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Are you burnt out and stressed, or just plain bored with your career? Does your successful career lack the meaning and personal fulfillment you want? Are you are so busy working that you dont have time for yourself or your family? Do you feel trapped in a job that you dont like?

If you answered Yes, you are not alone. Just look at these statistics: Of the 7,718 working adults in the US surveyed by Harris in 2005: 41% dislike their jobs. 33% feel like they are at a dead-end. 42% are "trying to cope with feelings of burnout. 4 in 5 experience daily work stress that takes a toll on their performance, quality of work and workplace relationships. 81% say job stress interferes with their relationship with their spouse/significant other and over 33% say it affects their relationship with their children.

These are some of the reasons that people have sought me out over the past 14 years. As a personal and professional coach, I have spent a lot of time helping clients find careers and jobs that excite them, provide meaning and fulfillment and give them balance in their lives. So, I thought it was about time that I shared some of what I have learned with others who might benefit from it. The following is a distillation of the work that I have my clients do to give them the answers that they are seeking. Step 1: Get clear about whats most important to you in life There are few things that you can do that are more important than clarifying your top-most values. Without a clear sense of your personal principles and priorities, it's almost impossible to bring the picture of your preferred future or vision sharply into focus. If you are not clear about what your values are, you very well may be living your life based on someone elses values, and that is a formula for frustration and disappointment. Life values are things such as integrity, spirituality, achievement, family, adventure and so on. Investing time and effort to uncover and articulate your personal principles has many important benefits: Our personal values underlie every aspect of our life. Our values help us to define what we want to do and how we wish to behave. This gives us a strong foundation to build our life upon. Values give meaning and purpose to what we do. We value what we care about. It helps us make choices. Sometimes we find ourselves having to choose between conflicting opportunities, or we have a conflict with a work or life situation because it clashes with our values.

If you live according to your values, you will inevitably be more successful because you put a high priority on what you are doing. It helps you in finding your personal energy source and developing the critical passion for life.

Here is a simple exercise for clarifying values: Make a comprehensive list of all your possible values. Now rank each one as "A" (high importance), "B" (medium importance), "C" (low importance). Review the A and B values. Are there any that are essentially the same value or one that is an obvious subset of the other? If so, bring them together and rename, if necessary. Rank order the remaining list from highest through to lowest priority. You should now have your top five core values. Focusing on your core values: Ask yourself whether these are your true, internal "bone deep" beliefs or if any are external "should" values. We often don't recognize a lifetime of conditioning that has left us with other people's belief systems. You need to replace any "should" values with your own. Examine each core value to ensure that it is your end value and not a means to some other end. For example, wealth is seldom a value in itself. It's usually the means to status, power, security, recognition, freedom, accomplishment, pleasure, helping others, or some other end value. For a more detailed values clarification exercise, click here. Step 2: Get clear about whats most important to you in a career In thinking about choosing a fulfilling and meaningful career, it is also important to get clear about what you most value in terms of career and work. Career values are specifically about what is most important to you about your work, such as independence, being part of a team, earning a high income, having work and life balance, a high degree of challenge, etc. If you have not thought about what your career values are, you have no way to judge what kind of work is going to be a good fit. Sometimes surprising results come out of a process of values clarification. Maybe you thought that achievement and accomplishment were very important to you and you find out that working as part of a team and having work-life balance are actually more important. Click here for an exercise for clarifying your work values.

Step 3: Define what success means to you If you are going to be happy in your career and in your life, you must know what your personal definition of success is. This definition of success has to be based on whats most important to you and your vision for your life. Its based on your passions, what lights you up, what gives meaning to your life. This is in contrast to the conventional notion of success in this culture which is primarily based on what you have: money, power, prestige, the right car, the right family, the right house. Im sure that you know lots of unhappy people who are striving for or have achieved this kind of success. By the way, I am not saying that it is wrong to want money, prestige, a great family, a nice car or a nice house.

But often, when those are the only way you measure your success, life can start to feel hollow and lack meaning. So, take a little time reviewing what you have come up with in steps 1 & 2, letting your answers sink in. Then write down your definition of success, what success means to you. Here are some definitions of success from well-known people: Your chances of success are directly proportional to the degree of pleasure you desire from what you do. If you are in a job you hate, face the fact squarely and get out. - Michael Korda He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much. - Bessie Stanley What's money? 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. - Bob Dylan The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, youre still a rat. - Lily Tomlin (This isnt exactly a definition of success, but I think its too much fun to not include it.)

