Stop Doing What You Think You Should Do & Start Doing What Inspires You

Feeling at a loss for what to do next in your career? One of the best ways to know what your next career move should be is to start taking what I like to call “inspired action.”

When you take inspired action, things suddenly start to flow. You feel a sense of energy, enthusiasm, or joy. This is different from forced action, which comes from feeling that you should take action. It feels forced, with a lot of effort and little motivation or enthusiasm.

Let’s look at an example:

Ben has been job searching for a few months. He’s applied to lots of jobs without hearing back and has recently hit a wall. He’s not motivated to customize more cover letters or reach out for more referrals in his network, but knows that he should in order to move forward.

Anna has also been job searching for a few months. She’s curious about what the next chapter has in store for her and is using this time to find something she’s really interested in. Anna isn’t attached to any one particular job or company, but does have a few that she’d like to learn more about. She recently attended a women’s networking event where she learned about a non-profit that she just started volunteering for. Anna also connected with someone via LinkedIn who works at one of the companies she is interested in. During their recent informational interview, Anna learned how she might be able to help her new connection’s organization, so she drafted a solution and sent it along with her thank you email.

The difference?
Anna is investing her time in taking inspired action. In doing so, she’s making great connections who get to see her genuine enthusiasm and energy about their work (through volunteering, informational interviewing, and even a speculative work sample). She’s also getting to experiment or try on new organizations and roles, which is a fun way for her to decide what she really wants to do next.

Ben, on the other hand, is consumed by the feeling of should. He doesn’t have time to invest in exploring or meeting new people because he’s too focused on checking the “done” box on his job application to-do list. In doing so, Ben has closed himself off from a lot of possibilities and has lost enthusiasm for the work he thinks he’s supposed to be doing.

Taking inspired action is connected to the theory of planned happenstance that I’ve covered previously. Planned happenstance is all about staying open and curious to where your next career move will lead. It doesn’t mean waiting around for luck to find you, but instead putting yourself in situations to encounter new people, ideas, and opportunities. It means planning to create a career that is open to happenstance. And in order to do just that, you’ve got to take inspired action.

So where do you start to take inspired action? Anywhere and everywhere, really. Meditate. Take a walk. Go to a networking event. Take on a freelance project. Listen to podcasts. Take a class. Join a club.

Read my blog about ways to prototype different career possibilities for more ideas.

The list of ideas could go on, but don’t simply follow my suggestions out of feeling like you should. Do it because you feel inspired.