I learned this excercise when I was getting training in Gestalt therapy from Howie Lambert, PhD whose guidance during my psychologist internship year has long proven invaluable. My website that teaches couples the skills for marriage success, PowerOfTwoMarriage.com, is an outgrowth of what I learned from the following brief visualization:
Sit in a comfortable chair and, after reading each instruction, close your eyes. Better yet, ask a friend to read each instruction to you so you can keep your eyes closed and verbalize aloud your answer to each question. There are no wrong answers, so relax and enjoy whatever comes to your mind.
1. Picture a car. Notice its color and the kind of car it seems to be. Describe it aloud.
2. Now focus on what part of the car you would be if you were one part of the car you had pictures in question #1. What part would that be?
3. What does that part of the car do? What appeals to you about that role?
4. What would be the equivalent activity in a work environment?
Do the above 'best career path' exercise now.
Wait to read others' responses (below) until after you have completed the questions above on your own.
What did you discover?
Here's some sample answers other people have given that have helped them to clarif the most gratifying career path for them.
Dr H: I'm the starter engine. At work, I like to get things started. I've launched a new way of thinking about what makes psychotherapy effective, for instance, in my book From Conflict to Resolution. My PowerOfTwoMarriage website launched a way of teaching emotional health skills via fun online teaching methods. My book Power of Two was one of the first to clarify the communication and emotional management skills individuals and couples need to build a successful marriage.
Billy: I'm the seat. I like to make people feel comfortable and to support them in what they are doing.
Julie: I'm the breaks. I like to keep an organization safe by putting on the breaks when the company begins heading in an unsafe direction.
Peter: I'm the steering wheel. I like to be the one that decides where the organization needs to go and to keep us on the route that will get us there.
Carole: I'm the radio. I like to keep people entertained.
In conclusion, most people could be happy on many and varied career paths.
Whatever industry you choose and skill sets you develop, the key to making that career the best career path for you is to find a way to play out the role you've discovered in this visualization. That's what will ultimately your work most meaningful and enjoyable.
If you'd like to share what you have discovered about your ideal kind of work, please write about what you found as a Comment below.
Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD, has authored four books, three audios (free downloads on the computer version of therapyhelp.com), two videos (available via her therapyhelp.com website), and one website where you can learn the skills for marriage success, PowerOfTwoMarriage.com.