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21 questions to help you find your life work

It can be very difficult to find your best career/job – here are 21 questions I’ve put together as a warm up.  They’re positive and imaginative to do.  Why not take some time, get comfy and answer them, see what emerges?

Disclaimer: Right up front, let me say I don’t have professional training in careers, these are just some simple queries to get you started thinking broadly.  There are excellent professional books and advisors out there, do invest in them.  

All you need for these questions is space to think and answer, and some way of writing down your answers as you go.  Please don’t read all the questions before starting them – just start with number one and complete each one before reading the next.  I’ve deliberately left spacing between each question, so everything isn’t crammed together.  Don’t rush it, they involve imagining and this can be fun to do.  At the end of the questions, there isn’t a magical sentence of exactly what career you should follow, but the process should give you clues to check out.

eau de parfum

Know thyself” is very wise advice, but sometimes not easy to do.  Fortunately, our lives have traces in them of our passions and interests, and that’s where we can start.  Here beginneth the questions:

 

1.  Think through the friends you’ve known in your life – who were most interesting to you?  why? (remember to take your time and write answers down before moving on to next question)

 

2.   If you were to appear on a TV quiz show, what subjects would you hope for questions on?

 

3.   Go to your internet device and look up the browser and what you’ve bookmarked – which subjects have you bookmarked heavily?

 

 

4.   Of all the ways you’ve helped people, which ways have people repeatedly said were most helpful?  How are you repeatedly asked to contribute, by other people?

 

 

5.   Go to your bookshelves/media stores – if you could only take 10 influential books or movies with you on your next house move, which would they be? (this list can include other books/movies which have influenced you, but which you don’t currently have)

 

 

september 9, 2019 - 2-00 pm - findlay residence

 

7.   When you walk into a bookshop or look at a collection of videos, which subject area do you go to, first?  fiction?  non-fiction?  biography?  science?  art?  general knowledge?  maps?…..

 

 

8.   Apart from sight, which sense is most important/enjoyable to you?  touch?  taste?  hearing?

 

 

9.   Which magazines do you tend to buy?  (even if you only buy them occasionally)

 

 

10.   If you were given unlimited funds and couldn’t fail, what 4 projects would you want to do.

blah blah blah blah blah

 

 

11.   You have been asked to represent your country in a speak-as-long-as-you-can contest, starting now.  What is your chosen topic?

 (apart from family members and friends)

 

 

 

12.   Looking back over your life, what do you regard as your biggest achievements, so far?

 

 

13.  In your biggest achievements, what did you overcome?  (Could you help others do the same?)

 

 

14.   You have a free day off work, all expenses paid, unlimited budget, what would you do?

 

 

15.   You have a free day off work, with just the money in your purse, what would you do?

 

 

16.   Who are your heroes?  (people you’ve read about and watch TV programmes on, when you get the chance)

 

 

17.   Do any of your friends have a job you’d like?  could you do it?

 

 

18.  Imagine yourself at your own, happy retirement.  Who are your colleagues in the room and what are they saying about you?

 

 

19.   Do you feel a calling to do something – no matter how nonsensical it may seem to your current life – what is it?

 

Feedback/Answers

Look back over what you have written, are there answers you felt most passionately about?  You should spot themes recurring.  Note which is strongest and which repeats most often.  Some of the themes will have to do with convictions and values, such as environmental, social, faith, political – but these may well have a bearing on what areas you have the vision to work in.  You now turn detective to look at the clues in your answers – what life work can you find them combined in?  Or are there several separate career calls indicated?

 

20.   Try on the hat.   Looking at what your answers highlight is your strongest theme/area of interest, Imagine yourself working in that area.  What are you doing?

 

Because life isn’t simple, you may feel  “I can’t pick between two or three areas”.  You could try on the hat for each of them, separately – which fits best?  or can they be combined in one job?

 

Checkup – because life work is more than a quick project, you need a longer perspective than a snapshot.  Ask a trusted friend who has known you more than 10 years – “What am I best at doing?”  Listen carefully for clues, bearing in mind that they may skew their answer to what they value themselves – they have their own natural bias.

 

21.  Finally – and I heard of this exercise from someone else but can’t remember who, so can’t credit them – imagine you are in a very large airport waiting room.  You have a lot of extra time.  Everyone is congregated in groups, talking about different areas they work in.  Imagine going to several groups – what are they talking about?  Then choose the group you want to be with.  What is it about?

