Career Coaching Insights: 5 Questions to Help Determine Your Ideal Career

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

The difference between a job and a career

While a job is something that one does solely for the money involved, a career involves a chosen occupation which often has room for progression in that specific field. Delivering pizzas for extra pocket money would be an example of a job, while teaching or medicine are possible career paths. If you work a typical 40-hours per week, that is 2,080 hours each year that you are spending at work, and a career often spans decades of a person’s life. Decades. That is a lot of hours devoted to one’s career and why it is so important to make sure you are doing what you love. The goal should be that you wake up excited by what you get to do each day—that you are thriving, not just surviving. While it’s never too late to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, the sooner you’re able to identify your ideal career, the more time you’ll have being happy and energized at work.

Here are 5 mindful questions to help determine your ideal career:

#1: What are your values?

In general, people are happiest when what they do in life matches their values. Examples of values can be things such as family, relationships, health, nature, travel, honesty, financial freedom, spirituality, success, and knowledge. There are many other values as well, but the key is that your day is spent in line with at least some of your core values. For instance, if two of your core values were social justice and equality, you would likely be miserable in a job on Wall Street, but might thrive in a non-profit setting.

There’s no right or wrong regarding values; just be honest in what yours are. If you aren’t sure what your top values are, the fastest way to figure it out is to ask yourself this question: where do you spend your 1) free time and your 2) money? People with family as their top value tend to spend their time and money on family activities, or someone who values the outdoors might go hiking or biking every weekend. List your values and then determine if your current career lines up with any of your top ones.

#2: When are you in the flow where you lose track of time?

The goal of mindfulness is to live as much as possible in the present moment, which is where all of the good stuff in life happens. When you are so absorbed in something that you lose track of time, you are fully immersed in the present. For many people, this state of flow occurs when they are involved in a favorite hobby. The definition of a hobby is: an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. It’s something done due to the love of doing it, rather than for a secondary gain such as money. Some potential responses could be: when you’re gardening, taking photos, building model cars, skiing, rock climbing, jewelry-making, writing, woodworking, or playing with your children. You get the idea. When answering this question, you will probably come up with more than one answer, which is great so think of all incidents where you lose track of time.

A fun extension of this question is: as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? No matter how far-fetched the answer might be, it often highlights what excited you as a child, and we often lose touch with that inner child as we grow. When you identify when you are most in the flow, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that your answer means you should make that hobby a career. Some people worry that making something they love into a job will cause them to lose their passion for it, whereas others would be thrilled to get to do their hobby full-time. The key is just to tap into those things that excite you, because you can use that passion to determine what is missing from your current career.

#3: What skills do you have that are unique?

Everyone has a combination of strengths, personality traits, and life experiences that make them unique. When you identify the things that make you stand out, you can better explore how to use those strengths. This could be having an amazing aptitude with numbers, whipping up an amazing meal without a recipe, or being someone who easily makes new friends.

If this question is hard for you, think about the last time you received a compliment. Has someone told you that you’re great at solving puzzles, a great cook or that they admire your homemade curtains? Did someone ask you where you got that awesome table or bookcase only to find out that you made it? NOTE: Don’t discount a skill based on not liking an aspect of it. For instance, if you are great with numbers, but didn’t enjoy being an accountant, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another great fit for you, such as data analysis or forecast modeling.

#4: What does your ideal work day look like?

You can try a fun visualization exercise before answering this one. Try closing your eyes and visualize what an ideal day at work would look like, and more importantly, feel like, for you. Don’t focus on what the actual job involves. What type of co-workers do you have in this ideal job, e.g. motivated, collaborative, creative, or independent? Or do you not picture co-workers at all, and see yourself working mostly alone? What is the management style of your dream boss, such as detail-oriented or more unstructured but supportive? Or are you the boss or business owner? What does the environment look like, e.g. bright open space, private office with door, your own house, or frequent traveling to different cities or countries?

When you feel excited and happy in the visualization, like it almost seems real, then you’ve succeeded in tricking your brain, so now you can open your eyes. Jot down everything you experienced in this visualization. Notice how close or far this ideal work day is from your current work experience. Also, keep in mind, that your ideal work day may look very different than your friends or family’s version, and that’s okay—own your vision and don’t let peer pressure talk you out of it.

#5: What would you be doing right now if money was no object?

