About a year ago, I started seeing a therapist slash career counselor to help me figure out how I could find true fulfillment and happiness in my career and life. I was utterly miserable at my job, and I knew deep down that my romantical relationship wasn’t good for me. But I didn’t have the confidence to leave either one.
I felt trapped at my job – after three years of law school and three years of work, it seemed I had committed myself to a career as a lawyer, and I couldn’t see any way out of the legal world unless I completely backtracked or started anew. The only way out of the firm while maintaining forward progression in my career seemed to be going to work in-house at a corporation – working less hours and being freed from my servitude to the billable hour, but still doing the same work that I knew I didn’t enjoy.
As a trained professional in minimizing risks, I thought starting anew was the riskiest thing I could do. Still deeply in debt from law school and living in one of the most expensive cities in America, my lucrative career seemed like something I couldn’t give up, especially for something new that I had no idea I would like better than law.
With the majority of my time spent working at a job I hated, my relationship was the only thing that brought me feelings of happiness. And so I clung onto it as hard as I could, even as it became increasingly clear that it wasn’t working.
I finally realized I had to do something to help me change my life. But I really didn’t think I could do it on my own.
It turns out that my decision to go to a therapist was one of the smartest things I could have done for myself. The first visit was scary, nerve-wracking, and emotional. Even after months of appointments, I was still wracked with nervousness before each visit. But after each visit, I felt like I knew myself a little bit better and was getting closer and closer to figuring out what I needed – and wanted – to do.
Gradually, I developed the strength to make the changes I needed to make in my life.
At the end of one visit, my therapist suggested I go home that night and spend five minutes writing a list of things I liked – whatever came to mind during these five minutes, I was to write down. It was meant to get me thinking about what I enjoyed in life and to possibly find a common theme in the list so that I could narrow down potential career choices.
It was fun to write the list, but at the time I really didn’t think it uncovered any revelation about the perfect plan for my life.
More months went by, I forgot about the list, but I finally knew what I really wanted to do and had enough confidence and strength to do it.
A few days before I was supposed to leave for my trip, I came across the list I had written so many months before. I was shocked to find that almost every single item on the list was consistent with what I was doing – taking a trip around the world.
I’m not sure if the list had anything to do with me ultimately deciding to travel around the world. It may have triggered an unconscious realization within myself about what I really desired doing, eventually leading to my decision to travel. Or it may have made no difference at all. But I do think that everyone could benefit from making a list like this and looking at it periodically – you may be surprised what you find out about yourself.
Here is my list as I wrote it that evening almost a year ago:
fashion / italy / europe / nyc / lake chelan / beaches / hot weather / sun / sailboats / water / movies / being active / relaxing / independence / cities / DOING stuff / taking random drives / taking random walks / exploring / doing new things / restaurants / hotels / learning a language / sleep / department stores / coffee shops / learning about space / floor plans / not doing the same thing every day / spas / vegas / black jack / travel / talking to new people / being by myself / big buildings / foreign places / european culture / historical buildings / history / boats / oceans / shoes / furniture stores / touring houses / staying in hotels / going to shows / suburban malls / listening to music / being in the sun / book stores / coffee / babies / doggies / hair salons / christmas / being spontaneous / living life / not wasting life / road trips / random towns along the road / wine / mountain towns / airports at night / nighttime / making a difference / having freedom / making my own schedule / sleeping in / staying up late / books / going to new places / dessert / movie theaters / landscaped gardens / artifact museums / writing / eating out / learning about techie stuff / learning about the world / sugar / organizing things / being organized