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Allow dialogue of the self

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Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, 9:20 p.m.

Even at funerals, people talk about their careers.

On Friday, right before the funeral of my beloved Uncle Butch — the part where people struggle to find the right words — a man I've known for years walked over, said the appropriate words, then shared, “I've got a book in me. What do I do next? Where do I start?”

Later over a meal, talk among family and friends turned to “What are you up to these days?” What do you do?” “What's your major?”

And while no one said it, as they listened to others chat about their lives and careers, everyone was wondering, “Have I done enough with mine?”

When we see dying, we tend to think about how to live. Sometimes we need a day off from our routine to sit in a chapel with a coffin in front of us hearing about someone else's life to reflect on our own.

Who knows how long our own lives will last?

So let's not waste another minute. Let's talk about that craving you have to do more with your life.

German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, better known to most as simply Goethe, nailed the starting point.

“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live,” he said.

The trouble is hearing what your self has to say.

This requires quiet time to contemplate what's summoning you, no matter how vague it might be. You may not be able to prove it; you just know it.

What's summoning you could be something you've never told anyone or thought was not possible. Yet, it lingers in your mind.

When I work with people to help them get at this, I use my “I just know” exercise. So if you are trying to get in touch with what you want to do with your life, complete these sentences:

• I just know it would be great if I could ...

• I just know I really want to ...

• I just know in the back of my mind, I sense there is a path that uses my ability to ...

• I just know I've always wanted to ...

• I just know I'm intrigued by ...

• I just know I was born to ...

• I just know I want to know more about ...

Finishing these sentences generates no pressure to name what your interest, curiosity or intrigue will turn into — far from it. It's a starting place inside yourself.

In 2007, actress Mary Steenburgen woke up from sedation after routine arm surgery feeling very strange. She has described it in interviews as music playing in her head day and night that she couldn't turn off.

She decided to embrace it and began studying music, composition and great songwriters. Although she had never written music, later that year she wrote her first song and has been composing ever since.

“I love it beyond belief,” she said in a CBS interview. “There's something about it that just appeals to me. I don't know why.”

Such awakenings might be rare. Steenburgen even likens hers to a state of “Musicophilia” — a concept Dr. Oliver Sacks writes about in his book of that name in which people gain strange musical powers or are afflicted with disorders that affect their lives.

But the example does not negate the importance of asking these questions while you can: What's inside me that refuses to be ignored? What wants to live?

Then let it.

Contact career consultant Andrea Kay at

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