What would you be doing if money did not matter at all to you? Even if your first inclination is to say “nothing,” think past the initial period of lounging on the couch playing video games or binge-watching Game of Thrones. People thrive when they feel they are living up to their full potential. Would you start your own charitable foundation? Your own business? Would you travel the world and experience new cultures? Move closer to family or loved ones?  Hint: Answering this question also helps you identify your true values in life.

Begin the Journey Toward Your New Career

Your new career starts now.

Too often people stay stuck in careers that aren’t satisfying to them, many times to fears or limiting beliefs about what they think is possible for them. So many of our challenges in life are mental, rather than physical, so use these questions as a starting point. Read through all your responses and notice any common themes, words, or ideas. These repetitions give clues as to potential career ideas. Keep in mind that there is usually not one perfect job out there for you, just like there’s not one perfect partner, so you’re just opening yourself up to possibilities at this point. Use your answers as food for thought in your journey toward a new career, and take the first step today. Did you notice any similarities in your responses to these questions? Did any of your answers surprise you? What step will you take next?

Kristi Helvig, Ph.D., C.P.C., is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified professional life and career coach who works with clients all over the world via the magic of Skype. Contact Dr. Kristi to set up a free coaching consultation at drhelvig (at) yahoo.com.

5 Steps to Smart Goal-Setting in 2019

I’m not a fan of resolutions because they often don’t work—my husband tells me every year how crowded his gym gets in January but then empties out each February after people give up on their yearly gym resolution. However, I am a big believer in goal setting and the New Year is a great time to get started. Why set goals? Well, if you do the same thing you’ve always done, you will get the same results. Therefore, this year will look pretty much the same as last year if you don’t change anything, which is great as long as everything is already amazing for you. If not, decide what changes would feel good to you and make those your goals. I do an annual goal-setting session with all of my clients at the outset of each year and the following is the basic outline so you can set your own goals in order to make 2019 your best year ever!

 

  1. Begin at the end. Close your eyes and flash forward in your mind to the end of 2019 where you see yourself happy and satisfied with your year. I often use creative visualization with my clients as it helps to quickly clarify what they want out of life. The trick to visualization is to do it until you really feel the emotions of happiness, excitement, well-being, etc. Then evaluate what you just experienced in the visualization by asking “what was different than right now?” In that visualization, are you in a different, more rewarding job? Are you healthier or in better shape? Is your relationship with partner lighter and happier? Did you save more money? Does parenting feel easier and more enjoyable? Did you write that book? You get the idea. Jot down what would make the next year feel amazing to you.

 

  1. Use reverse engineering. After writing down some notes about what you would like to have happen in the next year, work backwards to see where you would need to start now. This can be tricky, especially if the difference between where you would like to be and where you are now feels huge to you. If you want to write a book but have written zero words, then pick the very first step—e.g. decide on a book topic. If you want to save more money, your first step might be exploring savings accounts or investment options. Starting a business and running your own company is a common goal I see with clients, so creating a business plan might be the first step for you before looking for office space, etc. Picturing the end goal and then breaking that down helps to see where to start.

 

  1. Start small. This may seem counter-intuitive to the “go big or go home” thinking that is prevalent in the U.S., but stick with me a minute. Too often, I have clients with a big goal and the amount they have to do to reach that goal can be overwhelming. If you want to get healthier, but your initial goals are “drink 8 glasses of water a day, give up sugar, exercise daily, master yoga, and become a vegetarian,” then you are likely setting yourself up to fail. When we cannot do everything, we often throw up our hands and say “oh well, I tried” and give up (hence the emptier gym in February). It is better to pick one thing until it becomes habit before adding another. If you currently exercise 0-1 time per week, then setting a goal of exercising 2 times per week is a realistic goal where you are setting yourself up to succeed—and then you can increase or add the next goal.

 

  1. Schedule regular check-ins. Too often, people set amazing goals…but then the whole year goes by before they revisit them and are disappointed when they didn’t reach them. Goals take time and energy to reach which is why it’s important to revisit them often. I have most of my clients do weekly assessments of their goals and it does not take much time at all. Schedule 10 minutes on a Sunday and assess where you are. Then decide what small step or steps you need to take the following week and write those down. If you do even 1-2 steps per week, think where you will be at the end of the year compared to doing nothing. Small steps add up to huge accomplishments when done consistently.

