Discovering the Work You Love, Part One: Find your Best Self in your Work

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This is a two-part post about discovering the work you love. I hope it will help you figure out what type of activities are right for you; activities that allow you to bring your best self to work.

Discovering the Work You Love

A little less than a year ago, my spouse’s job was transferred to a different city, and I found myself in a new community, with new surroundings, without a job. Before I began job searching, I decided that I needed to find a job that fostered my best self. Why? To be creatively productive and grow with purpose, I wanted to find work that brought out the best in me. So, I had to pinpoint what it actually felt like to be my best self. To do this, I completed the exercise outlined in this post. Next week, we’ll talk through what I did with my results!

Please answer these six questions at a time when you feel you can truly reflect upon and write what is on your mind. You can do this on the computer, on a whiteboard, in a notebook, or any way you like to brainstorm and record your thoughts.

1. When you were a child, what did you like to play?

This is a great warm up question, because it helps you to reflect on what has made you happy and what brought out the best in you. It also identifies historically what you liked to do when you had the ultimate freedom to choose—when your imagination was unhindered by deadlines, bills to pay, or your boss.

This question originally came from reading a book by Julia Cameron called the Artists Way at Work. Ms. Cameron’s book focuses on bringing out creativity, and using the activities you did as a child (playing) to bring out your creativity. Susan Cain in her book Quiet also talks about the importance of play to determine where you felt most comfortable as a child.

2. As an adult, what activities do you like to do in your free time?

As a follow up to reflecting what you enjoyed doing in your childhood, now reflect on what you now like doing in your spare time. Think about the activities you picture enjoying yourself doing. What do you find yourself daydreaming about on a rainy afternoon? These activities might be just the kind of activities you can find at work in your job.

3. What activities do you enjoy doing at work? What chores do you like doing at home?

Write this question on the top of a new sheet of paper (or computer document). Divide this paper into two columns: “work” and “home.” This will allow you the space—both literal and figurative—to brainstorm answers to the question.

Think about activities that put you a state of flow. “Flow” almost feels like you get lost in the moment. When you are in the middle of this activity, you lose track of time and of your surroundings. Susan Cain talks about this in her book Quiet as “an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity…you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy.” 1

4. What activities do you LEAST enjoy doing?

So, what tasks do you enjoy the least? Think about this both at work and at home. What do you dread the most? Are there any activities that keep you up at night or give you particular anxiety?

For some, answering this question might put you in a negative state of mind. So after you answer this question, take a quick break for a cup of tea or a walk before answering the next question.

5. List activities that produce your best results.

Be honest with yourself. Which activities, both at work and at home, do you find to produce your best results? Are there tasks or activities that others tend to give you the most compliments? You don’t have to particularly like or dislike these activities. Just list them. In fact, there might be quite a few activites that you are good at, but dislike. This will be helpful in our reflections later on.

6. List activities that produce mediocre or unsatisfactory results?

You have made it to the last question! This might be the hardest question in the series, because it takes some honest self-reflection. It is also the most important, because to know oneself, good and bad, is the ultimate form of purposeful growth. Please note, this list changes over time as we learn new skills. Listing these items will simply help you as you work to professionally develop yourself, and will also perhaps help you identify a tendency that you have not previously recognized.

Whew! You did it! Now you have answers to six questions that will put you on a path toward finding work that you love. In next week’s post (of this two-part post on “Discovering the Work You Love”), we’ll reflect on the answers to these questions.

Are there any activities from your childhood that show up your answer to question 3 (What activities do you enjoy doing at work?) Let us know by commenting below!

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  1. Cain, Susan. New York: Broadway Paperbacks. p.172