I’ve found that many people have no idea what they want to do with their life. They either feel overwhelmed with possibilities and don’t know where to start, or they feel like there is nothing specific that is calling to them. Either way, they are stuck where they are.
I developed these questions over the years, adding some things and taking others away, depending on what works. The list now represents those questions that have had the greatest impact on the people I’ve worked with in the last twenty-plus years.
Remember: sometimes the simplest questions yield the most profound results.
Letting Your Dreams Come to the Surface
I remember giving these questions to a group in a workshop a few years ago, and one of the participants raised his hand with the query, “Don’t you have more challenging questions?” He was fooled by the simplicity and familiarity of what was being asked. I replied that these seemingly easy questions are the ones that appear to unlock our hearts and let our dreams come to the surface.
The key is the simplicity. The more seriously we take the question, the more profound our answer will be. That man who raised his hand did the questionnaire and ended up having a revelation that resulted in him following a brand-new path.
Answer from the Heart; Don't Overthink the Questions
Read through these questions one at a time and have your journal handy. Write down whatever answers come. Don’t judge as you write, and don’t try to answer the questions “correctly.” Just respond to them from your heart, without overthinking them.
You can work through the whole questionnaire in one sitting, or you can do one a day and see how your answers evolve.
- Don’t overthink it.
- Don’t be limited by what you can see or scenarios you create.
- Chances are that the way it turns out will be different than you imagine.
- You may have considered some of these questions before, but keep an open mind and think about them again.
- Use your journal to record your answers.
- Don’t force it, and don’t judge.
Simple Questions Can Lead to a New Path
1. If you could do anything for a career, what would you do?
Why this is important: The dreams you have, starting with those dreams you had as a child, are guides that keep you moving forward. Even if a dream feels unattainable, it can be a compass to give you a direction.
2. Name three (or more) people who have careers that you admire and would like to emulate.
Why this is important: We are drawn to certain people for a reason—they represent something that we want to awaken and pursue in our own life.
3. What do you currently do that drains you? What energizes you?
Why this is important: Our feelings are clues to our life purpose. When you do something and feel drained afterward, this is an indicator you are going in the wrong direction. When you do something and feel energized by it, you know you are going in the right direction.
4. What would you do if money weren’t an issue?
Why this is important: We often delay our dreams by saying that we will get started once we have more money. We think of money as security, rather than realizing that we are using money as an excuse not to live the life we love.
5. What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Why this is important: This is a variation on the question above, but with a different emphasis. We often want guarantees from life that we won’t fail before we move forward. In my opinion, staying stuck is a bigger risk than trying something and failing. Every so-called “failure” is actually a stepping-stone to success.
6. What do those closest to you say are your gifts or talents? What would your best friend say is the perfect career for you? (If you don’t know, ask them!)
Why this is important: I’ve discovered that friends and family can often spot patterns in our own lives that we can’t always see for ourselves. It’s valuable to get their feedback and find out if they have any ideas that surprise and perhaps excite you.
7. What hobbies or interests do you have that you think would never be income-producing?
Why this is important: Many, many people over the years have told me that they could never make money doing what they love. One person told me she could never make any money designing fabric because she didn’t have any training. However, after the workshop she decided to pursue it anyway. When she stuck with her Life Contract, things happened, and long story short, she now makes good money designing fabric. Why not you?
8. Do you feel you are more creative/right-brained or more analytical/left-brained? Or a good combination of the two? Do you tend to work better by yourself or with others? Are you a lone wolf or a team player?
Why this is important: These questions narrow down not only what you could do in your life, but how you could do it. Knowledge is power, and knowing your tendencies and how you work can help you design the perfect career.
9. List ten common careers that you are sure are not for you. What do they have in common? What would be the opposite of those careers?
Why this is important: When people tell me they have no idea what they want to do, I find they usually have very definite ideas of what they don’t want and why. Knowing what you don’t want helps you get closer to what you do want.
10. What would be your perfect setting, salary, hours, and environment for a career?
Why this is important: This is another way at getting to what you would like. Some people cannot tell me what career they want, but they are able to gain insights when I ask them to describe the details of what a perfect job might include.
11. If you could design a perfect job based on what you like to do, what might that job include?
Why this is important: As with #10, this question asks you to not think about what you could do or what you should do or what has worked for you in the past, but rather what you would like in a career.
12. Get a newspaper and read through the articles for clues. Every time you come across an article that lists someone doing something that you think would be fulfilling, fun, and/or interesting circle the article, or the part of the article, that caught your interest. Make a list of what you circled. What conclusions can you draw?
Why this is important: Using newspapers is a good way to get exposed to many different ideas, careers, and possibilities that you might not think of by yourself.
13. Would the perfect career involve any of the following (check all the ones that appeal to you):
__children __food __computers __art __designing __management
__meetings __teaching __spirituality __math/accounting
__helping others __health/wellness __working in an office
__working at home __normal hours __unusual hours __writing
__building __sales __interacting with others __trav____other_____
Make a list of those you checked and elaborate how each would fit a need or want you would have in a career.
Why this is important: These descriptions are prompts that might spark ideas and help you narrow down what feels right.
14. What legacy would you like to leave behind? How would you like to make your mark in the world?
Why this is important: This is a way of “working backward.” By thinking about how you would like your legacy to look, you can see what you need to do now to make sure that legacy comes true.
15. If someone offered you one million dollars to do a job of your choice for one year, what jobs come to mind?
Why this is important: This question takes away two of the fears that many people have: the fear of not having enough money and the fear of being locked in a career they don’t love. If you remove both of those fears in your imagination, what does that open up for you?
16. Do this exercise: Take a deep breath and close your eyes. When your eyes are closed, ask yourself: “What does Life want me to do? What would I like to do? What’s next for me?”
Sit for a few moments and let ideas come to mind—don’t force, don’t judge—and when you are done, write down anything that turned up. Try doing this every day for a week. If nothing comes up, don’t stress, and try it again tomorrow.
Why this is important: This question calls for you to relax and not force any answers. When we relax, we are open to hearing what our soul would love for us to do.
17. If you can’t think of a career that would be a perfect fit, what careers might be good fits—or pretty good fits? What would it take to make those almost-perfect careers into ones that would be joyous and fulfilling? (NOTE: Don’t use the word “perfect.”)
Why this is important: It’s easy to get hung up on finding that “perfect” job or career. So let’s take the word “perfect” out of the equation, and think about what might be a “good” job—something you would like to do without the pressure of making it perfect.
18. Do any of your friends or family members have a career that you would like to try? What is it, and could you ask them questions about it?
Why this is important: Sometimes we see a close friend or family member in a career that appeals to us. Why not ask them more about it and see if it might be something that would be good for you as well? It might be nice to have a loved one share the same career as you!
This excerpt was reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing. ©2014. by Joel Fotinos.
Distributed by www.redwheelweiser.com
About the Author
Joel Fotinos is the author of numerous books: My Life Contract: 90 Day Program for Prioritizing Goals, Staying on Track, Keeping Focused, and Getting Results (Hampton Roads). He is also a vice-president at Penguin Random House, and publisher of the Tarcher/Penguin imprint. For more information, go to joelfotinos.com.
Watch a video with Joel Fotinos: Sunday Talk: Your Contract with Life at CSLseattle