You’re just not happy in your work right now.

Maybe this happened gradually, over time, or maybe—if you’re honest—this is never the work you wanted to do.

What you know is you want to make a change. But besides pie in the sky ideas (like starting a puppy therapy program even though you’re allergic to dogs), you have no idea what you really want or even could do next.

And no clue where to start.

So you do nothing for a while. You keep going to chiropractor appointments for the stress stored in your back; keep waking up at night dwelling on something that happened at work or someone who didn’t appreciate you.

The loop is brutal and you want a way out. There is one—but it’s time to ask a different question.

Forget, for a minute, what you might want to do next. Rewind and ask yourself who you are right now.

It makes sense that things feel off for us (either right away, or after some time) when they don’t align with who we are on a deeper level.

Not with who we think society (or our parents) want us to be. Not with who our friends are. Who we are.

So if you feel stumped on how to move forward, with no ideas that really energize you, stop thinking about the best next field or position for you for a while.

Instead, start looking at yourself.

You may not know what you want your future to look like yet. But you do know a lot about who you are. You are, in fact, the leading expert on the subject. No one else can tell you what you can.

So stop for a moment, sit down in a calm place, and try this:

  1. Consider the values that mean the most to you today. Choose the top five. One way to get there is remembering high points in your life and asking yourself what values were being expressed. Another way is to google “list of values” online, choose a longer list you like, and pick the values that resonate most (e.g. honesty, accomplishment, balance).

Values naturally evolve over time, so don’t worry about choosing values to live by forever. What feels most important to you now is what counts.

  1. Sit with these values a bit. Get to know them. A list of five values on paper can’t help you that much in you don’t know what they mean to you, and if three people have a value for accomplishment, it means something a little different to each of them.

To one, it might mean improving processes, fixing issues, making something better for someone.

To another, it could be setting goals and accomplishing them.

To a third, it’s being proud of the experiences they’ve chosen (and keep choosing).

What does each of your values mean to you? And why does each matter to you? What’s missing in your life without it?

  1. Come back to any work ideas that have even a little energy for you right now.  (Even if it’s just that one that feels totally farfetched. Totally fine. Start there.) Let yourself take a breath, let in some space, and look at each of your work ideas so far curiously, opposite your values. Which one(s) would allow you to live out more of your values? Which options feel most energizing now?

Sometimes this is very quick to see. Sometimes it takes a little time and outside research to determine if a direction would really let you to live out certain values in the way you imagine.

Give yourself the space you need to be honest with yourself. To feel into which idea feels the most you—and which you’d feel most proud and peaceful putting yourself behind right now.

No work ideas resonating with you and your values right now?

No problem. Put aside the work direction dilemma altogether for two weeks. When it naturally pops up in your mind, gently remind yourself to lay it down just for these two weeks. Make a promise to yourself to really try this and keep it sacred.

Now, work aside, just focus on aligning your life as much as possible with these values for the next two weeks. Your relationships. Your health. Your spare time.

Look at your list of five values. How are you already living them out in your life? What are ways you’d like to live them out more right now? When a decision or challenge comes up, ask yourself: Which direction aligns best with my values?

Then take it!

This is one of the easiest ways I know of to quickly energize and ground yourself.

It just feels empowering, grounded, and peaceful to live from this core of your deepest values. And the more you do, the simpler your decisions become, and the better ideas you’ll get for your life and work across the board. 

This is worth going all in on. You know you have nothing to lose, and so much—a self who can breathe again, the work that you’re actually here for—to gain :).

If you found this blog valuable, please consider sharing it with others who might benefit, too. Want more support building out your fulfilling work life? Check out my Vocation Program right here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Brendan Church