How to choose what to do

Whenever people ask me for career advice, I always suggest the same exercise.

It starts with 3 circles.

The first circle is what you’re good at and lists all of your key strengths, particularly those that differentiate you. Some people are inherently super organized, others are known as creative thinkers. They can be skills that you’ve always been good at, or they can be acquired skills that you have put in the hard work to obtain. List as many as you can.

The second circle is what you enjoy doing. These are any activities where you voluntarily spend your time even when there is no external pressure. Again, list as many as you can. The more you have on the list, the more pieces you have to play with later.

These first two are about you. The third is about your potential opportunities. The best ones are places where you see there is a gap that needs to be closed or a niche that could be filled, but you can also add existing roles that you might want to occupy some day. Want to be CEO? Great. Put it on the list.

If you are in an existing organization, you can go through all the roles above you (or to your side) and see which ones you might want and which ones you don’t. Understanding why you don’t want a role can also be extremely helpful. 

Once you have those circles filled out, it’s time to play a matching game. The question is how many ways can you overlap the circles to create a Venn Diagram showing the nexus of what you are good at, what you like to do, and the opportunities available, like this:

The more the better. As I’ve previously written, the world is complex. That means that you never really know what’s going to happen. If you can’t predict any individual outcome, get as many positive scenarios as you can. This increases the chance that at least one will come to pass.

Here are a few ways to increase the pool of opportunities:

1. What skills could you build?

In this case, match “what I enjoy doing” to the “potential opportunities” and look for where you are missing the “what I’m good at” part. These are great places to learn more.

2. What new opportunities can you create from scratch?

Look at “what I’m good at” and “what I enjoy doing”. How could you put those together to add value in a way that someone will pay you for it? This is also a great way to generate ideas for a new business or service.

3. Are you sure you don’t like that?

Lastly, look at “what I’m good at” and the “potential opportunities”. Where there is a great match, but you don’t have it on the “what I enjoy doing” list, ask yourself why? What you enjoy is surprisingly flexible if you understand how it works.

Here’s the diagram that resulted in the creation of my personal blog, This Curious Adventure:

So while this post was about career advice, you can apply this to any area of your life. I find it particularly helpful when I feel I need something new in my exercise routines or other aspects of keeping healthy.

Leave a Reply