Recently a FinerMinds reader asked me a question about life purpose… and I immediately thought career.

How does one go about finding the right career? And WHY are so many people miserable in their current careers? This got me thinking. And I realized that the very core of how we’re trained to pick a career in this modern world is ludicrous and faulty.

So here’s my reasoning on why so many people get stuck wasting their lives doing something meaningless and boring. I then offer 3 ways to help you find the right cover by taking yourself through a simple thought process.

Did You Want To Be A Lawyer? I Didn’t Think So…

Most of us, when thinking about what we want to do in life, choose careers that we think will be marketable. For example, no kid grows up thinking they want to be a lawyer or accountant. But then why is it that America has 1,116,967 lawyers?

It’s because at some point in our society people began to view being a lawyer as a method of survival, of attaining the glamorous lifestyle they see on TV. (we can thank those 90s TV shows like Ally McBeal and LA Law for that!). These people picked Law as a career because they saw it as a way to pay of their student debts and meet their needs for happiness and fulfillment. Unfortunetly this is bullshit. America has 5% of the world’s population and 70% of the world’s lawyers. The oversupply causes most lawyers to earn measly salaries, struggle for clients and detest what they do. I was in the legal industry for 2 years selling technology to law firms. I know this from the hundreds of lawyers I befriended. (In a recent poll,  52% of practicing lawyers describe themselves as dissatisfied.).

So why then do so many college kids chose law as a career?

It’s because our society has conditioned us to choose careers in the the most impractical, dumbest way possible.

If you choose a career based on what makes you money and not what will drive your passion – you’re setting yourself up for misery.

How do we break this pattern? Well first you have to understand the difference between a MEANS goals and an END goal.

Stay with me for a few minutes.. This is going to get interesting

So my point is that so many people go into law misguided. Yet the same thing happened to me. I became a software engineer because in the 1990s everyone thought that this was the cool thing to do. Every  parent wanted their kid to become the next Bill Gates. So in school, guidance counsellors, family members, teachers all said, “You’re smart. Go into computer engineering. You’ll become rich and happy.”

So that’s what I did. I studied for 4 years at the University of Michigan College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and hated every programming class I took. I got a summer internship at Microsoft. My parents were proud. Yet after 11 weeks at Microsoft I literally had myself fired. I just could not bring myself to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours a day and write code.

I feel I wasted 4 years of my life studying computer engineering because I had assumed it was the right thing to do.

You see, I had confused a MEANS GOAL with an END GOAL.

Step 1: Know The Difference Between  Means Goals and End Goals

Let me give you an example. I was once teaching a class on goal setting.  I had a woman come up to me and ask, “How can I learn to type faster?” I was intrigued so I asked her why she’d want to improve her typing skills. She replied, “Well, I need to type faster because I’m a data entry clerk and if I can type faster, I can  finish my data entry work way quicker.” So I asked, “Why do you want to finish your data entry work quicker? And she said, “Well, I get paid by how much data I can enter.” So naturally, I asked, “Why do you want to get paid more?” And she replied, “If I get paid more I can move my mother from Detroit to live with me in NY.”

I asked, “Why do you want your mother in NY?” And the lady replied, “Well, there’s this house I want to buy in the Bronx and I want to live in that house with my mother and make that house beautiful.” I asked again, “Why do you want to buy this house and beautify it?”

And she replied that her and her mother come from a long line of rich African American history and culture and they were the only ones left in their family. She wanted to build this house and fill it with all their heirlooms, artefacts, and priceless pieces so that her children can one day grow up in that home an understand their cultural heritage. She couldn’t do this in Detroit because the neighborhood where her mother and all these priceless antiques were located was way too dangerous.

This house would then become a museum, a beautiful glorious home filled with their family heritage.

So you see, the house filled with heirlooms was her END GOAL.

Learning to type faster was her MEANS goal.

But she was focused on the wrong thing. She had her mind focused on the pointless task of speeding up her typing skills when she should have been focused on the attaining the house.

In short, she had defined the wrong problem. Now think about what would happen if she had focused on the house.

