One of my favorite lines from any movie is when Jeff Golblum, looking at the wrath of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, offers this profound thought:
Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
I love this because it’s so applicable to my career coaching clients. This is the problem many people find themselves in with work. They’re told they have an ability—You’re really good with numbers…you should be an accountant!—but they never stop to think if it’s the right thing to do.
Talent is awesome. We all have it to a certain extent. Whatever your unique ability, it feels wonderful to be recognized for being good at something. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to make a fulfilling career. In fact, for some people, it’s the work they find most challenging that really makes them feel alive.
If we simply do what we do because we CAN, we end up selling ourselves short. The truth is, you can do a lot of things. You can do far more than you realize. Don’t be confined by your current ability. If you’re naturally good with numbers but you secretly long to be a writer, push yourself to learn those skills. See how it feels to use a different part of yourself. Perhaps you’ll uncover a hidden talent. Or maybe the challenge will make you miss the ease and satisfaction of number crunching. Who knows?
My point is this: Don’t stay in a career that doesn’t make you happy just because you think it’s “the thing” you’re good at. Explore! Develop new skills, even if they feel completely foreign at first. If it’s something you really want to do, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
In my recent interview on Career Reality, I addressed a question that relates to this topic. The person felt she was struggling too much in her career. Though she enjoyed it, she found that people around her were exceling with greater ease. The career choice was not a natural fit for her, but she wanted to make it work.
My advice was not to give up. She may have to work twice as hard to get half as far, but if it’s the right thing for her, it’s worth it. Of course, only she can make that decision. And, as the host of the show pointed out, it could be helpful to do some assessments to see if there’s something that IS a natural fit that she hasn’t tapped into yet.
I suppose my ultimate advice is this: Forget CAN and CAN’T, SHOULD and SHOULDN’T. What do you WANT?