I wholeheartedly recommend Barbara Sher’s book, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was. Her purpose in writing the book is to help you find and pursue a career that “makes your heart sing.” She includes many creative exercises for zeroing in on that ideal career. They include describing the job from hell, remembering what you loved as a kid, planning the next 50 years, etc.
Not interested? Already in the right career? Me, too. I never did any of those exercises. That’s not why I recommend this book.
I recommend it for its excellent advice for how to pursue a challenging career—to pursue it despite old emotional baggage that sometimes gets in the way.
Inner conflict can make you stuck. And when this happens, Barbara Sher argues that you need to act. Endless self-analysis will only keep you stuck; action will give you new information and build new confidence. For example, she encourages some people who are stalled in indecision to take the wrong job—and do it outstandingly. Because you can learn a tremendous amount about the right job, by doing the wrong job well.
By nudging you into action, Ms. Sher helps you uncover and demystify feelings of conflict. “Start moving toward a goal…and [any] resistance will leap out of hiding and start trying to talk you out of moving,” she says. And once you hear the little voice that is stopping you, she has excellent advice for what to do about it.
Her top suggestion is to identify the source of that little voice. For example, in one exercise you write out what each person in your family thought you “should” be when you grew up. It turns out that most resistance is based on stale opinions of others that you heard in the past. Once you see where resistance comes from, it loses much of its emotional power.
Throughout the book Barbara Sher expresses respect for feelings—without giving in to them. She makes a case that it is never laziness that stops you from pursuing goals—it’s always inner conflict. But whatever the conflict, she makes it clear that you can make the life you want happen now.
I wish the title of this book were, “I could do anything if I only knew what was stopping me.” But whatever the title, I think this book is of great interest to anyone pursuing a challenging career.
Book Information: Barbara Sher, I could do anything if I only knew what it was: How to discover what you really want and how to get it, Dell, 1995.