7 Key Steps to Determine What You Really Want

I strongly believe it’s important to go on an internal journey to discover what you really want to be doing in your encore career. This is especially important if in previous transitions you made decisions based on what seemed like the next logical step or what was expected of you, but didn’t end up with a great fit, doing work you love, with people you enjoyed working with.

There are some pretty cool steps you can take that will help you determine what’s in your heart, what would keep you engaged, passionate and purposeful, or as I like to say, what would pull you out of bed each day excited about what the day will bring.

So, where do you start? By determining what it is you really want.

If you're like 95% of all of my clients over the years, you’re starting out not having a clue what you want. No problem, because I’ll bet, again like my clients, you can be pretty articulate about what you don’t want. So that’s where we’re going to start.

The first step in determining what you want is a simple — yet powerful — exercise that goes like this:

1. Get quiet. Sit down in a quiet place with a pen and notepad, and draw a vertical line down the center of each page you use.

2. Career dislikes. In the left-hand column, start by writing down everything about your current (or previous) career that you don’t like (i.e. “being chained to my desk”, “the wicked commute”, “my boss’s nasty personality”, “too many rules and regulations”).

3. Note what worries you. Next, write down everything that makes you anxious, concerned, worried, or fearful about what might be next (i.e. “not having enough money”, “being bored”, “starting over again”, “being consumed by the work”, “having to go back to school”.)

4. Note your life dislikes. Finally, write down everything about your current life that you don’t like, or that worries you, makes you anxious, etc. (i.e. “living where the winters are cold”, “not being close enough to a town/city center to walk everywhere”, “being 30 pounds overweight”.)

Got a good long list? Great, now comes the fun part.

5. Reframe your thoughts. In the right hand column, one-by-one, reframe what you wrote down into a positive sentence, in the present tense.

Here are some examples of reframing those things that you don’t want:

Don’t Want


My boss’s nasty personalityI work for and with people who are fun, respectful, and share my values.


I am my own fabulous boss.

Too many rules and regulationsI work in a fast-paced, spontaneous environment where my creative ideas are welcomed and embraced.
Being consumed by the workI do work that I love, and I have plenty of time to spend with friends and family, and pursue other interests.
Being 30 pounds overweightI am healthy, fit, and have an abundance of energy to accomplish all that I set out to do.

6. Now you try it. One by one, reframe what you don’t want until it puts a smile on your face. If you’re smiling, or tingling inside, or just plain feeling good, you’ll know you’re on the right track. If you’re having trouble with one, skip over it, and come back to it later.

7. Break and return. Take a break for awhile, before reading through your reframed sentences.

When you read the right-hand column, you should see an excellent list beginning to reveal itself of what you want your encore career (and life) to look like. It’s not a complete picture yet, but it’s a terrific start. Meanwhile, keep adding to your “Don’t Wants” list and reframing them into your “Wants” to help you create your encore career and life.

The Secret Opportunity That Begins with Retirement

Of course retirement is scary. Whether you've chosen to retire – or been forced to – you still find yourself facing the great unknown. The current economy makes it even scarier.

At the same time you have an amazing opportunity for an encore life or encore career. Do you realize you have a blank canvas on which to create the rest of your life – even if you have to continue working? Instead of focusing on the scary parts, what if you began focusing on the possibilities?

This is your chance to get it right, but you'll need to give yourself permission to discover what's in your heart, and uncover what you really want to do as an encore career.

Claire had spent her entire life taking care of everyone around her, and over the years had lost touch with herself. When she was given 12 months notice that she would be “retired” from her job after 17 years of service, she didn't waste one minute being angry or upset. Claire realized that her forced “retirement” was a blessing in disguise, and it gave her the time she needed to explore what might be next for her.

As we worked together, she started stretching outside her comfort zone by doing some fun things she'd always wanted to do like taking motorcycle lessons and her first vacation by herself. As her confidence began to build, she discovered her entrepreneurial spirit, and three months before she left her job, she launched her own business – a concierge relocation business that incorporates what she's always done with what she most loves to do.

What if, unlike Claire, you're “retired” with no notice? What if you're pushed out before you've had a chance to figure out what's next? Don’t panic.

Instead of leaping into any job when she was laid off, Darlene took four months off to recharge. Then, within a couple of weeks she had four job interviews, two job offers, and took one of them. While she was recharging she discovered that she, too, wanted to start her own business. She decided to turn her love of quilting into a business, but felt that she “wasn't quite ready” and “needed to start making money again” once she had taken some time off.

