What do you tell yourself about what’s possible?

What does your ideal work day at your dream job look like?  Can you really picture it, in detail? 

The first time Joe did this exercise his ideal work day was just a little better than his current work day.  In reality, it was a description of what his current job would look like if all the problems were “fixed.”  But when I asked him if this is the job he’d love to have, the job he really wants, after a thoughtful pause, he replied in a sad voice, “No, not really.”   

As Joe and I talked, Joe realized he had been telling himself that the ideal job wasn’t practical.   That he couldn’t have that job.  He wasn’t good enough, skilled enough.  His “inner critic” or “voices from his past” or just plain fear got in the way.  We all tell ourselves stories about our limits.  The problem is you can’t really know for sure whether you can or can’t have a job and career you love, if we don’t know what it is. 

Mary on the other hand had a very clear vision of the job and career she wanted.  She cut out pictures from magazines and made a collage of what it would look like, feel like.  Her vision included a downtown city office with plants and lots of natural light, coworkers collaborating happily on projects, delivering successful presentations to clients, and even writing reports and doing research from her home computer.  When it came time to look for a job, really look to see what was out there for her, Mary stopped cold.  She would just say over and over, “I’m not qualified.”  Even though Mary hadn’t actually looked for companies and positions, and she hadn’t applied for any jobs.   

What was the story Mary was telling herself?  Her ideal job wasn’t practical or possible.  The problem of course is that Mary told herself this story, believed this story.  And this story limited her.   

What stories you do tell yourself about what’s possible?   

Joe did the exercise several more times, until he finally could say with enthusiasm, “Yes!  That is a job I’d love doing! That’s a place I’d love to work! I’d feel great.”  Today Joe is employed in a new job that he loves.  It’s not an exact match for is ideal work day at his dream job, but it has all the most important elements to Joe. 

Mary began to question her story, question whether it was true.  She then began to test her story by applying for jobs at companies that were similar to her dream.  Today Mary is excited about her options, about the possibilities she sees.

Take a moment now, close your eyes, and picture in your mind what your ideal work day at your dream job is like.  Where are you? What are you doing?  How does your day unfold?  Who do you spend time with? How do you get to work? Imagine what it would feel like, sound like, even smell like, as you live out your ideal work day.  What problems do you get to solve?  What challenges do you overcome?  What does your place of work look like?  Then ask yourself, is the job you’d love to have, the jobyou really want?  If not, what story are you telling yourself?  If it is, then what’s story stops you from going after it?

I’d be honored if you’d share what you discover with me here on my blog.

2 comments to What do you tell yourself about what’s possible?

  • Jonni Rose Lukenbill

    This is a great exercise in narrative/constructivist therapy but what is the next step? The client does all the positivistic exercises, applies to all the “dream job” positions open, then is never called for an interview because hundreds of other unemployed qualified people also have applied. What do you do next to help your client? Is telling her/him that the economy will “pick up”? Thousands of wonderfully positive, eminently qualified people are seeking employment-there are too few jobs even for those who do “everything right”. What is the next step?

    • You are right Jonni, this is only part of the process. The program I have developed includes 3 stages: Unearth who you are and what you offer (the strengths, skills, passions you love to use), Imagine the ideal work environment and job, Create a pragmatic plan and strategy to get there. This includes the components of the job search: resume, cover letter, interview skills, networking strategy to name a few. The dream is an important part of the process, as is what you believe. But it all must be followed up with actions, the right actions to get you the job you want. I include all of these steps in my work with clients, for exactly the reasons you list.


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