Your Job Doesn’t Define You. Here’s How to Discover What Does

“What do you do for a living?” might be the second-most frequently asked question, after your name. If it weren’t so commonplace, it might be considered odd and perhaps a little rude. But given the emphasis that society places on our career choice, it’s no wonder many think their job title defines who they are.

So what does that mean for those of us who don’t even like our job, let alone want to be defined by it? Well, you’re not alone: According to a 2012 Gallup poll, only 13 percent of Americans are engaged (or feel psychologically committed) at work.

Here’s the good news. And it’s important. You are not your job. You are much bigger than and not restricted by whatever your job title says you are — even if you love your current career choice.

As a life coach, the number one reason people come to me is because they feel limited — and unfulfilled — by the work they are doing. They come to me for help figuring out their “purpose” or “calling.” All day at work they are humming along, looking happy on the surface, but feeling frustrated. They feel bored. They feel inauthentic, which eats away at their self-esteem. They feel like a “shadow version” of themselves. They know that they have the energy, passion, and smarts to do anything — they just don’t know what exactly. Or how to begin.

Sadly, no one is going to hand you your passion (plus instructions to bring it to life!) in an envelope. But there are some important questions you can ask yourself to identify what calls to you and ignites your spirit. A combination of getting quiet, going inward, and being honest about what sparks joy within you, and then taking action to actualize it is very, very powerful. Listening to your inner wisdom and being guided by it brings with it certain magic.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself

1. “What activities am I doing when I’m slacking off at work?“

One of my first coaching clients said to me, “Susie, when I’m at work at an ad agency, all I do (secretly) is pin fashion looks together and research vintage jewelry.” Her passion was so obvious — she created lookbooks on the weekends, followed only designers on Instagram, and always looked beautifully downtown chic on a pretty tight budget — she just needed to step back to realize it. Now? She works nights and weekends as a personal stylist and plans to transition full-time in January.

2. “What brought me joy as a kid?“

Believe it or not, your passions may evolve and grow, but they never actually change or leave you. When you were very young, what made you happy — playing music, writing stories, helping animals, being captain of a sports team, building stuff? Jack Canfield, motivational speaker and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, recommends conducting what he calls a “joy review:” Write down times in your life that you felt most happy — was it when you backpacked through Asia on a shoestring budget? Led the debate team in high school? Trained junior staff at work? Or decorated your past two apartments? Likely, you’ll find a common thread throughout those joyful moments. When you see it all on paper, it’s easier to connect the dots.

3. “What blogs and books do I love to read?”

Think about the top five websites you peruse once you power up your laptop. For example, I worked with a realtor who spent hours reading recipes in cookbooks, websites, and natural food blogs. He now has a decent following as a food blogger himself and earns a small revenue stream from it. This is what is often referred to as a “side hustle,” working on a passion business outside of your day job. It can be a great way to build your confidence, see if there is a market for what you have to offer, and make some extra cash. And hey, it’s never a bad idea to hedge your bets in times of economic uncertainty. Like the aforementioned stylist, it can also turn into something much bigger!

4. “What conversation topic never gets boring?“

What subject brings on that “I could talk about this all day!” feeling? My husband, for example, loves talking about investments — if he had a second job, it would be flipping homes, he always says. It’s a total snoozefest for me, but luckily he has a brother and a couple of close friends who share his passion.

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Susie Moore is a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for her free weekly wellness tips on her website.

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