I have several friends who are in a career-seeking mode. They have jobs, but these jobs don’t quite fit and they are trying to discern a career path that uses their unique talents and contributes back to the world.
One of those friends has been reading various books, looking for guidance. She shared a simple exercise from the book with the rest of us and we all decided to give it a go.
List everything you’re interested in or have been interested in in the past.
Don’t censor yourself. Don’t limit yourself. There’s really no way of doing this wrong. Just take some time and write it all down.
As you add to your list, don’t be afraid to be specific. You could say you’re interested in sports, but a more specific answer might be “alpine skiing” or “coaching my kid’s little league team” or “I like napping on the couch while golf plays on the TV in the background.”
You could say “astronomy” but what do you specifically find interesting? Imagining life on other planets? Looking at the moon through the telescope in your backyard? Watching old episodes of Star Trek?
Any answer is fine, but refining the list helps you understand where your real curiosity, skills and interests lie.
The next step in the book is to consider what your interests have in common. But we discovered a much more intriguing next step.
We then went to our “not interested list.”
Turn over the page and write down all the interests, hobbies, jobs, skills that you have no interest in learning more about. If you do, I bet you find it kind of hard to begin… and then incredibly freeing (and fun) to do.
Write down the fact that you don’t find babies interesting, that you don’t care to know the difference between a rose and a daisy, that shopping leaves you bored. Admit that you’ve always hated working out or despise comics. Once you start, I bet a whole lot of other non-interests tumble out.
Here’s where it gets interesting. When you compare the “interested” vs the “not interested” lists, I bet you will start to feel an emotional reaction to certain items. Some things are vaguely interesting, but nothing you’re going to go out of your way to pursue. Other things literally make your heart beat a little faster with excitement. Some things may be kind of boring to you, while others make you absolutely nuts.
Doesn’t curious feel better than “couldn’t care less”?
You don’t have to be looking for a job for this to be a helpful activity. We all get stuck in ruts. It’s distressingly easy to misplace passion.
Perhaps in the past you didn’t have time to pursue that interest, but now you do.
Perhaps you don’t have a good reason to learn that skill… except that you really, really want to.
Perhaps you’d forgotten how much that hobby refreshed your spirit.
This is your permission slip to explore that list now. You don’t need a reason. You’re not committing to a career, but only allowing your interest to let itself be known. Google it. Sketch it. Tell a friend about it. Try it for an afternoon. Pursue it however it makes sense, but give yourself the gift of doing something interesting, and see what that does for the rest of your life.
This is also your permission slip to stop pretending you care about things you just … don’t.
You don’t have to be a foodie.
You don’t have to pay attention to music, ever.
You can ignore politics, Pinterest, puppies and prayer as much as you want.
Let it go and let go of any “shoulds” you may have attached to them, just because your friends, family or community value these things.
Pursue what makes you light up, even if it’s just in your brief moments of respite, and your life will be immeasurably improved. The improvement doesn’t have come because you changed your job but because being interested in something energizes your very soul. It gives depth and meaning to your life when your job or social situation can’t.
Besides, life’s too short to spend any more time than necessary in the state of couldn’t care less.
Photo taken by me, with an iPhone, on a bridge,
in the middle of a walking path. Some stopped to see
what I was looking at and shared a delighted smile.
Others looked at the water, looked at me, asked what I was
looking at, looked back at the water and said “Oh. A bird.”
No judging. (OK, maybe kind of judging.)