What Do I Do With My Life?

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4 Questions to Find Your Focus

When it comes to finding a job that is a good fit, it can be a struggle knowing how to end up in where you want to be.

One typical approach is like this. First you look at all the things you like to do and try to figure out how you can do those things and make a living out of them.

This works great for people who know what they love to do and have an opportunity to find employment in their areas of passion. But for others it can be a bit confusing

For example, if you like training horses, making paintings, balancing financial books and listening to people’s deepest problems to help them emotionally, you could… uh…. you could… hmmm…..well, no job really comes to mind right now where you could do all those things.

If you’re not exactly clear on what you love to do, you can face a couple of issues.

First, a lot of people have a lot of interests. So how do you know which direction to head?

Second, some people don’t really know what their interests are. So how do you know where to head?

And third, some people have interests but may not necessarily be good at them or be able to make a living out of them.

And then there is fourth problem. Let’s say that you actually do know what you’re good at and can make a living out of it. But without a larger picture of purpose, over time even doing what you’re good at can start to feel empty and meaningless.

Before we talk about another way of approaching things, let’s agree on something. Finding a job is all well and good, but what we really want is for you to find a vocation.

A vocation is a calling. It’s your job, but it’s also something you really believe in and have a passion form. It’s something that you feel like God made you to do and that uses the best of your skills, experiences and passions.

Finding a vocation can be tough when you’re not exactly sure what you’re good at or what you like to do. Where can you start?

There are multiple ways to approach this challenge, and here is one way that I have found helpful. I call it the The Inside Outside Cycle. This is a way of analyzing internal and external factors to narrow down where to start.

There are four questions you can ask yourself.

First, look at the “inside” of yourself, your internal feelings and motivations. This is where you will ask the first question.

1. What bugs me?

The things that bother us give us a clue into what we value and what is important to us. I’m not talking about things like getting cut off in traffic — that bothers everyone! I’m talking about things that you see or sense that are wrong and bring up a sense of injustice inside.

For example, my husband is an engineer and he is really bothered when things do not function correctly. He will notice squeaky bicycles, creaky door hinges, and cars that don’t ride smoothly. I, on the other hand, don’t even notice until he says something.

But what really bugs me is when leaders make flippant decisions that benefit themselves instead of making decisions for the good of the organization. That drives me crazy and my husband gets an earful.

Not surprisingly, my husband has ended up as a professor of engineering and I have ended up as an organizational leader!

So what bothers you? What in the world troubles you? What’s something you could change if you were able to?

The next thing to do is look outside of yourself, externally at the world.

2. Who do I want to help?

Now the gaze turns outwards. What are groups of people in the world that you want to help? I’m not talking about an individual here or there, but a general category of people in the world who you see who have a need whom you want to benefit.

Your purpose needs to be bigger than you. If you are only thinking about what bugs you without thinking about how that can be used to help others, then it is a very small vision for your life. Even more important is to examine how the issues that bother you impact others instead of how they impact you only.

After you’ve narrowed down the category, stay external in your thinking as you approach the next question.

3. Who is helping them and what are they doing?

Look at individuals and organizations who help these people. What are they doing to help them?

This gives you some ideas of the types of tasks and skills that assist this group. For example:

  • Perhaps the group of people you want to help is people who are massively in debt and feeling stressed out. You can help them do financial planning or teach classes on budgeting.
  • Some business owners are trying to making a living out from their business but struggle with marketing. Maybe you’d like to use design skills to help them build branding or marketing to help their business be successful.
  • Some people’s homes are run down and you know that creating a better environment will help them have a more peaceful place to deal with the pressures of life. You would like to be a general contractor to make the process less stressful for them.

The list could go on. I tried to point out some specific business tasks because naturally altruistic roles like working for a non-profit or a church may be more obvious. The point is that God has given us the ability to redeem our world, so we look at where we see needs that resonate with us, and see what people do to give us ideas on how we can engage.

Now the gaze turns inside again.

4. What experiences or training do I need?

Now that you have a list of skills, you can narrow down to what kind of experience or training you need to be successful in that role. Perhaps it requires some education or volunteering somewhere to get some experience. There are many possibilities in how to get that training or experience and a great start is to talk to someone who is in that field to start getting connected.

If you don’t know anyone, ask your friends if they know anyone, or if they know anyone who might know anyone. Six degrees of separation is practically a reality these days with social media!

Eventually, as you begin to engage, what bugs you begins to get channeled into ways where you can see you are making a difference, and now you become more excited about what you are doing. You become a lightning bug to light up the world.

Ultimately, it’s really the work of the Holy Spirit working in and through you to make a difference in the world, but as you gain more experience, you continue to focus in your vocation by asking yourself these four questions over time.

There is so much more to say on this topic, but this starting list of four questions can help you over time hone down your focus. The Inside Outside Cycle is one tool that can help you discern. (For more info on a strengths-based approach to focus, see my Strategy Sketchnotes video on “What You Do Best.”)

What are ways you have found helpful in finding your focus? Comment below!

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