 

  1. Do it now. As in, right now. Stop and do one thing related to your goals you just created. Drink that first glass of water, open an online savings account, schedule your two weekly workouts into your planner, make plans for a date night with your spouse. Getting started is always the hardest part, but action begets action. You will feel better the sooner you take that first small step and the next steps become easier to take once you get started. Once you start making progress, the intrinsic motivation kicks in and the excitement level builds until you are well on your way to the amazing year you visualized for yourself.

 

Kristi Helvig is a Ph.D. Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Certified Life Coach who helps clients reach their goals all over the world through the magic of Skype. If you would like more help reaching your goals or would like a free consultation to see if coaching is right for you, please email her at kristi@prosperitycoachingandconsulting.com.

The Power of Words

 

The words you use matter. Not just words that are spoken out loud, but your written words and thoughts as well. I can’t tell you how many times a client has said something to me, like, “I’m terrible at….” or “I’ll never be able to…” Words are more powerful that most people know which is why it’s important to put some energy into choosing your words wisely. As humans, we tend to be amazing at the self-fulfilling prophecy thing, meaning we are masterful creators of our reality. Whatever we speak, write and think on a daily basis has immense power to become real. In the course of a career or life coaching session, I will often point out a client’s word choice around certain issues because it reveals a lot about where they are stuck. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  1. “I’m Awful/Terrible/No Good/Very Bad at…” No, I’m not talking about the amazing picture book based on Alexander and his not-so-great day, though that book perfectly highlights the snowball effect that bad thoughts can have. It’s why bad days tend to stay bad–because we put our energy on the negative rather than what we want. Instead, practice speaking, writing, and thinking what you are good at. What if there is something that you want to better at but don’t feel you are there yet? That’s okay. Just choose different words. The fix: Instead of “I’m terrible at dating.” “I’m awful at numbers.” “I can’t lose the weight.”  Say this: “I’m getting better at dating.” “I’m learning better budgeting.” “I’m working on a healthy body.”                
  2. “Should” versus “Want”: We all get advice and suggestions from others, whether that is our spouse, parents, friends, or co-workers. Though that advice is often well-meaning in intent, the challenge comes in determining whether it is right for YOU. Too often, I see people who chose career field because of influence by others (parents telling them it would be a secure field, friends telling them it’s a money-making job, etc.) rather than them following their own passions. The word “should” is a huge red flag, because it usually means the influence is external rather than coming from inside yourself. For instance, “I should go into accounting because there are tons of jobs open.” “I should marry this person because they have many good qualities.” “I should get my Master’s Degree because it will open more opportunities for me.”  The fastest way to discover if that thing is right for you is to substitute the word “want” instead. The fix: Replace the word “should” with “want” and ask it as a question: “Do I want to go into accounting?” “Do I want to marry this person?” “Do I want to invest my time and energy into a Master’s Degree?”
  3. “Someday I will…” “Once I do/have/become this, then…” Too often, we are not living in the present moment which is where all the good stuff happens. We delay our ultimate happiness by saying that once we attain something (a great career/relationship/perfect health), we will be satisfied. By all means, have goals for yourself but whenever possible, frame them in the context of the present moment. If in each moment, you choose things that are healthy, happy, and moving toward your goal, you will get there faster than by staying 10 steps ahead in your mind. When you are always thinking 10 steps ahead, you aren’t enjoying where you are and life is all about the journey. If you’re not happy now, you won’t be happy 10 steps ahead either. The fix: Use present tense language to keep yourself grounded in the moment. Think thoughts in line with this, such as: “I am excited to exercise today to be healthy.” “I love playing this game with my children.” “I’m feeling great about this work project I’m completing.”

Bonus Tip: Whenever possible, use language in your thoughts and speech that generate more of what you want in life. Use words like “excited” “passionate” “love,” etc. If you know any negative Nellie’s in your life (the ones who find the down side of absolutely everything), pay attention to the language they use–their energy is about finding more of those negative things, and there will always be more to find if that’s where your focus is. Think of your energy as akin to plants or a garden–the things you focus on will grow by where you put your attention (water). Water your thoughts with good feelings and energy to create more of that in your life.

