Looking for Career Direction? Try a Little Self-Help

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If you feel uncertain about the course of your career, determining how to choose the correct path forward can feel like a major feat. While advice from friends and mentors can be helpful, don’t forget that you have a close and powerful ally—and resource—in yourself.

Self-help for your career can take on many different forms, but it’s all about taking the time to look inward. If you need to hit refresh and find your footing on your professional journey, consider these ideas for creative ways to help yourself.

Start a mindfulness practice

In times of career confusion, it’s all too easy to avoid confronting an issue and instead, continuing to busy yourself with daily tasks and small fires. Starting a mindfulness routine can help you slow down and recover from burnout as well as help you start unpacking what is at the source of your discontent.

While carving out a substantial chunk of time in your day or week to practice mindfulness can be beneficial, there is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of even a brief mindfulness practice each day—I’m talking minutes!

Here are some low-lift ways to include a mindfulness practice in your daily routine:

  • Observe your surroundings. This could be as simple as making a concerted effort to observe the sights and sounds of your commute or taking a stroll to a nearby park during lunch.
  • Immerse yourself in the moment. Try to be more present during the day. That could mean tuning in to the process of preparing dinner, including the smells, cooking sounds, and textures of the ingredients or taking a moment to focus on your breathing, which can help you slow down and feel more grounded and less stressed.
  • Take time to be grateful. At the end of the day, whether you’re journaling or reflecting quietly before falling asleep, consider the things for which you feel a sense of gratitude. This could help you relax or even help you end a hard day on a more positive note.

As with making any habit stick, it’s important to find the techniques that work best for you. Here are some resources to help you find the right approach:

  • Mindful magazine offers articles, tools, and advice about getting started with meditation and living more mindfully.
  • The Mindfulness App is aimed at helping users begin and maintain a consistent guided mindfulness meditation practice.
  • 10% Happier is another app that can help you learn meditation—starting with a free, seven-day guided course. There is also a companion book and podcast.
  • Greater Good magazine presents the latest research about the benefits of mindfulness and techniques for harnessing that mindset throughout your day.

The career payoff for mindfulness practice may not come after one session, but over time you could find yourself feeling better attuned to your emotions, more focused, and less stressed in general—all of which can contribute to helping you make more measured, meaningful career decisions on a daily and long-term basis.

Study the science of happiness

Consider enrolling in a course to help you on your path to mindfulness and career contentment. The University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has a course called The Science of Happiness, and it’s a free, interdisciplinary learning experience that’s open to everyone.

The happiness course is said to be one of the most popular offerings on the EdX platform, and students even report feeling happier after completing it. While this class does not claim to be a cure for all personal and career uncertainty, it is structured around the idea that happiness is linked to social connection and contributing to a greater cause, and challenges participants to pinpoint and nurture the things that leave them feeling fulfilled.

Remember to play

Don’t forget that play is a natural complement to work, and is essential for well-rounded, healthy lifestyles.

Research has shown that the act of play is just as important for adults as it is for children. While the way adults play is different and highly individual, it can be just as pivotal for health as sleep or food, and is an effective as a way to relieve stress, experience community, and simply have fun.

If you’re at a loss about what playtime means to you, ask yourself a few questions for inspiration:

  • What did you enjoy most as a child?
  • Is there a hobby that you’ve been meaning to take up (or pick up again)?
  • Do you value leisure time with a partner, family, or others? Or perhaps you feel most content when you have a bit of alone time?
  • What activities help you relax and completely decompress or unplug?

While the act of play can help you unwind, it can also help to remind you of those things that you’re passionate about. And while those things don’t always have to cross-over into your professional life, they can certainly help to clear the way on your road to career satisfaction.

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Have you tried self-help for your career? What has helped provide the direction you need?

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Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.
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