First, she has more emotion and passion towards the home. This creates more drive and positive emotion towards that goal. If she suddenly lost her job or found that she lacked the skills to type faster it would not bother her. Because neither of those things were important anyway. It was all about the house.

Second, by giving her subconscious mind the end goal of the home, she allows her mind to work with her to channel ideas, inspirations and guidance to move her towards attaining that home. This the big secret with inspiration. It comes when you give your mind a problem to solve. Whether it’s writing a book or trying to find a way to finance a home.

So here’s the problem with our society.

We pick careers. Which are means goals.

Instead we need to be picking an ideal life. Which is the END GOAL.

Here’s how to apply this.

Step 2: Decide On Your Dream Life

So how do you then find a career if so many people get misguided? Well, the trick is to not pick a career. Instead you want to decide on the kind of life you want to lead. If I could do it all again, at the age of 22 I would map out the kind of life I would want by my 30th birthday. I would ask myself these questions. What kind of home do I want to live in? Where do I want to live? Do I like beaches, mountains, or rivers? What language do I want to speak? Do I want to work in an office, from home, or over the net? What type of people do I want to be around?

Here are some questions to get you going:

  1. Where would you live?
  2. What would your house look like?
  3. What time would you wake up?
  4. What would you do in the morning?
  5. What would you do in the first half of your day?
  6. Who would you have lunch and dinner with?
  7. What would your friends be like?
  8. What are your clients like?
  9. What are your relationships like? What do you like about each other?
  10. What would you do for family time?
  11. What is the relationship with your kids like? What do you appreciate about each other?
  12. What would you talk about over dinner?
  13. What would you do at night?
  14. Who would you do it with? ;-)
  15. What would your thoughts be as you go to sleep?

Step 3: Decide On What You Want To Do

Now based on these questions, decide what you want to do. Okay, so I lied. It’s not that easy. It might be easy to think of what you want but it’s a little trickier finding out how to get there. But here’s how the mind works. When you start asking the right questions, your mind starts opening up to inspirational sources and the necessary steps you need to take will start coming to you.

A lot of people misunderstand inspiration and genius. They think it comes from random flashes of insight that hit you. That’s not the case. Those random flashes of insight only hit you when you’ve actually given your subconscious mind a problem to solve. And in this case the problem is the kind of life you want to create and how to get there.

When you operate this way  you’ll start finding shortcuts. Quicker, more efficient ways to get to your dream life. And I can guarantee you that struggling as an underpaid lawyer or junior accountant or tax collector or low level programmer for years and years while waiting for the next salary hike will probably not be the path to your end vision.

Now Follow Your Inspiration And Take Action

In my case, I quit programming and instead pursued my passions. Reading, writing, travel, building websites. Studying personal growth and meditation. At first I struggled.  I spent a few years broke. I lived in New York below the poverty line working for a non-profit. I watched as many of my friends who were MBAs, or lawyers or programmers got good jobs and started ‘proud careers’.

But following my passion did get me somewhere. I now run a company that sells $10 million dollars a year worth of personal growth products. I get to write – my blog has 450,000 subscribers. I get to travel – speaking at seminars around the world. I build websites. I spend hours every day reading. I made my first million in my early thirties. And I did it without using anything I learned from computer engineering school but by simple following my passion — WITH A CLEAR END VISION IN MIND OF THE LIFE I WANTED TO CREATE. Which is the life I now lead.

So when I started asking myself those questions above, I began to receive the insights that led me to build my business, which is now MindValley. But I didn’t sit down and decide I was going to build a business. Instead I decided what kind of life I wanted to lead and the inspiration came that helped me create that life. The right ideas for getting clients. The right models for marketing my talents. The right people in my life.  And I took action. I listened to my gut instincts and ideas and pursued the opportunities that came my way.

This is how you build a life. Ignore the “career” part.

So if you’re wondering what to do with your life, maybe you’re a fresh grad or you’re leaving a 20-year career, think about your end goals and not your means goals. Follow those steps above, and follow it up with action.

Do share comments below. You know I love hearing from you all. :-)

Guide to Inspired Life