Every few years I find myself asking the following question:

“What do I want to be when I grow up?”

This is also the most frequent question that I get from my coaching clients. The problem usually comes in the form of:

  • I feel stuck in my career
  • I’ve lost (or can’t find) my passion for my work
  • I don’t have the same drive that I had years ago

The answer to this challenging question usually requires that we take a step back and assess how you want to spend the next few years of your busy life.

As a mindful leader, it’s essential that you know what path you are on AND help your tribe figure out their path.

Here’s there process that I go through to determine my purpose:

Step One: Answer the four questions.

Discovering your purpose requires you to answer four simple questions:

  1. What are you really great at?
  2. What do you love doing?
  3. How can you make the world a better place?
  4. What can you get paid for?

Let’s spend some time on each one.

Q1: What are you really great at?

Finding your purpose is about bringing your best self to the world.

A great place to start is to identify areas where you are proficient.

Just some of the things on my list are:

  • Mindfulness
  • Leadership/Management
  • Project Management
  • Time Management
  • Career Development
  • Self Development
  • Strategy
  • Computer Programming
  • Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP)
  • Coaching

If you have trouble answering this question, here are a couple of tips:

1) What do you feel extremely qualified to teach others? Each one of the topics that I’ve listed above I believe I could add value to others in some way.

2) If you find that your list is short or non-existent, your first task is to gain some depth in a particular domain. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

3) Most people make a mistake thinking that they will go deep in a particular area after they have discovered their passion. Big mistake. In reality, you only develop a passion for something after you have mastered it. Remember, competence comes first, passion second.

Q2: What do you love doing?

If you are really good at something, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy doing it.

Here are a few things that I really enjoy doing:

  • An avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction (I inhale books)
  • Personal and professional growth (aka self-help junkie)
  • Creating rapid success strategies (for myself and others)
  • Helping others become the best versions of themselves
  • Helping others achieve breakthroughs (creating ah-ha moments)
  • Running mastermind groups (have you joined the LEARN2LEAD Community?)
  • Writing and product development
  • Leading and Managing teams and projects
  • Going on adventures with my kids

If you are stuck answering this question, here are a couple of tips:

1) Think back through your life for peak moments when you felt that everything was going well. What were you doing at that time?

2) What role models inspire you? It’s not unusual to follow in the footsteps of others. What do you admire about them and how can you adapt what they do to your path?

3) When reviewing each activity, a good question to keep asking yourself is “so what.” This will help you figure out the “why” behind each moment.

Q3: How can you make the world a better place?

Your purpose needs to be bigger than you.

If you haven’t included others in your purpose, you are missing the point.

As you move up through the five stages of a mindful leader, your purpose is to help each member of your tribe discover their purpose.

In the early stages, this question requires a little more creative thinking to figure out.

Here are a few ideas from my list:

  • Battle the forces of mediocrity in my life and help others to do the same
  • Help others become better leaders and managers
  • Help struggling corporate professionals rise to the next level
  • Coach and mentor the people I work with
  • Help others become the best versions of themselves through mindfulness

Here are some tips if you are having trouble:

1) What really pisses you off? This question helped me figure out that I really hate mediocrity. The status quo is not for me, and I’ve made it my purpose to banish it from myself and to help others do the same.

2) Another great question to ask is, “What would you do if you couldn’t fail?” This will help you think beyond yourself to come up with something a little bigger.

3) Find a company whose values or mission aligns with yours. Many companies are working to make the world a better place. Find one of them and build a partnership.

Q4: What can you get paid for?

I don’t know about you, but I need to make money.

I have a wife and two daughters to support, and I believe that I can serve more people as I increase my earning potential.

So whatever I decide to do, I need to earn a decent living.

Here are a few things that I could get paid for:

  • Flipping burgers at McDonald’s (I did this through high school)
  • Computer Programmer
  • Senior Leadership Role in Large Corporation
  • Project Manager
  • Leadership + Strategy Coach
  • Mindful Leadership Coach

This one is tough to think outside of the box. It’s easy to keep the list safe, only listing things that you’ve done in the past.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

1) What value do you provide? You will only get paid for providing value to someone else. The higher value that you can provide, the more you can earn.

2) Individual contributor or leader of people? If you only focus on yourself, you will earn less. Organizations will pay more for good leaders because of their ability to impact more people.   

3) Employee or entrepreneur? One size does not fit all. Some people are not cut out to be entrepreneurs and vice versa. My approach early on in my career was to be an intrapreneur: to act like an entrepreneur within a large corporation.

