You’ve heard it before: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. The quote –and variations of it– have been attributed to various great thinkers and politicians through the ages. Apparently, even the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, was concerned about workplace engagement. 

Remember the last time you jumped out of bed in the morning and could barely contain yourself, you were so anxious to get to work and experience the joy it brought you? No? You’re not alone. Check out the faces of your fellow commuters. Don’t despair. Only a minuscule percentage of the population has a clear picture of their ideal job is and are fully cognizant of how to achieve that goal. Another lucky few know the answer to the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and remain firm in their resolve to become what they were born to be.

For the rest of us, our dream careers are not so easy to figure out. Harder still is changing career paths. That’s why it’s imperative to spend time and energy thinking and planning in order to uncover your path to a job worth loving. Here are a few tips to rekindle your romance with work and find a career that you’ll enjoy coming into every day.

ask yourself hard questions

What do you want to be known for? What do you want your legacy to be? We’re not trying to be overdramatic. You’re never too young and it’s never too late to ask questions like these. They’re big picture, deep thought questions into the nature of work – your work. This is the first step of the drilling down you need to do in order to discover joy and fulfillment in the workplace.

Not sure where to start? Try answering these (remember honesty is key!):

  • What were you doing the last time you felt engaged, uplifted, deeply satisfied and energized?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What would you be doing if money were no object?

The answers to these questions hold clues to what revs your engine. Maybe you were practicing yoga, building furniture from reclaimed wood or painting. Perhaps you were running a volunteer reading program for young children. Maybe they aren’t necessarily hints about a new career. Rather, they might give you insights into your personality and certain qualities of those activities that resonate with you. With time and thought, you can uncover what those are and look for them in new opportunities.

listen to your mother

What do your friends and family say you’re good at? Often the people closest to us know our truths before we do. They’re not just saying you’re really good at something because they have to. Now that’s not to say that you always have to listen if you really don’t see it. According to my mom, I missed my calling as a lawyer – that’s a big no thanks from me! – but when she brings it up, I can see in myself some of the traits she thinks would be a good match and recognize how they might apply to other careers.

The great thing about family is they’re often brutally honest and are able to notice things about you that you can’t see because you’re too close to them. Instead of dismissing their often astute observations, ask them directly what they think you’re good at. Their comments may trigger options you hadn’t considered. After all, it’s often our friends and family that know our romantic choices aren’t going to work out before we do; why not apply those observations to your career hunt?

don’t judge

As you uncover possibilities, keep an open mind. It’s important not to edit or impose limitations on yourself based on preconceived notions. Dismiss thoughts like “I’m too old/young/inexperienced/uneducated/overqualified” from the conversation. And remember, it’s 2017, so slamming the door on careers historically performed by only one gender, group or class is unacceptable. A negative approach isn’t helpful and limits your ability to think – and see yourself working – outside the box.

Look for language, trends or themes that repeat themselves as you consider new careers. It’s the commonalities and your reaction to them that will tell you where your heart lies.  Take your emotional temperature. Does the thought of a particular career or work environment make you anxious? Does your chest tighten and your face feel pinched? Or do you breathe deeply, maybe for the first time in months? Can you see yourself performing the tasks, working in the field and contributing to the team? Do you smile and feel a sense of adventure and excitement or a sense of dread when you think about it?

use the force

Take an aptitude test to get an unbiased report of your skills, strengths and potential areas for growth. There’s often a cost attached but it’s worth it. There are organizations whose specialists work with people looking to make major career changes. They’re trained to help you uncover potential areas you hadn’t previously considered. Again, keeping an open mind and not readily dismissing the results is crucial.t

try before you buy

Offer to intern, volunteer or take short-term contracts in fields you’re interested in but unsure of. It’s a great way to get your feet wet without making a permanent or long-term commitment. You’ll get first-hand knowledge of what it take to do the job, what you need to do it well and most importantly, how you feel about it. You’ll know soon enough if this career’s the one.

It’s possible to love what you do – perhaps not all the time, but certainly the majority of the time. The right career turns the daily grind into a joyful, productive experience. You’ll know you’ve found your bliss when, instead of having to go to work, you get to go to work.

already decided where your calling is?