Find Your Dream Job: 6 Mental Scripts That Sabotage Your Success

This is the story of how I StumbledUpon my dream job.

This stroke of luck has me inspired to help others find work they love by uncovering the thoughts that get in the way.

Before I tell  you how these mental scripts make it harder for you to find your dream job, first let me tell you how this all started…

3 years ago…

find your dream job stumble upon

I clicked this button and it changed my life.

Of course at that point it was green and blue.

If you are unaware, StumbleUpon is like the random button for the internet. You just put in your interests and it pushes out relevant content. It’s completely addictive because you always wonder what that next piece of information could be…what it could change.

I checked the “Self Improvement” box as one of my interests. I always thought it was a cool idea that you could think yourself into success.

One night, towards the end of my sophomore year of college, I clicked that button.

That click set off a chain reaction that propelled me 1,700 miles westward.

Five weeks ago I got on a plane with a one-way ticket in hand:

Philadelphia, PA (PHL) -> Denver, CO (DEN)

My destination was the City of Boulder.

find your dream job airportSince that moment, it’s been a time of immense change. I had never left my home state of Pennsylvania for more than a week at a time.

Not to mention that for the first time since I was four years old, I was no longer a student, at least in the institutional sense of the word

It was as if I clicked the “StumbleUpon” button on my life.


find your dream job he

I pressed the button and it brought up a website called HighExistence.

It was a blog that presented out of the box perspectives on things that the rebellious part of me could appreciate.

I was so used to status-quo thinking. I appreciated something that challenged the pre-packaged, media-manufactured beliefs I was brought up on.

I bookmarked the site and started visiting regularly to keep my mind flexible.

Eventually the blog evolved into a community.

Conversations were started. People started sharing content they found inspiring.

One of those people was up and coming blogger Phil Drolet.

He was sharing links to articles written for his new project, “The Feel Good Lifestyle.”

This was the second blog that caught my attention. I put my email address on his mailing list and watched for a year and a half as he amassed a following.

His personal experiments in becoming smarter and pushing his physical limits inspired me to start taking responsibility for my life. I started devouring books on positive psychology and leadership.

I began working out regularly and eating healthier. I ran my first 10k: a mud run riddled with obstacles.

I was even elected president of my fraternity, eventually winning President of the Year at my university’s awards ceremony.

It was a whirlwind. I transformed from a shy, self-conscious kid to a guy racking up accomplishments that previously would have seemed impossible.

“Wanted: Co-Pilot for The Feel Good Lifestyle”

find your dream job video app

That was the subject line I read in my email about a year ago.

Phil was looking to put a team together.

I submitted my video application and soon enough, I was working with this guy that was practically famous to me.

One year later, I was picked up at the airport as the first full-time employee working for The Feel Good Lifestyle.

Just over a month has gone by since that day and I feel quite literally as if I’ve stumbled upon my dream job.

I interact with super inspiring people on a daily basis from The Village, a community of entrepreneurs who work on separate projects while collaborating to solve common problems. Here’s just a sample of some of the fantastic individuals I’ve met:

A gentleman who equips individuals with special needs and emerging thought leaders with the social tools to impact the global community.

A friend who is building an app that helps us better understand our emotions.

A man who can ride a continuous wheelie for unbelievable distances all to raise money to help African Villages get clean water.

The people are inspiring, but what’s even better is that I’ve found a job that lets me work on projects that are challenging AND fulfilling. I’m learning more and more each day and I can’t wait to tell you more about what we’ve got in store for the weeks and months ahead.

I Want This For You

I’m not saying I want you to move out to Boulder or that you need to become an entrepreneur. I’m not about to turn my story into “5 Steps to Find Your Dream Job.”

It’s not that simple. We will all follow a different path. Our own path.

However, the immense gratitude I feel for my good fortune has inspired me to research this notion of “Dream Jobs” extensively.

I wanted to find answers to questions like:

  • Why does this feel like a dream job?
  • What makes up a dream job?
  • Is there a process others can follow to greatly increase their chances of finding one?

I’ve gleaned insights from plenty of books and hours of videos, learning the psychological frameworks that have radically shifted my perspective on dream jobs — how you define them, how you can find one, and what gets in the way of making it a reality.

This will be a two-part series. In this first post I’ll share with you how I’ve come to define a dream job and the 6 “mental scripts” we play in our heads that get in the way of finding work we love.

Before we dive in, allow me to share with you how I have come to define a dream job:

Dream Job: A job that creates a deep sense of fulfillment and happiness. These feelings emerge when we can freely use our skills to positively impact and connect with the world.

I have crafted this definition after reading Daniel Pink’s Drive and Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You. It relies heavily on what psychology knows about intrinsic motivation: feeling compelled to do something for its own sake and not some external incentive.

Each person will prioritize skillful contribution, freedom, connection and impact in different ways, but they all play a key part in creating a career you love.

