A Niche in Time

Mel Levine says that once you find your niche, all else will fall (eventually) in place. The idea behind his thinking is that as you pursue your passion, you develop an assortment of skills that will hold you in good stead in other areas of your life. He outlines a process for assisting young adults with figuring out what interests them, and makes a point of the need to differentiate recreational past–times from true interests. In the NY Times article Hobbies Are Rich in Psychic Rewards the author notes that “hobbies can enhance your creativity, help you think more clearly and sharpen your focus” but urges caution in making the switch from enjoyment of the hobby to pursuing it as a full time profession.

According to Levine, the process of assessing one’s interests begins with asking the question “What am I drawn to?” He suggests there should be three items to consider in answering this question, and for all of the following considerations he notes that brainstorming can be a very useful part of the process..

  1. What are my affinities? Make a list of your interests, and leave nothing out.
  2. What are my strengths? Make a list of your strengths. Ideally, you want to align your affinities with your strengths, which is much less taxing then riding against your natural wave.
  3. What are the recurring themes? As you scan both lists, notice which features begin to stand out for similarities or being noted more than once.

After self-assessing to figure out what interests you, the next step is to consider what you would value in a job. Is it money, leadership, service to others, collaboration…the list can be as long as you make it. Take a look at the emerging list and see how it gels with your previous assessment of interests.

Finally, take an honest look at your neurodevelopmental strengths and consider how your strengths position you for what you think you want to do in life. Take another look at the first list you compiled and reconsider your affinities and strengths. Make “an effort to deal directly with any potential career-obstructing dysfunctions” so that you can make realistic choices about career paths.

My last note on Levine’s talk deals with stages. Levine believes there are three stages involved in pursuing a career, with the first being a general interest, the second being the preparation, and the third being the career. As he noted rather bluntly but quite accurately, “preparation (Stage 2) is what you put up with to get to the career”. It is the practicing and learning and apprenticing that must be done in order to reach that next stage.

At issue, from what he has gathered in his many conversations and listenings, is that young adults seem to want to be at Stage 3 without having to go through the labors of Stage 2. Ah yes, who among us has balked, at one point or another, at the thought of another round of piano practicing, theatre rehearsal, studying of class notes, revising of writing, running of a sports play, and so on. And yet, when we stick with it, we often improve, and if we stick with it enough, we improve to the point of fluency and beyond. (More on this thought to come in a future post.)

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