Q: How do I build a road map when I don't know where I'm going?

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Q: My job pays well, and I’m grateful in this economy to have a job, but I feel I’m missing out on my ideal calling. In my daydreams I imagine changing the world, but I never have any specific pictures. How do I build a road map when I don’t know where I’m going?

A: You can build a road map by starting out identifying where you are now.

Many clients begin working with me by expressing a gnawing dissatisfaction that they are wasting their lives. They often have goals that are noble but lacking any definition.

If you were hiking a forest trail and examining a map, the first thing you’d do is try to figure out where you are starting from. You cannot plan a hike without being able to identify where you are. In career planning, knowing where you are includes admitting geographic and financial needs, as well as an honest evaluation of your limits.

If you want to be a political lobbyist and to love where you live, but hate Washington, D.C., you don’t have to give up your dream of public service. You do have to think more locally about jobs that combine public service with your current city.

My clients’ main mistake is to make career planning too complicated. They can conceive of large, lofty goals, but they think it’s cheating to start small.

Try this simple exercise. Write down your ideal goal. Now write down where you want/need to live, how much money you need and any limitations. Now write down any company and/or job that is within your geographic preference, can pay you what you need, and fits your current list.

Once you’ve identified companies and jobs closer to your ideal, consider any and all excuses to talk to people who work close to these jobs. Go to association meetings, read professional magazines, and make up any good reason to talk to the people you’d like to be employed by.

You might be doing research, writing an article, or have a resource that would benefit people you’d like to work with. If all else fails, ask people you admire about their hourly rate and pay them for their advice. What they give you back will be much more than what you spend.

If you want to take your ideals about work into the realm of the real, you must be willing to be honest with yourself and aim for a job that is simply closer to your ideal than what you’re doing now. A wise philosopher named Lao Tzu observed, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

If you’ll begin with a step that is easy and close to you, you’ll be certain of one thing: You are finally headed in the right direction.

The last word(s)

Q: I work with a liar. If I lie myself, I’m certain I can get people to see he’s a worm. Don’t you think it’s fair to treat someone like they treat you?

A: It may be fair but it’s ineffective. If you lie, the only thing you can be certain of is that you’ve undermined your own credibility.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., is an executive coach, trainer, therapist, speaker and author. She can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry, no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube