One of the most important rules of happiness in life is to do what you love. But discovering that dream job and what you are meant to do in life isn’t always so easy.
Take a look at the happiest, most successful people on this planet: they are all doing something they love, creating something they believe in, living a life of purpose and passion. Do that, and it doesn’t matter how much money you make.
But what do you do if you don’t know what you want to do? If you don’t know what your dream is? This is a common problem, and many people wander through much of their life without discovering their passion, and go from job to job, unfulfilled and miserable.
If that’s you, don’t give up. What follows is a list of suggestions that will help you discover your dream, and start on the road to living that dream. They’re things that have worked for me and many others I’ve studied, talked to, interviewed and admired.
While you don’t need to do every step below, they are all ways for your to spend time thinking about your passion in life, your dreams, and how to accomplish them. If you spend time thinking about your dreams, you are taking the first step towards making them a reality.
The first step is to give this stuff some thought.
- What are your hobbies? This doesn’t just mean stamp collecting — it means anything you do with your spare time. That could be collecting comic books, reading about history, programming Linux utilities, writing on your blog, writing poetry, cooking, whatever. As it’s clear that this is how you like to spend your time, and that you’re willing to do these things without pay, it’s very possible that these are your passions. Give each of your hobbies some thought, and think about whether they’re things you love to do, and that you’d love to do for a living.
- What are your talents? It’s been said that we each have at least one gift we’ve been given, and that the true purpose of our lives is discovering that gift, and sharing it with the world. There is much truth in that statement, and an important part of this process is discovering your gift. What are you good at? What talents do you have? What have you shown an aptitude for in your current and previous jobs, in school, in your personal life? Anything goes here.
- Who do you like to work with? A dream job includes not only what you want to do, but who you are doing it with. You should truly enjoy working with these people. In this step, you can name specific people you love working with, or types of people (creative types, programmers, entrepreneurs, blue collar, etc.). Use your ideas here to help you envision your dream job (more on that below).
- What do you like to work with? The tools of the job are very important. If you love working with computers (even a specific type of computer), that’s a clue to your dream job. If you love working with clay, or paper, or people, or clothes, that’s a clue. If you like working with a hammer, or a piano, you’re off to a great start in discovering your dream.
- What environment do you enjoy working in? An office, a college, a classroom, a construction site, the ocean, the forest? Where you work is also an important factor in your dream job.
- When have you been happiest? Think back throughout all the previous times of your life, from childhood through adolescence, school, different jobs, different areas, different hobbies. Think about the happiest times of your life, and what you were doing, who you were doing it with, and where you were doing it. You may have dismissed some of these things for various reasons, but remembering that you were extremely happy during those times can make you realize why you were happy.
- Try online tools. There are some great tools online for helping you find your purpose. Here are just a few of my favorites:
- 43 Things: A great way to see what goals others have, to list your own goals, to talk to others about common goals, to get ideas and inspiration. Also see their article, How to Choose Achievable Goals.
- Dreamminder. A site where you write down your dream, and it will send it to you at some point in the future. Use their dream wizard to discover your dream. Read the dreams of others to get inspired.
- One Question: Take a test with questions to figure out your one purpose in life. With articles to help as well.
- List your top 5 passions. Now that you’ve given various factors some thought, and tried some online tools, make a short list of your top 5 passions. If you don’t have 5, list as many as you have. Then compare your top 5 passions, and rank them from top to bottom. This will be the starting point your guide to making your dream a reality.
- How can you turn your passions into your work? Of the top 2-3 passions on your short list, can any of them be turned into your life’s work? What professions use those passions as a mainstay of their work? How would you get into those professions, and do you think you would love what you do if you did them?
- Create a clear vision. Clarity of vision is the key to achieving your dream once you’ve discovered it. Take some time to think about exactly what your dream is, what your dream job would be, how you see yourself doing it, where you are, what you’re surrounded by, who you’re working with, what tools you’re using, the benefits to you and others. Write it down, and try to make it as clear as possible. You should be able to visualize this dream in your head. The more real it seems in your mind, the more likely it is that it will become reality.
- Create a roadmap. Once you’ve clearly pictured your destination, what’s left is creating a map for getting to that destination. Try backwards planning: what’s the last step you’d have to do before attaining your goal? What would the last step be before that step? Keep going backwards until you get to the first step. Then focus all your efforts on that first step.
- Brainstorm. Sometimes there are more than one road to get to a destination. Brainstorm a bunch of ideas for getting there, a bunch of actions you can take to move yourself closer to your destination. Then put them together into your roadmap. Even if you don’t have a complete roadmap, having a clearly defined destination, and taking the first step, are enough to get you started.
- Do research. Learn as much as you can about your dream. Check out some books from the library, do some web surfing, talk to others who are knowledgeable. Become an expert on the topic.
- How are others doing it? Find others who are living your dream. Read about them, write to them, meet with them. Find out what steps they took to get there, what’s required, how they did it. Then use that information for your roadmap.
- Practice, practice. While you’re taking your steps to realizing your dream, practice your passion as much as possible. Practice, of course, makes perfect … and you want to be as good at what you want to do as humanly possible. This isn’t an easy step, but it’s worth it.
- Get inspired. Find others who are trying to achieve the same dream, see what obstacles they’ve face and how they’ve overcome them. Put up photos from magazines to inspire you. Read motivational quotes. If you’re inspired, you will have the energy needed to get there.
- Get motivated. Along those lines, find motivation to keep you on your path. Motivation and focus are the keys to achieving any goal. What are your motivations? Making a public commitment, setting up rewards, inspiring yourself, tracking your progress, and joining a support group or finding a partner are great ways to motivate yourself.
- Simplify: one purpose. Once you’ve defined your dream, focus on it completely. That means you need to put any other goals on the back burner for now, and have only one purpose in your life. Later, you can focus on other goals, but if you have multiple goals, you will become distracted and lose purpose. Focus. Simplify your life so that you are keeping your focus on that one thing.
- Use a mantra. A great way to keep yourself focused is to use Guy Kawasaki’s idea of creating a mantra instead of a mission statement. Boil your goal down to a few words. Guys’ mantra: empower entrepreneurs. What’s yours? Once you’ve defined your mantra, print it out, post it up, and say it several times a day.
- Set aside time each day. You will not go anywhere if you don’t devote time to your dream. Set aside an hour (or at least 30 minutes) each day for working towards your dream. If you can do more, great, but one step at a time is all it takes. Set aside time either in the morning, or in the evening, or some time when you know you will do it every day. Make it a habit, and you will succeed.
- Pretend you can’t fail. Imagine that you cannot fail, that you may slip up and fall, but that you will get up and learn from that fall. Take away all fear of risk and loss, and believe in your success. Now act as if you cannot fail. And by acting so, you will make it happen.
- Live as you want to be remembered. How do you want to be remembered when you die? This is a common method for deciding how to live your life. If you want to remembered for realizing your dream, then don’t start on it when it’s too late. Start on it now. Live your life so that your dream actually comes true.