After a few months in the new job, though, Darlene saw clearly that she really wanted to work for herself, so she left the job, and committed herself full-time to launching her business – an online quilt fabric store. She's about to go live with her dream, and she's happier than she’s been in years.

You, too, may discover you want to be your own boss. Or, you may realize you love what you do, but want to transform how and where you're doing it. Or perhaps you'll uncover a long-buried dream, and make it come true. The only way you'll know is to take some time to find out.

3 Most Important Mistakes to Avoid BEFORE Creating Your Encore Career

So what exactly is an encore career? In a nutshell, it's a new stage of work, post-retirement, that’s purposeful, meaningful, and joyful. It's work on your own terms. Work that matters.

Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get started creating your “ideal” encore career?

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the process, there’s internal work to be done—work that will assure you end up doing what you really want to be doing. Not to worry if financially you need to get a job now. That doesn’t preclude you from embarking on the journey while you’re working.

Mistake #1: Failing to Follow Your Heart's Desire

Think about how you’ve gone about navigating your career in the past. What percentage of the time were you looking outside yourself for the answer to what was next? How often did you take the path of least resistance or do what was expected of you, rather than following your heart to what you really wanted to be doing?

This time can be different. But, only if you’re willing to put the external tasks of creating your ideal encore career on hold while you take a look inside yourself and discover what’s in your heart. You might want to use my example to guide you.

Type “A” personality that I was, I flew into my first “retirement” giving myself five weeks between my career as a television and special events producer and the beginning of what I thought should be my encore career.

Now, while I enjoyed the work that I did, and I was really good at it, it wasn’t what I really wanted to be doing. I didn’t know that at the time, because I flung myself into my next career as a documentary film producer. It wasn’t what I was being called to do; it just seemed to be the next logical step, and what everyone said I’d be great at.

It took about six weeks for me to hit the brick wall and realize that documentaries weren’t “it” for me. Next, I leaped into becoming a financial wizard, fired our financial advisor, and took over our entire family’s finances. Don’t ask me what I was thinking. Finance is about as far away from what my heart desired as I could get. But, again I was grasping at whatever seemed like a good idea at the time, instead of slowing down, taking a look inside, and discovering what I really wanted.

Mistake #2: Designing Your Career Before Designing Your Life

Finally, after hitting several more painful, proverbial brick walls, I hired a terrific life coach who helped me design the life I wanted to be living, and then create work that fit in with that life. Always before, I would create the work, and then try to squeeze some life in around the edges.

Mistake #3: Ignoring Your Values

Through a series of reflective processes, I discovered the “real” me: my values, my dreams, and my desires. I learned that just because I was good at something didn’t mean I should be doing it, and that I really wanted to enjoy the freedom having my own business would afford. Happily, coaching and speaking ended up being the perfect encore career for my wonderful encore life.

I’ve never been happier.

Once I knew in my heart what I wanted to do, it was so much easier to create a nuts-and-bolts plan to get me where I wanted to go. Don't make the same mistakes I made in creating my encore career. Take an adequate amount of time to get out of your head and into your heart. Without this all-important step, you'll be wasting your precious time.

4 Steps to Determine What You Value

One of the most powerful tools for determining what you really want in your encore career (and life) is clarifying your personal values. But, what exactly do I mean by values?

I like to think of values as those things that really matter to you — what lights you up, turns you on, and gets your juices going. Being part of a community is a personal value; so is having fun. Other examples are family, financial freedom, beauty, spirituality, mastery, inspiration, friendship, originality, contribution, and connection.

Your personal values are unique to you. They make life worth living. It's important to remember that your personal values evolve over time. What you valued in your 20s is probably very different from what you value now in your 50s or 60s.

So, what are your top priorities for this particular time in your life? What ideas and beliefs do you hold most dear that if your life were designed around them, you would be truly fulfilled? What values define how you want to live your life — every day of your life — from now on?

To discover your top values, start with my 120+ Personal Values flash card set. While you can print them out on card stock, cut up and use them like flash cards, it works equally as well to print them out on copy paper and use them as a list:

1. First Pass. Take some quiet time to go through the list one value at a time, and make a check mark next to any that resonate with you and make you feel good. Don't worry if you have a lot of check marks. That's only natural, since you value many things.