Keep this definition in mind as I pick apart 6 mental scripts I’ve identified that hold people back from finding a dream job.

Self-Sabotage: What’s Holding You Back

Script #1: “I Need To Follow My Passion”

We have all heard this one. You want a fulfilling career? It’s simple:

Step 1: Find your passion.
Step 2: Pursue your passion relentlessly.
Step 3: Enjoy a fulfilling career

There are a few problems with this.

The first is that most people get stuck at Step 1. “If only I could find my passion.” Trapped in perpetual questioning, they never find the answer.

And honestly, they shouldn’t be asking in the first place. Passion isn’t endowed, it’s earned. It isn’t something to be discovered, it’s something to be cultivated. It isn’t a mental revelation. It emerges through action.

Mastery breeds passion. When we get good at things and use those skills freely to garner a supportive network and create a positive impact, we become intrinsically motivated to perform those skills. Sadly, many people quit before the passion develops. “Sigh. This must not be it,” they think.

It could have been.

The second problem is when someone stumbles their way into a great job. They are good at what they do, they generally like their co-workers, and they have some degree of control over their work relative to the value of their contribution.

Life happened and that’s where they ended up. Because it wasn’t a deliberate choice the thought “I should follow my passion” bubbles up in their mind. Feelings of guilt and the fear of missing out on life begin to simmer.

The perceived lack of the magic passion sauce becomes a thought virus that leads to chronic job dissatisfaction even though their dream job could be right under their nose.

Flip the script: “Passion comes from mastery. I need to put in the work to build valuable skills that I can offer to the world.”

Script # 2: “There’s Only One Dream Job For Me”

This is “Follow Your Passion’s” twin brother. They are very similar in nature, but I think that this one is also important enough to be recognized.

When we hold this belief we are constantly looking for the magical fit. The thing we were meant to do. Questions like “Is this who I really am?” and “Is this really for me?” rarely have clear-cut answers, leaving us in a state of confusion.

The truth is, there is no unique mission set out for you. Your job here is to choose.

And that’s great news! We have an abundance of options in front of us. My work with The Feel Good Lifestyle is just one of many that I could wake up feeling excited about.

You don’t just have to cross your fingers and hope you “find the one.”

Flip the script: “There are plenty of Dream Job opportunities out there for me.”

Script #3: I Know What Will Make Me Happy

Harvard Psychologist Dan Gilbert

If you are the rare breed of individual who knows what his or her dream job is, consider if what you’re imagining is an accurate representation of reality.

According to Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert we usually get this kind of stuff wrong:

“The futures we imagine contain some details that our brains invented and lack some details that our brains ignored. The problem isn’t that our brains fill in and leave out. No, the problem is that they do this so well that we aren’t aware it is happening.

As such, we tend to accept the brain’s products uncritically and expect the future to unfold with the details–and with only the details–that the brain has imagined.”

The aftermath of not questioning your path can be pretty damaging. Just take this lawyer’s experience from this Huffington Post Article as an example:

Nobody ever told me that I would be keeping time sheets that require me to divide my days into six-minute increments. Nobody told me I would have to choose between doing it right and doing it on a budget…

So I suppose that would be my take on things: even if you are going to law school for all of the “right reasons”, odds are you will spend a significant portion of your day as the used-car salesman from Hell whose boss is nickel and diming you to an early grave.

There will always be moments of “nobody-ever-told-me-that”, but you can minimize your brain’s misjudgment with this simple strategy:

Interview someone who is already doing it.

Ask them:

1. What do you like/dislike about your job?
2. How did the dream differ from the reality? What details did you miss?
3. What are some unexpected parts of the job?

Flip the script: “I’m generally bad at predicting what will make me happy. To be sure I know what I’m getting into, I should interview someone who is doing it already.”

Script #4: “I Don’t Have The Credentials.”

Okay, this is true for doctors, lawyers, and a few other professions that require extensive testing and certification.

But beyond that, this excuse is lazy at best.

This script tells you that just because you see “BA Required, MA Preferred” at the top of a list of job requirements, you should just give up on trying to land that type of position, especially if you don’t even have an Bachelor’s Degree.

But is this the harsh reality?

Not quite. The majority of jobs, hovering around 4 out of 5, are filled by the informal job market. These jobs go unadvertised. That means 80% of the dream job game comes from WHO YOU KNOW. It’s all about relationships.

And sure, the system is stacked in favor of those who have the expensive piece of paper. It’s all a screening mechanism. A box to check that can be bypassed.

Don’t let this thought stop you from trying.

If you’re known as someone who can perform at a high level and deliver excellent value, most people will not have a problem connecting you with someone who has an awesome opportunity.

Flip the Script: “I may not have credentials, but I won’t let that stop me. I can still build my skills and network like a champ.”

Script # 5: “The Ball’s In Their Court Now”

Some people think responding to job advertisements ad nauseam and shot-gun blasting resumes to recruiters is enough to say “it’s beyond my control” and “it’s in their hands now.”