Remember: Like attracts like. Challenge yourself for the next week in terms of the words you say out loud and think to yourself. Focus your energy on what you want to create. Then you will have a book more similar to Alexander and the Wonderful, Amazingly Awesome, Very Good Day. 🙂

 

 

5 Mindful Questions to Help You Determine Your Ideal Career

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

The difference between a job and a career

While a job is something that one does solely for the money involved, a career involves a chosen occupation which often has room for progression in that specific field. Delivering pizzas for extra pocket money would be an example of a job, while teaching or medicine are possible career paths. If you work a typical 40-hours per week, that is 2,080 hours each year that you are spending at work, and a career often spans decades of a person’s life. Decades. That is a lot of hours devoted to one’s career and why it is so important to make sure you are doing what you love. The goal should be that you wake up excited by what you get to do each day—that you are thriving, not just surviving. While it’s never too late to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, the sooner you’re able to identify your ideal career, the more time you’ll have being happy and energized at work.

Here are 5 mindful questions to help determine your ideal career:

#1: What are your values?

In general, people are happiest when what they do in life matches their values. Examples of values can be things such as family, relationships, health, nature, travel, honesty, financial freedom, spirituality, success, and knowledge. There are many other values as well, but the key is that your day is spent in line with at least some of your core values. For instance, if two of your core values were social justice and equality, you would likely be miserable in a job on Wall Street, but might thrive in a non-profit setting.

There’s no right or wrong regarding values; just be honest in what yours are. If you aren’t sure what your top values are, the fastest way to figure it out is to ask yourself this question: where do you spend your 1) free time and your 2) money? People with family as their top value tend to spend their time and money on family activities, or someone who values the outdoors might go hiking or biking every weekend. List your values and then determine if your current career lines up with any of your top ones.

#2: When are you in the flow where you lose track of time?

The goal of mindfulness is to live as much as possible in the present moment, which is where all of the good stuff in life happens. When you are so absorbed in something that you lose track of time, you are fully immersed in the present. For many people, this state of flow occurs when they are involved in a favorite hobby. The definition of a hobby is: an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. It’s something done due to the love of doing it, rather than for a secondary gain such as money. Some potential responses could be: when you’re gardening, taking photos, building model cars, skiing, rock climbing, jewelry-making, writing, woodworking, or playing with your children. You get the idea. When answering this question, you will probably come up with more than one answer, which is great so think of all incidents where you lose track of time.

A fun extension of this question is: as a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? No matter how far-fetched the answer might be, it often highlights what excited you as a child, and we often lose touch with that inner child as we grow. When you identify when you are most in the flow, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that your answer means you should make that hobby a career. Some people worry that making something they love into a job will cause them to lose their passion for it, whereas others would be thrilled to get to do their hobby full-time. The key is just to tap into those things that excite you, because you can use that passion to determine what is missing from your current career.

#3: What skills do you have that are unique?

Everyone has a combination of strengths, personality traits, and life experiences that make them unique. When you identify the things that make you stand out, you can better explore how to use those strengths. This could be having an amazing aptitude with numbers, whipping up an amazing meal without a recipe, or being someone who easily makes new friends.

If this question is hard for you, think about the last time you received a compliment. Has someone told you that you’re great at solving puzzles, a great cook or that they admire your homemade curtains? Did someone ask you where you got that awesome table or bookcase only to find out that you made it? NOTE: Don’t discount a skill based on not liking an aspect of it. For instance, if you are great with numbers, but didn’t enjoy being an accountant, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another great fit for you, such as data analysis or forecast modeling.

#4: What does your ideal work day look like?

You can try a fun visualization exercise before answering this one. Try closing your eyes and visualize what an ideal day at work would look like, and more importantly, feel like, for you. Don’t focus on what the actual job involves. What type of co-workers do you have in this ideal job, e.g. motivated, collaborative, creative, or independent? Or do you not picture co-workers at all, and see yourself working mostly alone? What is the management style of your dream boss, such as detail-oriented or more unstructured but supportive? Or are you the boss or business owner? What does the environment look like, e.g. bright open space, private office with door, your own house, or frequent traveling to different cities or countries?

When you feel excited and happy in the visualization, like it almost seems real, then you’ve succeeded in tricking your brain, so now you can open your eyes. Jot down everything you experienced in this visualization. Notice how close or far this ideal work day is from your current work experience. Also, keep in mind, that your ideal work day may look very different than your friends or family’s version, and that’s okay—own your vision and don’t let peer pressure talk you out of it.

#5: What would you be doing right now if money was no object?

What would you be doing if money did not matter at all to you? Even if your first inclination is to say “nothing,” think past the initial period of lounging on the couch playing video games or binge-watching Game of Thrones. People thrive when they feel they are living up to their full potential. Would you start your own charitable foundation? Your own business? Would you travel the world and experience new cultures? Move closer to family or loved ones?  Hint: Answering this question also helps you identify your true values in life.