4) Watch industry trends. I moved away from computer programming because the industry was becoming saturated with global competition. In the future, I see that self-awareness and mindfulness are a critical skill that people need to be successful. What trends do you see in your domain?

Step Two: Analyze and review your responses.

Now that you have the answers to the four questions it’s time to decide which path you are going to follow.

1) Review your answers to each of the questions. You are looking for patterns across your responses.

2) See if you can notice connections and come up with at least three possible career paths.

3) Rate each area (skill, passion, meaning and money) on a scale of 1 to 5. One being low and five being high.

For example, reviewing my responses, possible career paths could be:

Choice One: Continue as a contract project manager working for large corporations. I have the skills for this, the money is excellent, and I do enjoy it. However, I have little opportunity to coach and mentor others.

Choice Two: Go back to full-time as a senior leader working within large corporations. I have the skills for this, and this would give me the opportunity to coach and mentor others. However, I would be taking a pay-cut transitioning from contract to full-time.

Choice Three: Transition into a leadership development role. I have the skills and knowledge to do this and passion is high. This role is built around coaching and mentoring others, which gives meaning and contribution a high score. The challenge with this role is the transition and ramp-up period. The money would be tight short term however I can see the opportunity for future growth.

Step Three: Make a decision and take action.

For the final step, summarize your results using a simple chart. This makes it easier to compare possible paths.

Here are my results with ratings laid out in chart form:

Role

Skills

Passion

Meaning

Money

Project Manager

+++++

+++

++

+++++

Senior Leader

+++++

++++

+++

+++

Leadership Development

+++++

+++++

+++++

+ / +++++

As I am reviewing the results, it seems like a no-brainer that my career path lies in the areas of leadership development. Hence the reason that I’ve decided to transition to this full-time.

Having gone through this process myself (repeatedly) here are some tips to help you decide on the next phase of your career.

Purpose is a journey, not a destination.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will discover fulfilment or happiness when you achieve your career goals. While extrinsic rewards are useful, your long-term happiness will come from intrinsic rewards. Build personal satisfaction from the act of walking the path, not in the final destination.

Your purpose will evolve.

As you explore new paths and continue to step out of your comfort zone, your purpose will evolve. I suggest going through this exercise every year. This will allow you to fine-tune your compass and deepen your connection with your purpose.

Build upon the past.

Make sure you invest the time to answer the four questions and explore your responses genuinely. It may take some time to recall all the details from past experiences. Schedule some quiet time to go through this process and give it your full attention.

Review options with someone you trust.

It can be useful to review with someone you trust. Warning – The people closest to us have a vested interest in keeping us on our current path and may not be open to changes in direction. Reach out to a trusted coach or mentor if necessary.

Start where you are.

Don’t overthink it. Sometimes the next step is just to make some adjustments in your current role. Look for ways to develop a new skill or take on a new responsibility. Throughout my career, I organized many learning groups within my workplace. This is a great way to develop leadership skills, increase your visibility, and learn something new all at the same time.

Start a passion project to explore a new path.

While the next step in your journey may seem obvious, sometimes it can be extremely tough to actually make the leap. I don’t want to minimize how tough making a decision like this can be. To make a smooth transition, look for ways to explore this new path without burning bridges. Perhaps starting a passion project (aka side hustle) on the side to test the waters.

Go all in.

Sometimes you just need to say ‘F**k it!’ and go all-in. These are for those career decisions that you know are deeply connected with your purpose, however, for whatever reason, you are afraid to make the leap. Not acting on the right decision can eat away at you (trust me I know). If you find yourself in this situation, make the leap, and say no to everything else.

Summary

Let’s recap the process to discover your purpose:

Step One: Answer the four questions.

Take some time to explore and answer these four simple questions:

  1. What are you really great at?
  2. What do you love doing?
  3. How can you make the world a better place?
  4. What can you get paid for?

Step Two: Analyze and review your responses.

Look for connections and come up with at least three possible choices. Give each one a rating.

Step Three: Make a decision and take action.

Once you have decided on your career path, determine the next step and take action.

If you have any questions about this process, post them in the comments below or head over to the LEARN2LEAD Community. Happy to answer them.

The Mindful Leaders Toolkit

Remove stress, anxiety, and overwhelm by learning mindful leadership habits to build self-confidence, achieve results, and expand influence (all in just 15 minutes a day).

The Mindful Leaders Toolkit

7 Mindful Leadership tools and tactics to help you remove stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, and will empower you to build self-confidence, achieve results, and expand influence (all in just 15 minutes a day)

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