Starting / Building confidence

The hardest thing I’ve ever done: finding my niche in life

All my adult life I had done what I needed to do, or more accurately what I felt I needed to do. When the opportunity came to do what I wanted … I had no idea what that was.

17 March 2016 by

Over the course of my adult life, I had a succession of different jobs and businesses but none were the result of any deliberate choice on my part. It was always more of a collision between need and circumstance:

  • I needed a job, a job came up and I did it.
  • A profession came up, I needed an income, I did it.
  • My wife wanted a business, so I did that.

All this worked fine for me and I have to say I look back on all that now with a degree of fondness.

Things changed, however, when my wife passed away in 2005 after a long battle with cancer. After her passing I was very focused on needs. I had a young son to take care of, a business to maintain alone and a fairly demanding property to look after.

I was fortunate and soon met another wonderful lady and began a relationship with her. She was a mature age student with two young sons of her own on a shared custody arrangement with their father. She was doing things tough with little money and lots of pressure. We moved in together and worked hard to blend the families. (Three boys between 8 and 13 keep you on your toes.) Again, my focus at this time was all on meeting the needs of my family.

In time our family dynamics settled down, my partner finished studying and began working full time, we got married and the boys all got their drivers’ licenses and became very independent.

"The reality is we all need our niche; we need our place where we can contribute to others and get rewarded for it. "

For the first time in my adult life the intensity of the pressure to meet the needs of others started to diminish.

This was the start of the hardest part of my life to date.

You see once I’d done meeting everyone else’s needs I was left with the massive question of:

“What do you really want to do?”

This was a question that hadn’t come up since I was in my early twenties; the only other time in my life when I could do whatever I liked.

I knew I wanted to change my career. I’d been a commercial photographer running my own business for over ten years and a lot of that business, the property we had and the reason for doing it all, died with my first wife.

It was time to figure out what I wanted to do instead.

I started out with the limiting belief that I had to just re-work the existing skills I had (as I was surely too old to start a new career at 54). Months of brainstorming around that belief got me nowhere. Eventually I had to relinquish the idea and allow myself to consider starting from scratch.

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I sat with a notebook, pen and a blank page to write down everything I knew about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

  • I knew I wanted to own my own business. Once you’ve been self-employed for a decade or so you really become unemployable.
  • I knew I wanted a business that allowed me to travel and work flexible hours; I couldn’t go back to a 9-5 routine in an office or shop.
  • I knew my work needed to create a reasonably good income as I’d been earning reasonably good money and I didn’t want to go backwards.
  • I also knew that work had to deliver more than just money. I wanted to do something that positively contributed to the lives of others.
  • Finally, I knew I wanted to work with positive and likeminded people who were a pleasure to work with. They would be a sail not an anchor if you know what I mean.

Not too much to ask right?!

After much more soul searching and Googling I discovered a network marketing opportunity in Personal Development Products. I’d always been keen on personal development, and it seemed to tick all my boxes. So I threw a bunch of money and time at learning that. We had a couple of great holidays and met some great people but after a while I found that my heart really wasn’t in it.

So it was back to Google for some more soul searching.

The next thing I found was Life Coaching and undertaking study in this field confirmed that the ability to help people unearth, unravel and overcome the problems they were creating in their own minds appealed to me greatly.

But I wasn’t ‘there’ yet. I now knew what I wanted to do, but had no idea what problem I wanted to solve, who I wanted to help or where to find them.

Time for yet more study! This time learning all about social media marketing, website building, email marketing, and online business in general.

The three years I spent working through all of the above and meeting my own needs for the first time in a long time should have been exciting times. But in fact, they were the three worst years of my life!

My health suffered, my family suffered, my finances definitely suffered. There was very little laughter, I was obsessed with finding my new niche in life and frustrated beyond measure when I couldn’t seem to find it. Many times I could have given up and gone for a job. I even applied for a couple in one dark moment.

But I got there in the end.

Life Coaching was the right field for me and once I got a handle on who I wanted to serve and what problems I could solve for them, I really hit my stride again.

So what’s the moral of this story?

If you are struggling with your business or personal life perhaps it’s because you haven’t found your niche. That place where you can contribute to others in a way that satisfies your soul.

If that sounds like you I want to encourage you to search hard and focus on how you can use your talents to solve other people’s problems not your own. Because if the experience I’ve shared above has taught me anything, it’s that this is where true happiness is found.

Paul Webster

is a life coach, business coach, author and mentor. He works with with solopreneurs and small business to create a strong, concise plan that fits the right product with the right people and lets the clients know about it. Learn more at www.paulwebster.com.au

Comments

  • Goodness Paul, so much of what you have written resonates with me. I too struggled to find my purpose and finally I did with coaching. For me, living with mental health issues, I now focus on others in a similar situation – working alone at home, dealing with anxiety or depression and feeling isolated. I cannot imagine doing anything else and through my own journey have now become a passionate advocate for mental health awareness. I feel it is my duty to stand alongside others who have struggled as I did (and still do sometimes) and like you, build connections with like-minded people. It is about being of service to others and if my story helps to make just one person feel differently, then that really does satisfy my soul. xx

    • Glad you enjoyed it Sharon, and glad you’ve found your niche too. We get by giving hey 🙂

  • Thank you Paul

    • Thanks Karen, I love how life works when you figure it out. Do what you love, do it well and you get to do more of it. Duh.

  • Thanks for sharing your story Paul. Did you get any help, such as seeing a business or life coach yourself, in those three years in the wilderness? I wonder if someone could have helped you get to where you needed to go, sooner. I’d love a follow up article about how you found your specific niche in Life Coaching, which is quite a tough nut to crack, and how long it took for you to be fully self-supporting once you found your true direction. Thanks.

  • Thanks Paul, a great story

  • Fantastic and soul bearing article Paul, one that I’m sure many of us can relate to.
    I’m also more or less re inventing myself at the age of 55, currently going through the tough times you describe as I build towards how I want to serve the people I feel I can help.
    You are spot on with the importance of identifying how you can help others, and what you say has reminded me that I am indeed on the right track. I have worked really hard on my “why” and it has made me realise that what I am doing is in line with this.
    I’m on a mission to “empower people to think differently about work” which is exactly what you are doing.
    I only hope that what I am doing will help some others to do the same.
    Your’s is the ideal story to share to our “Working From Anywhere” community, I might get in touch.
    Well done and thank you so much for sharing.

  • Hi Paul, good on you for finding your true you. I worked in recruitment for many years and quite often theorised that most people do what they do through opportunity rather than choice.

    It is great to see that you can choose your path at any age and props to you for finding your own niche.

  • You must have a great deal of determination still left in you to still be out and about ready to pursue your long-desired dream which was buried amidst your family commitments. At a ripe age, I would have longed forgotten about my personal niche because I guess there is just that fear of being failing eventually.

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