Imagine standing at a crossroads, trying to decide which way to go. One road leads you directly to the destination where you’d originally intended to go, while others fork off in different directions. Some of those roads loop back around and join up with the original road, and some lead in unexpected and interesting directions.
But soon after arriving at the crossroads, you discover that the road straight ahead—the direct path to your destination—is blocked. The road has washed out, and you can’t go any farther. You heave a sigh of resignation, figuring it’s impossible to reach your destination, and turn around. You give up.
Given the multiple options still available to you, how much sense does that make? None. And yet, people do it all the time when it comes to their career pursuits (not to mention their lives in general). If you give up, you’ll never find or create a career that lights you up.
Here’s a typical example: Say you want to pursue a certain career, but when you look at it and ask, “Can I do this?” the answer is no. From your current perspective, that might very well be true. But you only see part of the picture. You only see two options—either you can do it based on your situation right now, or you can’t.
But if you instead ask, “How could I do this? What are the options?” it opens up a whole rainbow of possibilities between black and white. Maybe you can’t do it right now, but that career change may be completely realistic if you see it as a three-year transition that you can begin working toward today. Or maybe you don’t have the money to go in a different direction, but if you start putting funds aside now to support you when you do make the change, you could do it. Or perhaps you don’t have the necessary knowledge, but you could partner with someone who does have that knowledge or take classes to learn what you need to know.
Questions are a great way to start teasing out the options between black and white. Here are a few questions to get you started next time you catch yourself needlessly limiting your choices:
• How could I make this happen?
• By when could I make this happen?
• What’s stopping me? What are some ways around that?
• What resources do I need? How could I get them?
• What do I need to prioritize to make this happen?
• Who could help me with this?
• How am I blocking myself? How could I get out of the way?
[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers.]
The path to a career that lights you up is seldom a straight shot. There will be unexpected bends, twists, and detours. Sometimes the road will feel impassable. When it looks like you’ve hit a washout, or the road just ends, ask yourself, “Am I thinking in black and white? What other options might be hiding between yes and no? You’ll be surprised how many roads start to appear.
After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.