Q: A friend and I were talking about what we had thought we wanted to be when we were in high school. Her goal was to be a history teacher, so she got her bachelor's and master's degrees, began teaching history and loved her decision. I, on the other hand, wanted to be an actress, had auditioned for plays in high school and was told I was good. I went to college and worked low pay, low stress office jobs so I could pursue acting. I didn't audition a lot but I don't really know why. I stopped pursuing it and started taking more serious office jobs to make more money. I have been miserable ever since, but I feel like it's too late to try again. The actors who have made it have started young and had supportive or stage parents, or had industry connections. My regret and frustration grows every year and I'm lost as to what to do. I feel like my salary runs my life and I hate living this way.
A: You and your friend had very different types of passions. Becoming a history teacher is a realistic, doable goal, which is why she was able to achieve it. You, on the other hand, pursued a career that inherently has high odds against a person achieving it. It also sounds like you gave up early on. If it had been a true passion, you would have searched for auditions and moved to an area where you had greater opportunities. Your first step is to identify what deterred you from following your dream; ask yourself why you didn't audition as much as you could have. It takes a different level of effort to be a little fish in a big sea compared to a big fish in a small pond. You may think you're angry for giving in to choosing a job with a secure income, but the anger may be that it reminds you of what you did not achieve.
Focus your energy on activities to release your frustration and disappointment over your current situation. You cannot go forward surrounded by negativity and hopelessness. You likely see your dreams as loftier than your friend's, but comparing the two careers -- one that is easily attainable to another that is equal to winning the lottery -- will naturally drive down your confidence since you think you are not living up to your expectations.
According to Scott Mautz, author of "Find The Fire: Ignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again," you need to seek the "Holy Grail of Enthusiasm; it's power extends beyond that of motivation." He defines motivation as the consequence of inspiration, and inspiration "galvanizes energy and vision and shoves it into action." In other words, don't look for others to inspire you. Dwindling self-belief slowly destroys self-confidence, and confidence is critical to feeling successful regardless of your goals. Briefly, your values and judgments have been undermining your ability to achieve your dreams. You did what was best for you financially, yet you degrade yourself for doing it.
Stop discouraging yourself with negative messages of "it's too late." To see if acting is still a true passion, get yourself into counseling to discuss what was going on in your life that contributed in discouraging you from the field. You would also benefit from taking the Meyers-Briggs assessment test, which helps individuals zero in on their true interests and character traits for finding career potential. Once you uncover these hidden feelings, you will be able to move forward to realize a career that will satisfy and may even delight you. Everyone always has choices in life regardless of age or time spent in other careers, but some may need a little guidance in raising those possibilities to the light.
Email life and career coach LindseyNovak@yahoo.com with all your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/At-Work-Lindsey-Novak.