Feeling Stuck? 4 Stages to Finding Your Career Purpose [Free Quiz]

Have you ever had an “Ah Ha” moment? That moment when you realize something profound and want to take action immediately? I had mine almost a year ago.

One ordinary morning, while getting my two young boys ready for the day, my 3 year old asked me, “Mommy, what do you do when you go to the building (aka work)?”

This was the first time he had asked me this question. He asked me in such an innocent, clear way that it honestly took me off guard. It was like the universe was trying to send me a sign. A huge sign with neon lights shouting “TURN HERE!” I immediately felt an uncomfortable, heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I WASN’T EXCITED TO TELL HIM. I didn’t want to speak but I forced the words out of my mouth. “I file tax returns for people.”

I immediately felt like a fraud, like I was talking about somebody else and what they did for a living. It just didn’t feel right saying it about me. I had known this for a while but telling my son made it even more real. Ugh. How had I let this happen to me? I’m supposed to be the one who has it all together and all figured out. I left for work that day feeling guilty, deflated, with a side dish of confusion to top it off.

It is so much easier to keep going down your path, ignoring the signs, that your body is physically and mentally telling you. You don’t want to even start thinking about it because you may open up Pandora’s box and feel even more confused. You start to think,

Do I even deserve to feel happy and purposeful? How do I figure out my next step?

The first step is knowing where you are in your career and how confident you are to change it. Deep down you know that something isn’t right but admitting that can be scary. Figuring out what’s next can be terrifying. But it doesn’t have to be so scary when you have a method and a plan to get to clarity and purpose.

When finding your career purpose, it can be broken down into 4 stages. 

  1. Hiding in the cabin
  2. Toe in the water
  3. Swimming full speed
  4. Winning the treasure

The journey towards being authentic is like staying in a cabin next to a cold but beautiful lake. On the lakeshore, your cabin has a warm fire, blankets, unlimited Wifi access, and an overwhelming feeling of mediocrity and regret. It’s comfortable. It’s so much easier to just distract ourselves with pseudo busyness and to not feel the uncertainty. This is Stage 1. Many people choose to stay in this stage for their entire careers. They never truly feel career satisfaction and put their career on autopilot.

You decide to walk from your cabin and start by dipping your toe in the cold lake. The initial shock of the cold water is unsettling. Like most of us, we get so upset by that uncomfortable cold feeling that our first reaction is to stop it. We must run inside immediately, cover ourselves in blankets, and surf on Facebook. Go back to our cozy, safe box of endless Mimes and gourmet Starbucks coffee. This is Stage 2. You have taken the first step but the progress is fragile and uncertain.  Many people take a few steps but fear and uncertainty cause them to run back to the cabin. But some of you will keep your toe in the water.

You look up and see an island in the middle. To your surprise, you see a treasure chest on the island. The treasure chest is filled with all the riches of this world like freedom, abundance, purpose, love, success, confidence and peace. You can see the treasure in the distance and see the opportunity for potential. To you, the feeling of uncertainty is scary but worth the risk. You want so badly to feel confident and purposeful that the temporary discomfort is worth the long-term reward.

Soon, your toe becomes used to the cold feeling so you put in your whole foot. Then you decide to just jump in the water and start swimming. Confidently swimming towards the true you and what you were meant to do in your career. This is Stage 3. At this point, you can confidently say what your purpose is and you are actively working towards it.

Now, you are enjoying the journey and feel an enormous sense of peace and clarity. You feel like you have made it. This is Stage 4. It's not a dollar amount, or the number of Facebook likes, or a certain job title. It's an overwhelming feeling of authenticity and confidence. That you are living your own life and not someone else's life or someone else's expectation.

Each day, we have a choice.

We have a choice to turn back to the comfort and stability of our cabin. Or we have a choice to keep confidently pushing forward to the abundance and success of the treasure chest. What’s your choice? How close are you to your career treasure chest? Take the quick quiz below to find out where you are right now in your career.