Begin the Journey Toward Your New Career

Your new career starts now.

Too often people stay stuck in careers that aren’t satisfying to them, many times to fears or limiting beliefs about what they think is possible for them. So many of our challenges in life are mental, rather than physical, so use these questions as a starting point. Read through all your responses and notice any common themes, words, or ideas. These repetitions give clues as to potential career ideas. Keep in mind that there is usually not one perfect job out there for you, just like there’s not one perfect partner, so you’re just opening yourself up to possibilities at this point. Use your answers as food for thought in your journey toward a new career, and take the first step today. Did you notice any similarities in your responses to these questions? Did any of your answers surprise you? What step will you take next?

Kristi Helvig, Ph.D., C.P.C., is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified professional life and career coach who works with clients all over the world via the magic of Skype. Contact Dr. Kristi to set up a free coaching consultation at drhelvig (at) yahoo.com.

Meditation and Mindfulness for Success in Business: Part One

Meditation and Mindfulness for Success in Business: Part One

This is the first part of a 3-part series of how to incorporate mindfulness and meditation into your life, and specifically, in order to maximize your career and business decisions.

I’m the first to admit that when I first raise the idea of mindfulness and meditation with my clients, I sometimes get a raised eyebrow in response. Not to be stereotypical, but this has been most true of my male clients who are in high positions (CEO’s, CFO’s, entrepreneurs who own their own companies, surgeons, etc.), and suspect that meditation might be too “woo woo” for them … until they do it. Then, every time, they are also the ones most likely to tell me it has changed their life.

I start by telling them about the billion-dollar hedge fund manager, Ray Dahlio, who is widely considered the most successful of all time in his position, and how he considers daily transcendental meditation to be the one thing he attributes most to his success. Meditation increases mindfulness, which can be most simply explained as “the state of being aware of something.” Mindfulness trains you to stay in the present tense which is where all the best decisions in life are made. In fact, think of every great thing that has happened in your life, and I guarantee it was while you were in the present tense, rather than when you were focused on the past or future. As soon as you are making decisions based on worrying or are ten steps ahead of yourself, you have lost the state of being mindful. Decisions based on fear or anxiety are never as good as the ones you make based on the present moment.

One of my clients told me a great story which highlights this concept. A client came to him offering a lot of money for the type job he does all of the time. His gut sent him warning signals that accepting this client wasn’t the right decision, yet due to the amount of money involved, he took the job anyway. He said the job turned out to be a nightmare which took him a long time to clean up and he wished he never accepted that “great paying client.” He began meditating daily, and soon after, a client came to him with a small job which almost didn’t seem worth the time or money to do the job, but he felt strongly that he should do it. This time, he listened to his gut, and did the job, and the client ended up recommending him to a much larger high-paying client which turned into a huge profit for him. This same client is well on his way to his first multi-million dollar year in income.     

What exactly is meditation anyway?

Meditation is a practice wherein you train your brain to “let go,” and is technically defined as an act of reflection or deliberation. I think of it as yoga for the mind. It brings about a state of relaxation, yet also heightened awareness at the same time. Some people use it along with prayer, but meditation itself is not inherently religious, and it has been incorporated into many spiritual beliefs. It dates back thousands of years and the earliest known record of it is in 5,000 year old Hindu scriptures.

Fact: If people fully understood the power within their brains, they would spend just as much time exercising their brains as they do their bodies. I will present a mind-blowing study which highlights this power in Part 2 of this series.

What are the benefits of meditation?

The benefits of meditation are numerous, but a few key ones include:

  • relaxation
  • increased focus
  • stress reduction
  • helps depression and anxiety
  • enhanced learning ability

One of the best benefits of meditation is stress reduction. When the body relaxes, the cortisol levels in the body drop, and meditation has also been found to increase the body’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as seratonin. In fact, many anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications work by boosting the production of seratonin in the brain.

When you are under extreme stress, the stress hormones flood the body to create a “fight or flight” response, which means blood is going to your muscles and away from your brain. Under chronic stress with elevated cortisol levels, we are less likely to make the best decisions because our brains are not functioning at their optimal level. Daily meditation for just 5-10 minutes can make a drastic difference in how our brains work, and helps it to work for us rather than against us.

In next week’s post, we will dive into the science behind meditation (why it’s quite far from “woo woo”), and what your brain looks like on meditation. Until then… 🙂 Kristi