07/30/2014 05:12 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2014

Ready to Shine? How to Start Using Your Natural Talents and Light Up the World With Them

Oli Kellett via Getty Images

When I was in college at Boston University, I studied Journalism and English Literature and loved books, ideas and writing. I interned at the Massachusetts of Institute of Technology radio news station which I loved, and embarked on a minor in psychology -- understanding how people and personalities develop and grow. I studied English literature in London for a year, and I had big dreams about my career and what I'd do in the world when I was older.

But when I graduated, I immediately bailed on all those dreams. I worried about money and thought I had to take the first job that was offered to me. It was an entry level job as a copywriter in a scientific publishing company. I didn't like that work but was good at it, and thought it would be a stepping stone, and it was. But to what? To more work that I didn't enjoy or feel excited about.

In the end, I built an 18-year corporate career that was never a good fit with who I was and what I deeply cared about, nor did it allow me to utilize my most powerful skills or ignite my passion.

Why did I veer so off course? Because I didn't know how to manage my career. I never learned about career planning, and I failed to seek guidance early enough about how to create a fulfilling, long-term career. I struggled on my own, with the wrong ideas about what brings success and happiness in working life. (Turns out happiness doesn't necessarily follow success -- it's the other way around).

Something happened in my life that gave me a harsh and painful wake-up call, but I didn't heed it until years after. Here's that story:

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to think deeply about your own career. Are you doing work that you dreamed about when you were in high school and college? Are you making a difference in the world in the way you hoped? Are you using all those natural passions, talents and abilities that you displayed as a young adult? Do you feel valuable and respected in the working world? Are you shining?

Through my 10 years of career coaching, I've learned that as adults, we are happiest when we are drawing on those key talents, passions and abilities that came naturally to us when we were young. We're also happiest and most fulfilled when we are using our talents in service of others. For me, as a young adult, I loved to read, write, sing and perform, teach, guide, help resolve problems, understand why people do what they do and come up with new approaches to live more happily. Finally, in this third career, I'm using every one of those skills.

Drawing on your natural talents, passions and gifts makes you feel alive and of value in the world. But the vast majority of working people believe that, in order to make a sufficient living, they have to focus solely what earns money and not what they'd be joyful to do. They sacrifice work fulfillment and joy for the almighty dollar, not understanding that the two are not mutually exclusive and never have been. I know this will inflame some of my readers, but this is fact: You don't have to dislike what you do and feel thwarted, like an impostor every day, in order to make a good living. As long as you think you do, you'll be miserable in your work.

If you feel off course and know you're in the wrong job or career, I'd recommend taking these three steps to move away from thinking and actions that are keeping you from reaching your highest potential and being of service in the way you dream to:

Move away from:

1. Feeling victimized and stuck

You're only stuck if you let yourself be stuck. Many of my clients and Amazing Career Project members have shared that they understand what they should do to build more satisfaction and reward in their professional life, but struggle to physically DO IT. There are both conscious and subconscious beliefs and mindsets that hold us hostage. Figure out what holds you back from taking the action you know you need to take. If you keep doing the same thing over and over, you'll never bring about any positive change.

2. Thinking you don't have what it takes

We often hold ourselves back from a greater life and career because we believe we're faulty, lacking, or incomplete somehow - that we don't have what others possess to be happy and successful. This type of thinking is a guarantee that you'll stop yourself from going out and getting what you want. No one "has what it takes" in the beginning of an important journey - we acquire what's needed by taking action throughout that journey.

3. Blaming the outside world for what you aren't doing

Clients come to me with all sorts of reasons why they haven't moved forward, but these reasons are simply excuses. I know because I made them all. "I can't leave now because I'm the primary breadwinner," or "I'm afraid if I ask for what I want they'll fire me," or "I can't change careers this late in the game." Yes, the economy is tough, jobs are fewer, and avenues for advancement seem less prevalent. But all of these situations can be navigated through successfully, with a concrete, well-built plan that addresses the challenges effectively. It's not the outside world that is keeping you where you are.

In order to move forward, you must:

1. Identify what you loved to do back when you were free to be yourself.

2. Bring forward those natural talents, skills and passions in your work-life today.

3. Get more bold and courageous in your thinking, speech, behavior and approach to living. Stand up for what you want.

4. Take one step every single day to start living up to your potential.

Try this: For one week, agree to be intensely (but compassionately) honest with yourself. Look at all your justifications for why you are stuck as excuses. If you knew you were just afraid or blocked somehow from moving forward, what would you do differently today to begin building a career that matches what you dreamed of when you were young?

Make this the year you become the person your young self knew you could, and use your gifts to illuminate the world.

(To build a happier, more rewarding career, visit