Countless people in their 30s, 40s and beyond have told me, “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up?” Nervous laughter usually follows – on their end. Even so, it’s a very serious question not to be taken lightly. Most find it difficult to answer my question, “So, what do you want to do?” I’ve discovered it’s easier for folks to answer what they don’t want to do.

Through trial and error, people become crystal clear on what they don’t like; toxic work environments, unfair pay, bad bosses, and boring job duties. In fact, all day long we can yammer about what makes us miserable – to anyone that will listen! So again, what do you want to do? Insert the sound of crickets here.

This two column exercise can help you gain clarity on your next career move:

  1. Column One: Start with a list of what youdon’t want in your career makeup, including length of commute, type of manager and co-workers, industries you have no business being in, lots of evening/weekend hours, no health care, travel. Enjoy your cubicle? You get the picture.
  2. Move on to what kind of work makes you cringe. Working on spreadsheets for hours works for some, but not me. Do you dislike sales? Public speaking? Managing people?
  3. Column Two: Reflect on the exact opposite outlined in column one. Write it down, line by line. Not happy with $60K a year? Column two will be +$65K. The more details, the closer you’ll get.

Perhaps you had a dream, started down a path only to realize later that it’s not what you imagined. Definitely, no one wants to start all over again at square one. Years have passed, families started, homes purchased, and responsibilities have grown. It’s not only difficult to figure out what you love, it’s even harder to pursue. Getting clear on what you don’t want may lead you to your passion. Take it from me, it’s worth the pursuit. The best part is you don’t have to start at square one. You just have to start.

 Not all who wander are lost. – J.R.R. Tolkien

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