This last year has been a wild ride, making a lot of us re-think our careers – and our lives. Maybe you feel stuck in your job. Maybe you have found a new purpose to work towards. Or you are at a major crossroads, but aren’t sure how to move forward.
Summer vacation is always a natural moment for reflection, because you have the time and space to get yourself back on track. So if you are in the mood for some career contemplation this summer, I’d like to share some great exercises I’ve come across lately in my personal branding work.
I hope they will stimulate some new ways to think about yourself and where you are going. I’d love to hear what you think of them.
Exercise 1: Ask the kid in yourself
This exercise comes from Barbara Sher's Wishcraft . It may sound like hocus pocus, but it’s fun and can be very useful. So often we focus on all the new and shiny things we want to achieve in our career, rather than reflecting on the things we used to have and miss the most. So here is what you do.
Think back to your childhood. Remember the things you used to do to have fun. When you were allowed to be on your own and do whatever you wanted, what did you choose to do?
Try to answer these questions:
- What sorts of things attracted and fascinated you when you were a kid?
- What sense – smell, sight, hearing, taste, touch – did you live through most? Or did you enjoy them all equally? What kinds of sensory experiences do you remember best?
- What did you love to do (or daydream about), no matter how silly or unimportant it might seem now? Did you have secret aspirations and fantasies that you never told anyone about?
After thinking about these things, ask yourself:
- Do you feel like there's a part of you that still loves the things you loved as a child? What do you miss most?
- What talents or abilities could these childhood dreams and passions point to in the present? What can you do today to reconnect with some of who you were as a kid?
Exercise 2: What if you only had 24 hours to live?
This exercise is from an unusual source, the father of the life-planning movement, George Kinder. To identify and clarify your direction in life, Kinder suggests thinking about three hypothetical situations:
- Imagine that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? What would you do with the money?
- Now imagine that you visit the doctor who tells you that you have 5-10 years left to live. She says that you won't feel sick, but you'll have no notice of the moment of your death. What would you do in the time you have left? How would you change your life?
- Finally, imagine your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours left to live. If you only had a day remaining, what dreams would you leave unfulfilled? What would you wish you had finished? What would you wish you had done or been? What would you have missed?
What I love about these questions is how they help us clarify what’s really important to set meaningful life and career goals.
Exercise 3: What is your Ikigai?
This is a more intensive and structured exercise that’s particularly useful for you if you are thinking about taking a new direction with your career or want to incorporate more of what you love in your daily work.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept. It’s about finding your “reason for being” and a lifestyle that balances the spiritual with the practical. This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for. Read more about the thinking behind Ikigai. It’s interesting that Westerners relate Ikigai more with making money, while in Japan, Ikigai is a slower process that often has nothing to do with work or income.
In any case, I think the questions you ask yourself in the Ikigai framework stimulate you to think about your future in new ways.
Download this free editable Ikigai template.
These are a few examples of the approach and exercises I use in my Personal Branding discovery workshops. I hope you find them inspiring – and helpful in your personal and professional journey.