a consultation for coaching. This is the work I do with my clients and why every one of them leaves happier while also getting those tangible career results. Have an amazing week.
Coaching with me is the best way.
To guarantee you get happy at work.
And achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply. It is the first step to get you from feeling to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to.
Make it a reality.
I will be by your side the entire way.