2. Add Your Own. Use the list as a stepping off point and add everything you value that's not on the list to the blank sheet on the last page. For instance, one thing that was missing from my life for many years that I hold very dear at this point in my life is breathing space — in my day, my week, my month and my year.

3. Down to 15-20. Now, go through the list again (your check marks and your additions) and whittle it down to 15-20 values. You may have to do several passes to narrow it down. That's okay.

4. The Top 5. Choose the five values that mean the most to you. You'll notice that you may have two or more similar values on your list like “create” and “design”. Does the idea of one thrill you more than the other? That's the one to pick. If they both tickle you, then they both stay. It doesn't matter as long as every value on your list lights you up, turns you on, and/or really gets your juices going.

The fact that you've selected only five doesn't mean the other values on your list aren't important to you. It's just that right now in your life, these are what hold the most meaning for you.

But here's the really big question: How much of the life you're living right now is aligned with your values? Not so much? Not to worry. Here's your homework: choose one of your values and create a small goal that honors it. For instance, if “having fun” is one of your values and your life isn't very fun right now, you might create the goal of doing something fun every week.

Over time, create a goal for each one of your top five values. Start small, and each time you accomplish one of these values goals, up the ante to a larger goal. You'll discover that when you create goals around your values, you're literally pulled toward those goals — it feels easy and fun. When your goals are not aligned with your values, it'll feel like you're pushing a boulder up the side of a cliff.

You could simply use your top five values to inform the kind of values-based encore life that would be ideal for you. Or, you could take a big leap and create one goal — i.e. your encore career — that honors all five of your top personal values, and see what you come up with!

What’s Your Expertise?

As you begin to evaluate your encore career, it is important to establish your core values as a tool for discovering your encore career. The next step is to determine what skills or expertise you have that align with what you define as your personal values.

In order to do this, you must look back over your experiences to find those things that you're not only good at, but you really enjoy doing. Face it. There are lots of things you're good at that you dread doing. But, what's the sense of creating an encore career that has you doing anything but what you most enjoy?

Uncovering those things that you most enjoy that you're good at is a great next step on your internal journey of discovery for your ideal encore career. Take some quiet reflection time, and ask yourself these seven must-ask questions:

1. What do/did I enjoy most about my current career? This is a terrific place to start. Write down every thing you like about your work, that puts a smile on your face. If the challenge (and enjoyment) are long gone from the work you do, think back to the beginning. What excited you about the work? What pulled you out of bed in the morning that you couldn't wait to do?

2. What do I most enjoy learning? Over the years, you've most likely invested a lot of time and energy in learning. Only include what you learned for the simple joy of it. Please leave out what you either “had to” learn for your work, or what you learned for the people you love, but didn't light you up.

3. What do other people always come to me for? This is a great one. I'll bet there are a number of things that the people in your life consistently ask you for. It might be for your ability to see the big picture, help solving a problem, or just to be heard. These are great clues as to what you're good at. Again, only write down the ones you really enjoy doing.

4. What do I discount as valuable because I do it so effortlessly? For years it never occurred to me that my energetic, enthusiastic cheerleading would be something that I could earn a living at, because it's just part of who I am, and I've been doing it since I was a little girl. But, my coaching, writing and presenting make good use of this gift, and that I get paid for it is a wonderful bonus.

5. What do I love so much that I would pay someone to let me do? Okay, so now you're sworn to secrecy. I love my work as a coach and workshop leader so much that I would gladly pay my clients to let me coach them, and my Boot Camp participants to let me inspire them. Of course, one needs to make a living, but it's a great way to feel about the work that you do. Your ideal encore career should feel like this.

6. What am I doing when I lose all track of time? They say time flies when you're having fun, and that's true for me when I'm designing a new keynote, workshop or Boot Camp. Hours pass and it feels like minutes; my creative juices are flowing and I'm having a blast. When does time fly for you?

7. What do I love to do just for the sake of doing it? I love presenting. Being up in front of people, sharing my passion, knowledge and expertise thrills me. It never gets dull, I never get bored, and it gives me the opportunity to meet interesting new people all the time. What do you love to do this much?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you'll have a valuable piece to add to your “What's My Ideal Encore Career” puzzle. Your answers should begin to reveal some of the essence of your ideal encore career picture.

Remember, in order to find your ideal encore career, it's imperative that you determine what it is you want first, then get down to the nuts and bolts of how to get it.