bob dylan quote 300x240In an interview that musician Bob Dylan gave to a New York Daily News reporter in 1967, he said:


A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between does what he wants to do


I happen to agree. While we can argue about how one defines success, and whether doing what you want to do relates to “success”, or “happiness”, or some other human state, it’s hard to argue that most people would like to do more of what they really want to do.


Why don’t most of us do what we want?

I believe most of us don’t do what we want for 3 main reasons:


  1. We don’t believe it can be done
  2. We think that people who do what they want are selfish
  3. We think it might be possible, but we’re not sure how

Let’s address these 3 reasons below.


Believe it: 32% of US employees are “engaged”


In response to the “It can’t be done” reason, I’ll say, “Well, yes, it can.


Think about people you know or have read about who were able to do work that they found fulfilling. If anecdotal evidence isn’t coming to mind, then maybe some data could help. Gallup’s numbers from June 2015 report that 32% of U.S. employees are “engaged” in the work they’re doing. While it’s not great news maybe, and we may wish that more people were engaged in work, it does mean that at least SOME people seem to be doing what they want to do.


So, most people aren’t engaged and aren’t doing what they want, but why not join the bandwagon of the folks who are?


Serve yourself first: The pre-flight instructions


Many people feel a sense of guilt about getting more of what they want – in life, and definitely in work. It’s almost as if they’re thinking that they don’t deserve to love what they do for work. Or like it’s greedy to want that, and frivolous to spend time thinking about it. After all, aren’t there so many other problems to solve in the world, and so many needy people to help for me to worry about my little job and whether I feel fulfilled doing it?


Maybe so. But is it possible that your lack of fulfillment at work is drawing down energy and resources that, if you had more of, you could put to good use in solving those world problems or helping the needy?


It makes me think of the announcement we all hear before an airplane flight takes off:


Place the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping small children or others who may need your assistance


If you’re not mindful of your own health and welfare before you start worrying about helping others, you may soon be depleted of the life you need to be of any help to anyone. So maybe you need to think a little “selfishly” on some level, at least enough to make sure you’re in a position to be selfless.


Most people feel afraid


I think most people who aren’t doing what they want to do for work are stuck in the last reason of “Yes, I suppose it’s possible to do what you want for work, but maybe not for me because… (insert objection here)


And the objections often have a lot to do with fear. They include:


  • If I focus on doing what I want for work, I’ll go broke
  • What I think I want to do may not be what I really want
  • I could hit hit bumps on the road, or worse, I could fail
  • If it’s the wrong thing to do and I go off track, I’ll just have wasted a bunch of time
  • I don’t know how to do what I want, I can’t even imagine what that would be like


Exercise: Imagine what it would be like to do what you want

So what can you do to get unstuck? Try this exercise that I use with my clients:


Step 1 – Make a list of your specific objections or fears about doing what you want


Step 2 – For each objection/fear you have, make a note of how true, real, or likely you think it is


Step 3 – Now, think more high-level about doing what you want to do for work and write down the cost to you in NOT doing what you want

 (e.g., Does it cost you in deteriorating health? Lower earning potential? Increased stress? Decreased energy level? Unstable moods?)


Step 4 – Now, still thinking high-level, write down some words to describe who you would BE if you were doing what you want to do in work

(e.g., Would you be a confident person? Happy? A better parent/spouse/sibling? A good role model? Someone who lives fully? Someone who exploits his/her potential?)

Need help thinking through this?

Contact me so we can talk about what’s keeping you stuck and how to get you unstuck!