To Discover Your Dreams, First Discover Yourself

I was watching NY1 right after a friend asked how to go about finding a career she can truly care about and hopefully even love – rather than just lots of jobs strung together. While arguably, sometimes jobs strung together can be the basis of a career, there on NY1’s New Yorker of the Week segment was a large part of her answer. As they say in comedy, timing is everything.

Broadway performer Luis Salgado founded his organization Revolucion Latina on the idea of “daring to go beyond”.  Using that as a guiding principle,  Salgado and friends (many of them also Broadway performers) created a free 3-day summer camp for local inner city kids. The camp lets them discover who they are by giving them the chance to sing, dance, act and feel free to simply express themselves. How many of us would love some time at a camp like that! And who better as role model than Salgado, caring, passionate performer and choreographer currently in the Broadway hit In the Heights?

Responding to a question about what value his camp and the principles it’s based on has for young campers, Salgado smiled broadly: “To discover yourself is how you discover your dreams.” I smiled too – both at the power of that simple truth and because I was reminded of a time when, first out of college, I had a major epiphany: I kind of knew who others wanted me to be, but I had almost no idea who I was and what I really wanted – or what I should even allow myself to try to pursue.

Of course I knew some things I liked, but I hadn’t yet explored enough of the world to know anything beyond the limits I had already encountered. And coming from a childhood where safety above all (and not asking too many questions) was the guiding light, it struck me I would have to really push myself to reach out and touch new things – even if they didn’t always turn out the way I wished. Daring to go beyond, as Salgado says.

Taste, touch, try!

The most important initial step you can take to find a career you love is committing to exploring who you are and what you believe in. Taste. Touch. Try. To know your taste in art or music or books or philosophy or food or even sports can inform so much else of your exploration. And don’t just look at what you already know you like…dare yourself to go beyond and experience things you don’t especially like or don’t yet know you could like.

Now and then it also pays to try things more than once. Have you ever tasted a food that at first makes you go “yuch!” and then – you don’t exactly remember when – you actually begin to like it.  The same kind of thing happened to me the first time I saw the work of artist Mark Rothko. It was a major “yuch!” I mean my cat could do that with a few buckets of paint and a ruler…or so I first reacted. But the more I explored art as a whole  and the more time I spent looking at and just feeling Rothko’s work…well, now I’m a major fan. Amazing how new doors can open up when we step outside our comfort zones and look for those special moments of recognition that make us light up inside.

Each time we add to the picture of who we are.

The same applies to volunteer work or taking a new class or joining a group – or even blogging! And jobs you don’t love count too. You get to figure out more of your values, what you do or don’t enjoy, and the types of people you prefer working with. If there’s no match…that’s ok. Even if it doesn’t match more than once…that’s ok too. All part of the process. And just as with dating, we sometimes repeat career choices that don’t work for us (even if they at first look different) as we work to build up the courage to finally move beyond.

Why does all this matter?

This kind of exploration opens up windows to the real person inside – strengths weaknesses, likes, dislikes, what makes us sad, what brings us joy. And it also opens us up to finding others with similar tastes and beliefs.  We get to be seen as 3-dimensional fully formed human beings with tastes and likes we embrace proudly – giving us a much better chance of connecting to people and things (and yes even jobs) that match who we really are. As a result of the process of filling in the blanks and opening ourselves up to new things (as much as possible – we’re all different), we wind up meeting people over time who become mentors as well as friends. All pieces of the puzzle. All parts of the journey.

And if you need to take a “job job” in the meantime, that’s cool too. You have already committed to the discovery process and so may even see opportunities where you never would have seen them. Plus, in your spare time, you can still be moving in the right direction!

Just a hint: Try to stay away from the nots and can’ts. They’re old friends whose only job is to stop you.  “I love sports but I can’t play well.” So maybe you can start by exploring related or similar jobs? (Funny thing happens on paths we enjoy…we meet others we connect with who may open us up to interesting things we never imagined.) “I want to go back to school but I was never very good at school.” Well, maybe you are differently motivated now. Or maybe you can find something to study where you learn as you go.

Don’t be the one to tell yourself no.

The more you find out about who you are…

the less room to worry about who you aren’t!

And finally, as a result of all this exploration, there’s a nice little dividend to be had that goes well beyond that of our own self-discovery. From Salgado’s personal website:

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

Action is indeed the greatest orator. 😉

So are you looking for career change? Ready to begin the transition process? I challenge you to start this very week by discovering at least one thing new about yourself. And if you accept the challenge…please write and tell us what you find!

=> Browse the Career Dictionary <=

Dreaming of a Dream Job

When Am I Going to Find the Perfect Job for Me?

Finding Passion in Your Work: One Man’s Solution

A Way to Try Out Your Dream Job

I Want a Job I Love!

How Baby Steps Can Get You Into a Career You Love

How Can I Find a Job that Makes Me Happy?

Thinking of Changing Careers for that Dream Job? Be Creative!

20 Simple Tips to Help Move Your Career Ahead

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About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Hey Ronnie Ann,

    I couldn’t agree more! There really is so much out there to taste, touch and try and who better than us to decide what we think.

    It sounds like you and I had one or two similar experiences starting out. Everyone else had an opinion about the jobs I would like and what I should do apart from me. It was only when I got hands-on and started weighing-up choices for myself that things started to come together. Although this didn’t happen overnight and no way is it over yet!

    If you asked me, one of the best things about learning to trust our own judgement and figuring things out as we go is getting to grips with the way we also change and evolve. Just like your example of the foods we learn to love over time, this has helped me to realise that change doesn’t just happen to us, we’re an integral part of it.

    Fight change in my career or explore it, I know what I’d rather be doing 🙂

    Thanks for getting me thinking as always!

    All the best for now,


  2. Ronnie Ann, I love this post. I think there are a lot of people struggling to find their way (myself included). The workforce today is very different than the workforce was for our parents. In work as in nature, it is not the strongest who survive but the most adaptable to change.

  3. Fantastic post, RA! I am one who has a few little jobs, that together, I suppose make sort of a mosaic of a career. There is term “multiple streams of income” to refer to this lifestyle; if any ONE of the jobs goes bust, the others can compensate…with any luck! I love what you say about discovering “who you are and what you believe in”. I so believe in that. Your personal explorations are heartwarming and helpful reminders. And the warning about the “nots” and the “can’ts” is will taken. 🙂

  4. Thanks Paul, Jenny and Muse! Appreciate your comments today and always. And thanks also for the tweets! (Did I ever in my life dream that word would come to be a good thing rather than a typo?)

    ~ Ronnie Ann

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