"I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to discover what you really want and how to get it" by Barbara Sher
I first picked up Barbara Sher's "I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was" over 15 years ago, when I was searching to validate my chosen career path. I found it a valuable resource both then and now as a reference tool for my life and career coaching practice. The book, which is more like a workbook, is designed to help you identify your personal "good life". Through a series of exercises, guidance and real life examples, Sher walks you through a process of working through any emotional obstacles preventing you from figuring out what "it" is, while conducting an in-depth soul search to uncover your unique, ideal career possibilities. For emotional blocks, "Their Impossible Dream" is an exercise of putting together an archetype of all the careers your family members expected of you to remind you of the impracticality of living up to everyone's expectation. The goal is to free yourself to move on. One of my many favorite self-exploration exercises is to visualize and list in detail what "meaningful work" means to you to shape your compelling vision for finding it. "List what you liked to do at ages 5, 10, 15, etc" helps those who have trouble with dreaming by going back in time to what they liked to do or fantasized about doing when they were younger.
Scher also provides specific career searching tools to address most readers' current work situations. For what I like to call the "rainbow" people who have too many things they want to do, Scher provides a sequential approach to help focus this group, who tend to be all over the page. By listing and prioritizing all their dreams into short and longer term plans of action also reduces the fear and frustration this group holds over losing one passion for another. For those who have lost their ideal job, Sher first suggests grieving the loss similar to that of a relationship break-up and uses a "touchstone" exercise to uncover and embrace the most "indispensable" job elements from the ex-love to continue the healing and to start finding new work that honors what you valued most.
While every exercise in "I Could Do Anything..." may not be right for you, you can definitely gain a greater directional awareness. My only real concern is the implication that you can feasibly discover what you really want in less than a day - the average time it requires to complete the book. It is my experience that regardless of how powerful the read, unless you truly commit the time, energy and emotional effort required for in-depth self exploration and creative visualization, you may miss the most meaningful and rewarding options. If you are searching for a book to provide a better format to do so, pick up "The Artists Way" by Julia Cameron. While it requires a bigger investment of yourself - including time (12 weeks), you will definitely reap the rewards. Perhaps for another review...
And, if you are lucky enough to find what you are looking for from "I could do anything...", don't expect to find out how to go after it in this book. You will have to read Sher's other book "Wishcraft: How to get what you really want" for that!
Certified Life and Career Coach
"If you can dream it, you can do it" -- Walt Disney