A million Lovely Letters

Is a handwritten letter important?  Jodi Ann Bickley hit rock bottom after a brain infection left her with a stroke, fits and chronic pain. Contemplating suicide, she decided instead to use her writing skills to make letters of encouragement for others feeling very low.  So began her “Million Lovely Letters” campaign.

Screen shot 2017-07-23 at 15.49.45Within one hour of her launching the website, she had 50 requests from all over the world.  She has handwritten over 3,000 personal letters and now has a team of 40 volunteers to help.  Local BBC news did a brilliant and intriguing 3 minute video of her story – which is well-worth watching – just input this link into your web browser:

http://bbc.in/2uVgOA1

On her website, one reader, a former psychiatric nurse (no, it wasn’t Jo Brand), wrote “a few well-chosen, sincere words are worth more than months on meds. You should be on prescription”
Screen shot 2017-07-23 at 15.48.41

Jodi wrote her own life story with the same title as her website “One Million Lovely Letters” – it was a bestseller.  I am surprised that I had somehow missed hearing of her before, but really pleased that I have heard, now.

If you are still intrigued by the real-life story and would like to know more, there is a 13 minutes TED talk featuring Jodi.  At the end of her talk, she reads out a letter written to everyone who is watching.  So if you could do with some personal encouragement – this might be a gift to you, today.  Or perhaps it might be worth sending the link to someone you know, on a day when they are struggling.

 

 

 

 

 

Art as Spiritual Practice

I met Lou Davis this week, an interesting artist, combining printmaking and spirituality indoors, walking and meditation outdoors. I enjoyed this Youtube video she made, showing how she meditates while creating with colour.  It looks very doable and I love watching the process, especially her vibrant choices of colour.  Inspiring, especially on a rainy Sunday.

“The hour of the Wolf”

4 a.m. is a particularly dark time of the morning – I remember hearing someone described warmly as an “Hour of the Wolf friend” – someone you could ring at 4 am, when the worries of the world came thudding into your brain, all at once – and they would take your call and listen.

The poet Rives made a TEDtalk on the subject of 4 a.m., got more feedback and made this further talk: “The Museum of 4 a.m.”   It’s a tale well told and worth watching til the end. (Time taken: 14 minutes).

Calming words

Writer Anne Lamott before her 61st birthday sat down and wrote all the truths she absolutely knew.  They include the importance of radical self-care

“Being full of affection for one’s goofy, self-centred, cranky, annoying self is home; it’s where world peace begins.”

“Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts – but they keep their butt in the chair… they do it by prearrangement with themselves, they do it as a debt of honour.”

“if people want you to write more warmly about them – they should have behaved better” (round of applause from the audience)

“Grace is spiritual WD40 or waterwings”

These are words specifically written for people feeling overwhelmed by complicated politics in their country, by rapidly changing world events.  Above all, they are humane and hopeful, positive and spiritual.

Creativity healing

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detail: photo by Marvin Lynchard, of soldier using art therapy

Just read an excellent article on the website theconversation.com about how creativity is a natural way for the brain to help process trauma.  Trauma by its nature is overwhelming – so the brain cannot deal with and store what is happening in the usual way.  With normal events, memories are stored using words:

 

“This makes it easy to recall and describe memories from the past. However, because traumatic events are processed when under extreme distress they cannot be properly assembled together and remembered as a coherent narrative, and so are stored in non-declarative memory, which operates unconsciously and is not processed in words.”

Creative arts have been observed to be helpful in particular situations: creative writing with refugees, drama with soldiers and photography with mental health of HIV/Aids affected women.

What do the creative arts offer?

  • help to people to remember and process the events
  • help the recaller distance himself/herself a little from the trauma to creatively share the experience with others
  • may help reconnect cultures divided by violence (e.g. drama)
  • it is often nonverbal, so aids those who struggle to find words for their emotional reactions
  • help without drugs and medicinal side-effects
  • an accompaniment to word-based listening, where appropriate

The article I read was mostly about the works/writings of Professor Bessel Van der Volk and his book “The Body keeps the Score”.  Catch the article, written by Senior Lecturer in Abnormal/Clinical Psychology, Bath Spa University at:

http://bit.ly/2qUAnXH