During this time of year when hearts abound in every bakery, big box store, and card shop, I send a wish that you’re following your own when it comes to your work. If you find yourself at a career crossroads – wondering about your next move – I offer up the words of author, philosopher and theologian, Howard Thurman as inspiration. Thurman famously said:

“Don’t ask what the world needs – ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Just saying these words out loud can bring a shift in demeanor – I’ve seen it happen time and again with coaching clients. It’s as if a ray of sunshine has broken through the clouds and the heaviness often associated with the search for work and life purpose starts to lift. The beauty of Thurman’s quote is that it disarms the shoulds, connects with the heart, and often helps clients start thinking about their true talents and desires in a whole new light. It changes the paradigm from ‘Where can I fit in and be accepted?’ to the more empowering  ‘Here’s what I love to do, and who can use my talents/ services?’

And so I ask, what makes you come alive? Where is your heart leading you, and how might that translate into income or, at the very least, an activity that brings more fulfillment to your life? I hope you’ll carve out some time to meditate on these questions. If the answers don’t come easily at first – that’s OK. You, like many of my clients, may feel like the rigors of day-to-day life are so piled on top of what you truly enjoy that it’s hard to even remember anymore. If that’s the case, looking back to your childhood could provide some helpful insight.

What Did You Love Growing Up?

In my book, This Is Not the Career I Ordered, I share the story of how I left my opera career – the profession I’d spent the whole first half of my life training for – with no idea where I was headed. The quest to find “Chapter Two” inspired me to get more heart-centered and reflect back on the things I naturally loved as I was growing up. While I had always loved singing and performing, looking back, I realized I had also loved helping friends and family strategize and problem-solve – becoming a go-to sounding board for those around me. As I was charting a course through those often-choppy waters of career change, I realized I was still that natural-born counselor who could help others navigate their own career changes – leading me to find my “Chapter Two” in the field of Professional Development.

Following my heart helped lead me to this fulfilling work, and all these years later, I still feel so honored and privileged to be able to help guide coaching clients, the women I meet on the speaking trail, and you, dear readers, to a more fulfilling work life as well.

Reflecting back on childhood provided valuable clues that helped inform my new career path, and it can do the same for you. Did you love the challenge of selling Girl Scout cookies or candy for school fundraisers? Were you over-the-moon any time you got to travel? Were you the one always planning parties or get-togethers for friends?  If so, maybe Sales, the Travel industry, or Event Planning are careers to consider.

If you’re questioning your work, I hope you’ll consider Howard Thurman’s quote and take some time to excavate down past the layers of shoulds and responsibilities and ask yourself “What makes me come alive?” As Valentine’s Day, the season of hearts, approaches, I encourage you to take some time to connect with and listen to your own heart. It just might lead you to a new job or career that you’d love.