In my first year of changing from my old work into my free range life, I met up with a friend who had moved overseas and I hadn’t seen in years. Over coffee and sticky cinnamon rolls I told him what I was doing now and how much I loved it.
He looked at me and said “oh that makes so much sense for you, I can see you doing that so much more than what you used to do”. He said it like it was obvious. Yet for a long time it hadn’t felt obvious to me!
Why is it that when someone is doing what they love it looks like the clues were always there – but when we are the ones doing the looking, for ourselves (in the ‘before’), it’s like we’re fumbling in the dark?
Here’s a short cut to finding ‘your thing’ (aka your direction, what you actually want to be doing):
It’s likely to involve something you’ve been told to ‘tone down’ more than once.
The person who needs to be doing something advising/mentoring others but thinks “who am I to do that?” or “that’s too ego-y” is unlikely to be the one hiding his opinions in the corner – ask people in his life if he offers unsolicited advice about how they could make things better, and the answer is likely a big old heck yes, all the time.
The person who is better at improving things than coming up with something brand new? Might be telling themselves that there’s only value in developing something new that no one else has thought of… but in reality simply can’t help finding improvements or awesomifying what’s already there. (If they are currently in the wrong work environment they may be driving their colleagues batshit crazy with this tendency).
Your biggest strength (your superpower even) doesn’t want to be caged. When your ‘thing’ doesn’t have a home, and barely has acknowledgement as anything more than an irritating weakness, it goes around like a whirlwind, untamed. Result: it might well be something you’ve been told to tone down more than once.
And of course you were told to tone it down. It was shining in garish blinding lights not because it was wrong in itself, but because you never learned how to direct your flow to find its sweet spot.
I’m not talking about a topic area or a hobby by the way, I’m talking about something deeper – the main thing you bring to the table. The theme behind that person you are when your lights are fully on, without apology.
Bottom line: in the times you’re not officially looking for what you ‘should do’ you’re being a part of it already. Whether you are looking for that ‘big idea for what direction you should take’, or how to hone what you are already doing to be more you, odds are a clue is right there, in the moments you just can’t help doing.
Quite often a long-term search for self is rarely that: scratch the surface and it’s a search for another self, a more acceptable, shiny self, that you can call your own.
That person may end up finding that ‘other self’ in their third best strengths, so they plough on and do pretty ok, but never feel like they are thriving… and meanwhile they save their very best thing to unintentionally vomit up over friends, family, and colleagues when they aren’t watching themselves. (That right there is a great way to reinforce that your strength is really a weakness).
If you take one thing from this message? Take this:
Stop looking outside yourself for who you think you should be, and instead look at the clues of who you are when you just can’t help it. The former is the way to years of feeling not good enough (and feeling lost in the process). The latter is the seed that will thrive when you own it, and create the right environment.
A natural ‘superpower’ isn’t usually playing the piano like Mozart. It’s that little thing you can’t help doing… and it turns from a weakness to a strength when a) you do it in the right environment (ie: not unasked among family or within an organisation that truly doesn’t give a damn) and b) you step into it and own it.
Stepping into who you are is not selfish and it’s not a ‘luxury’ for when you’re in a better place: it’s the key to what you’re looking for. Because being the person you are? Will do more for the world than being a shadow of the person you think you should be.
So going back to the start, with my friend and the coffee and the sticky cinnamon rolls – he wasn’t saying “well done for a brilliant idea”. He was saying “well done for stepping into the person you’ve always been”.
If you haven’t done this yet, one day I’d like to say the same to you. Because that person, my dear, is more than worthwhile.
PS: and when you find that thing? Odds are at first you’ll dismiss it as not good enough. You’ll tell me it’s not worthy, too quiet (or too loud). You’ll tell me it is the only strength in the world that can’t possibly be a seed in your free range career. You’ll tell yourself it’s too ‘boring’ too ‘hubristic’ too ‘obvious’ or too something.
I’ll tell you aren’t evaluating whether or not you get to be that person or do that thing – the reality is that you will continue to do it all the darn time as you always have done. Instead, you’re deciding, here and now, whether you spend the next however long looking for who you should be… rather than turning in to what’s already there, patiently waiting to be seen. That person has more value than you can imagine.
Trying to find your thing?
Sort it out here: drop your name here and get in on my Friday Love Letter and let's rock you out of that career cage, & into your real life. You'll also get a free copy of my audio "How to create your own career when no one job ticks the boxes"