Step 4: Do some self exploration/Dig around inside Often, when we face a personal issue or problem, we look outside of ourselves for the answers. We ask all sorts of people about what would they do in this situation or what advice do they have for us. Doing this can be a helpful; you are collecting data. But the answer lies within you. If you look to get the answer from someone else, you are likely to find yourself in the same situation you are now. So, its critical that you take some time to further explore the thoughts, feelings, dreams, fantasies that dwell in you. And often, because they are in your subconscious mind and not immediately accessible, you have to do some digging around. One way to do that is by answering some provocative questions. As you work with these questions, write down whatever comes into your mind, no matter how ridiculous or unrealistic that is seems. Do not censor yourself. An idea that seems off-the-wall (and maybe it is) could take you in a direction you never thought of. So, take some time to answer some of these questions: a. What are you passionate about? b. What would you do if you didnt need to work? What would you do for free? c. What is your ideal day look like? (For an Ideal Day exercise, click here.) d. What is essential for you? (Think of things that you MUST have in your life) e. Recall peak experiences that youve had during the last 10 years in your personal, professional and volunteering roles. Describe what occurred to make those times so exceptional. f. What aspects of life do you hate or irritate you?

g. What aspects of your current job or career do you enjoy? h. What did you want to be when you grew up?

i. j.

Is there a dream that you have put aside or a burning desire you are putting off? What is your purpose in life? Why are you here on this earth at this time?

k. What makes you happy? What gives you joy? What puts a smile on your face? l. What do you find easy?

m. What sparks your creativity? n. What do you like to talk about? o. What makes you unafraid of failure? p. What would you regret not having tried? q. What do you think that should exist in the world but doesnt?

Step 5: Brainstorm career possibilities You now have a lot of data about yourself where you see yourself and your life from different perspectives. Review all you have written up to this point. As you do that, let your imagination run free and come up with career possibilities that are suggested or triggered by what you are reading. If you know anything about brainstorming, you know that you do not censor anything as you go. Just write down whatever comes to mind, however crazy or unrealistic it seems. I would suggest doing this process with a couple of friends so that the ideas that are generated are not limited to what you can come up with. It also has the advantage that one of your friends can write down the ideas that are generated so that you are free to focus on generating ideas. If possible, use a flipchart, whiteboard or blackboard so that all of you can see the ideas as they develop and use them to trigger more (and even crazier) thoughts.

Step 6: Choose two or three career ideas to explore Now that you have a long list of career ideas, organize the list by grouping similar ones together. Look at your list and mark the ideas that have some level of appeal to you. During this step, you are still not being concerned about what is realistic. Now is the time to start being realistic. Of those ideas you marked, if some really excite you but seem totally off the wall, think of what kind of careers or jobs would include the aspects that you find most appealing. Now pick the two or three possibilities that speak to you the loudest.

Step 7: Do some research At this stage, you want to find out which of these two or three directions are in fact viable careers. So, you need to do some research. You want to find out as much about each one as possible; in particular, you want to know:

1) How you would get into each field, 2) What skills and experience are required, 3) If you dont have all the skills and experience needed, how you would go about acquiring those, how long it would take and how much it would cost, 4) What working in each career is like, 5) What jobs are available and where are they located, 6) How much money you can make. Go back to the list of whats most important to you in a career from step 2 and find out how each career possibility stacks up against that list. You want to do this in two ways: 1) Find as much information as you can about each one, finding books, magazine articles and Web sites that can provide you some insight into how each career works, and 2) Talk to people who work in those areas. Its critical that you find out what the personal experience is of people who do what you are thinking of doing. Use your network to find people for you to talk to. Now, take all the information that you have gathered and organize it so that you have a clear picture of each of the careers you are considering.

Step 8: Choose one and go for it! Using all the data you have gathered and checking in with your intuition, pick the one career that seems to you like it will give you the most of what you want in your life. Now, using everything you have learned, map out a course of action that will take you from where you are now to where you want to be. And use all the resources that are available to you to get you there.

One final tip: Dont try to do this alone. Its too hard. Find ways to get support for yourself: from friends, from support groups, or from a coach or maybe all three. Each can provide you with a different type of support, all of which can be very useful in the process of choosing and implementing a new career. If you would like to find out how coaching might help you find your ideal career, feel free to contact me. I wish you great success. Ted Behr, CPCC

Ted Behr, CPCC, The Uncommon Success Coach, is a career and life coach who specializes in working with members of the Boomer Generation who are looking for a more satisfying and meaningful career. Through his writing and coaching, Coach Ted helps

people to discover the career that will give them the enjoyment, fulfillment and meaning that they desire, based on their own definition of success. For Coach Teds blog and other resources on finding your dream career at midlife, visit his website at http://careerchangeforboomers.com. For more information and answers to your questions, you can contact Coach Ted at Coachted@yourdreamcareer.net.