When you don’t know what you want

I coach people to make new career choices. And in our sessions, I often hear: "I don't like my job but I don't know what I want instead".

Can I say, I don't believe it?

Well, it is not that I don't believe you. I fully believe in you when you say you don't know what you want, but deep down, I know that you know what you want but you might not know that you know what you want.

Okay, let me solve this riddle. What I want to say is that there is a knowing inside of you, which you have covered with "It Is not possible", "I'm not qualified enough", "I cannot earn money from it",  "People will laugh at me.", "I will fail at this,.. and and and and...

There were so many layers of judgement that you buried what you want way down until  you completely forgot about it.

I know it because I have experienced this myself and I experience it with most of my coaching clients.

Let's start with my story. My first job was a disaster. The requirements of the job were completely opposite to who I was. When I faced the truth and decided to find a job that I loved, I was more confident. I was interviewing for a management trainee position in a bank and HR ladies asked me the classical question "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" I said "in your place. I see myself doing your work, because I want to work in HR. I want to work with and support people, but before that I want to gain experience in the field, so that I know exactly what the experience of an employee is. Only then I can support people."

Thinking about it now I feel a bit bad because I was indirectly saying to them "You don't really know about other people's jobs, because you've never worked there." Well that happened, I was young and apparently HR ladies were not offended because I continued with the next rounds of interviews in this company and got hired.

I stayed in the same work field for 12 years. My specialty enabled me to work internationally and move to Germany. But in the last years, it became too technical and I lost the meaning in it. I did not like the work I was doing and I saw that the work itself was not needed. Nobody would miss it if it was not done anymore.  

I found myself in a dark place of why me, why this, what now, how can I even....I knew I didn't want to do this job, but I didn't know what I wanted. I first ruminated a lot about it and got depressed. Then I looked for help, I googled a lot, I asked around, I attended courses and took coaching.  

After all this digging, something emerged from the past, which I completely had forgotten: This idea of working with people, this idea of working in HR, and this idea of doing coaching. I remembered, years ago I had taken coaching and thought "Oh  was this asking questions, giving back what you hear, helping people to move towards their dreams and goals a job?  I could do that!" But somehow I had completely buried it.

As I remembered it, I also remembered why I buried it: It carried a heavy attachment, "I can't earn money with it.".  Therefore, I had not given myself the permission to even carry the wish with me. It took me quite some time and support of my mastermind group to reconnect with my wish and start working towards it.

I experienced a similar story with a coaching client of mine. We started working together for her next career move as she was let go from her company. I always invite clients to envision the perfect state of work and life for them so we can work to move towards that picture. When I asked her about her vision, she was blank. She said she did not know. Her current job was kind of okay, she could do something like that. I could clearly see the lack of motivation. I shared my observation. She said, "Well, maybe if I could the same work but in a different company, that helps a cause, that could be something I'd like."  I inquired what causes she would like to work in, she gave a couple of names but she was still hesitant.

I was sensing something was there, which was not coming out. I asked "If you could do anything and everything was possible, what would you do?". First she said "I don't know". I held the silence. Then all of a sudden, she said "You know, I would love to be a dog trainer!" with her eyes shining. Then she paused, and said "But that is just a dream, nobody can earn enough money from it. I said "Well, who do you know who is a dog trainer?". She did not know anyone! "How do you then know how they don't earn enough money?". She did not. But she could find out.

She found an association of dog trainers, got connected to one trainer, learned that he was doing it as his full time job and earning enough. She even found out that if she started working as a dog trainer, she could get clients easily as she did not have any competition. As the end of our coaching engagement approached, she was still not sure if this could turn into a full time work for her but she had reconnected with her wish. She found her energy back which was buried with the assumption that "it can't be done". She started acting from a place of possibility and curiosity. She stepped on the journey and started the training to become a dog trainer.

This story repeats itself again and again. Somewhere in our life we get a glimpse of what is that we want but before we could nurture the dream we cover it up with assumptions and fears, put in a drawer and lock it away untill we completely forgot that it ever existed.

If you also say "You don't know what you want", I bet there is a drawer which you forgot that existed that hosts your wish. The key to this drawer is curiosity and asking questions: If you could do anything, what would you do?  If you knew you couldn't wouldn't fail, what would you do?  If you had all the money in the world, and money was not a problem, what would you?

Journal your answers to these questions, if no answer comes, sit with the questions, you will soon recognize a glimpse, something moving. Here your self-control is needed. You will immediately want to bury it back with fear and assumptions. I want you to recognize it and consciously choose to hold the glimpse and new energy and decide on a little course of action. This action can be searching for jobs that goes in the direction of this glimpse, talking with someone similar work, taking a short workshop about the topic. You have to do something  so that you nurture the energy and let it grow and take shape.

It is time to revive what is buried, it is time to give yourself permission to pursue what you love!

Lots of love to you and wishing you all the best on your journey!

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