The Secret to Building a Career and Life You Love (Is Not What You Think)


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There are many things conventional wisdom says about how to be happier in your career and job (and have a life you love too).  Make friends with colleagues.  Prioritize.  Delegate.  Be more productive.  Manage your time wisely.  Use technology for more flexibility.  Use your calendar and schedule what’s important.

In fact, there’s no shortage of tips and techniques.  Yet we’re still talking about how to achieve “balance” and be happy in life while being successful at work.  Leading to yet more discussion of how to use the same old tips and techniques.

Conventional wisdom is missing something.  But what?  Most of these tips and techniques focus on taking outside action.  But what if I told you the missing ingredient is you.

The secret to loving your career (and, quite frankly, your entire life) is knowing who you are and living in complete alignment with that.  At the end of the day, it’s all about living intentionally.

You may be asking whether it’s that simple.  And my answer is: yes.

But don’t confuse simplicity with ease.  Living with intention requires three fundamental things: (1) deeply understanding yourself and what you truly want out of your career and your life; (2) a willingness to be vulnerable (and brutally honest with yourself); and (3) courage to act.

Let’s tackle each one of these individually.

You must deeply understand who you are and what you really want

What Does It Mean to Understand Who You Are?

Understanding who you are and what you want is key to it all.  And you may think that you understand yourself and know exactly what you want.  But do you?  If you’re still searching for “balance” or trying (and failing) to have a successful career that you love and a personal life you love too, I suggest you re-evaluate.

What I’m talking about is deeply understanding who you are and what you want based on your core personal values. 

This is more than setting goals and having a vision for your life.  It’s about understanding what your personal values mean to you and how they affect what you want out of life.  And then aligning your vision and goals with your values and living intentionally to honor them in all that you do.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to lose sight of this in today’s busy world.  There’s so much to get done and so little time.  And we’re so busy striving after what we think we should want or doing what we think we should be doing that we often lose sight of what we want and who we are.

In fact, most of my clients come to me with no real knowledge of who they are.  And it’s the first thing we remedy – which helps everything else to fall into place.

Your Core Personal Values

So, what are your core personal values?  Those things that are so important to you that they drive you.  They are what give you purpose and a sense of meaning within the world.  Your values are your foundation.  They’ll serve as your compass to help you determine what you want out of your career and the rest of your life.

Your values (and honoring them within every decision you make) are an important key to your happiness.  And, if you want to feel at peace with yourself and in the world, you must honor them.  And that means within your career too (because what you do for a living is part of your life).

Once you’re consciously aware of your true personal values, you can create your vision for your career (and life) and the goals to help you get there with confidence.  And you can simplify your life by weeding out those things that don’t match your vision or values.

A quick side note: I’m not talking about ethics or morals.  I’m talking about the values you must live by to feel whole.  Without them, you’d feel as though you weren’t you.  And when you don’t honor them, something feels off (even if you don’t realize why).

Although your core values are inherent within you, that doesn’t mean that you’re consciously aware of them.  And you want to be consciously aware – so that you can live intentionally to honor them.  Which means that you must first identify your core personal values and understand what they mean to you and how you want to live your life.

This process requires brutal honesty – and a willingness to be vulnerable

Taking the time to figure out your core personal values and what you really want requires honesty.  Brutal honesty.  About who you are and what you really want.  And about the “should’s” in your life.

When I reference the “should’s”, I’m talking about those things you want to value because you believe they’re worthier than what you actually value.  I’m also talking about the actions you take and things you commit yourself to because you think you should be doing them.  Either because of the role you play within your career or personal life, or expectations of loved ones and/or colleagues (or what you think is expected of you).

These “should’s” aren’t connected to who you really are or what you really want.  Which means you need to drop them.  Forever.

And that’s where vulnerability comes into play.  Because it requires you to open yourself up and show the world who you truly are.  And it requires you to change the way you’ve been thinking and doing things.  Which is scary.

Change is scary.  And so is potentially disappointing people who’ve become accustomed to the way you’ve been doing things.

You may worry that you’ll be seen as selfish because you’re trying to re-align your life with who you are and what you really want.  But being you is not selfish.  Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Moving Forward Requires Courage

Moving forward and making changes requires courage.  Courage to move past your fears and anxieties.  Courage to be vulnerable.  Courage to trust yourself and not worry about others’ opinions.

No longer will you be basing any of your decisions on what others do (or don’t do).  Or on what they think you should be doing.

You’ll have to learn to trust yourself and move forward with confidence.  Based on who you are and what you really want out of your life.

But here’s the thing: if you continue to live your life in a way that doesn’t align with who you are, you’ll eventually lose yourself completely.  And losing yourself leads to negativity, regret, failure, and unhappiness.

And this negativity and unhappiness won’t be limited to one area of your life.  It will infuse your relationships with loved ones, how you perceive the world, and how you perceive your place in the world.

When you look at it that way, you may find it a bit easier to move forward.  But make no mistake: moving forward and changing requires courage.

Putting It All Together

Although there are three fundamental keys to this process, they aren’t separate or unique steps.  They’re part of a singular process.  A process that’s necessary to living intentionally – and happily.  And living with intention is the key to finding the “balance” we all talk about (but rarely seem to find).

I recommend you take time this week to determine (or confirm) your core personal values.  You’re worth the commitment.  And so is your happiness.

To help you through this process, I’ve created for you the Inner Compass Guidebook to Finding Purpose (see below to snag it).  The Guidebook will help you gain clarity around your core values and how to define them (you can grab it below).  And this process will also help you to better determine the “should’s” that can be dropped from your life.

When determining your personal values, don’t get caught up in what you think you’re supposed to value or what others value.  This process won’t work if you don’t learn to drop the things that don’t fit.  The only “wrong” value is one that isn’t yours.

Also, you shouldn’t have more than 4 or 5 core values.  So, be sure to narrow them down to your true values.  Again, the Inner Compass Guidebook will help you through this process and get you where you want to be.

Having a deep awareness of your core values will help you create the vision you want out of life (career and all).  Plus, you’ll be able to determine what changes you want to make and how you want to move forward within your career and life in general – using your values as your compass and guide.

Once you’ve gone through the Guidebook and have determined your core personal values, I ask that you brave up and share in the comments below.  Let us know one value you found going through this process that either surprised you or was confirmed for you (but was something you didn’t previously want to admit was a core value). 

Remember that your courage to share could help someone else, so please give as much detail as you’d like.

Until next time…

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Picture of Heather

Hey there, I'm Heather.

I'm on a mission to help high-achievers like you confidently achieve what you want without stress, overthinking or perfectionism getting in your way.


Heather sitting at a table working

Hey there, I’m Heather.

Recovering lawyer. Leadership Coach. Business Strategist. Cancer Survivor.

Lover of queso and dark chocolate (plus all things Texas Longhorns) who’s on a mission to help purpose-driven professionals confidently create your next level of success + impact (while ditching stress, overthinking and people-pleasing for good).

My 18+ years in private practice while building a values-based, profitable business taught me that you CAN have a successful and fulfilling career without sacrificing your health, relationships or boundaries.

And I’m here to show you how.  So that you can achieve more of what YOU want (while doing less) and free up time for things such as family, friends, hobbies and (yes!) quiet time just for you.

Go here to sign up to receive weekly tips, tools and strategies for how to create success in both life and career on your terms (from the inside-out).