It’s not. That’s a passive and defeatist mindset. Proactively reaching out to companies and delivering value is often way more fruitful than treading the traditional path.

(In the next post, I’ll dive more into the other, more resourceful options available).

Flip the Script: “If these opportunities don’t work out, there are other things I can do. I can tap my network and I can show companies how I can solve their problems.”

Script #6: “I Don’t Have Natural Talent. I Have Nothing To Offer.”

find your dream job skillsWoah. Self-fulfilling prophecy alert.

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking research on mindset shows that the thought illustrated above simply doesn’t reflect the reality.

Heidi Grant Halvorson sums up Dweck’s work quite nicely in her book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals:

“Embrace the potential for change. Believing you have the ability to reach your goals is important, but so is believing you can get the ability.

Many of us believe that our intelligence, our personality, and our physical aptitudes are fixed—that no matter what we do, we won’t improve.These “entity” beliefs focus us on goals that are all about validating ourselves, rather than about developing and growing.

Fortunately, decades of research suggest that this belief is completely wrong – “incremental” beliefs that our characteristics can change over time turn out to be supported by scientific evidence. So if you believe there is something about you that you cannot change, and that belief has shaped the goals you’ve chosen in your life, it’s time to toss it.

Embracing the (accurate) belief that you can change will allow you to make better choices and reach your fullest potential.

This isn’t to say talent isn’t a factor. Natural ability will enable someone to master a skill at a faster rate. But does that really matter? There will always be someone with more natural ability.

It’s not about being the best in the world. It’s about acknowledging that with enough deliberate practice you can astound yourself with how much you improve.

Talent gets far more credit than it deserves.

Flip the script: “If I put in the work, I can become highly skilled at almost anything I put my mind to. It’s not about being good. It’s about becoming better.”


There you have it. Six mental scripts that obstruct the Dream Job pursuit

If you shift your mindset to reflect what psychology knows to be true, you will greatly increase your chances of finding deeply fulfilling work.

In the next article, I will dive into some unconvential strategies and tactics of actually finding a dream job. I’ll also cover what it takes to acquire a skill in as little as 20 hours and how to build connections with people who you think are “out of your league”.

Make sure you are signed up for the newsletter so you don’t miss it.

This was my first ‘real’ post on The Feel Good Lifestyle, so I’m curious: Did this resonate with you? Have an interesting insight to share? Leave a comment below. I’d love to keep the conversation going.

Oh and before I forget, be sure to click the button below to like this article on StumbleUpon on the off-chance it helps someone else stumble upon their dream job. ;)

Inspiration and Resources

Below is a list of individuals whose work heavily inspired this post. If you’re looking for more brain food, consider checking them out.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit probably knows more about dream jobs than anyone on the planet. If you’re serious about finding one, he’s your man. Check out his blog here.

Drive by Daniel Pink

If you’re interested in learning more about human motivation check out Drive by Daniel Pink. If you want a taste of what you’ll get, check out his hugely popular TED talk here.

So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

If you want to know more about why “Follow Your Passion” is bad advice this book by Cal Newport is THE resource.

Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert

Not buying the fact we are bad at predicting what will make us happy in the future? In Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert goes into much greater depth than I am able to here. I recommend you check it out. It’s truly eye-opening.


Heads up: This post includes book recommendations using Amazon’s affiliate program. If you purchase a book through one of the bolded links, The Feel Good Lifestyle will receive a small commission. 

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  • Great article, very well written (sticker worthy)
    I like point #5 the best

  • Very insightful, great to see you pursuing big things and helping others get there too.

  • This is one of the best articles I’ve read on this website. Very thoughtful, practical, and to the point. I could definitely use your adivice and rewrite some scripts :) You did a great job, Mike. Looking forward to more of your articles.

    • Thanks Victoria! I appreciate that.

      Which scripts do you think you’re having the most trouble with? I’d be glad to offer some advice.

      • I think these are scripts number 1 and 2. I’m currently rewriting script 1, and I have achieved good results already. And I’ve never actually thought about script 3: I believed I knew for sure what makes me (or rather will make me) happy. Now I’m giving some deep thought to this aspect, thanks to you. Of course, I’d love to get more of your wonderful advice.

  • Mike, this is really great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Clara! It was my pleasure to share it. I really enjoyed writing this piece and I’ve got some other stuff in the works as well that I think you’ll find valuable.

      Which script most resonated with you?

      • Hey Mike, first of all, all of them related to some relevant aspects for me, but reading what you wrote about them made me realize how I have been able to shift my scripts during the past year and it is awesome.

        The scripts #4 and #5 (specially #5) were the ones that resonated the most.

        Thanks for your reply!

  • I freaking love you man. Thanks a lot for sharing. I needed this :)

    • Haha thanks Rajiv! Glad it made a difference for you.

  • Fantastic! Thank you so much for this! Great article!

    • I appreciate that Ivor! Glad you enjoyed it.

      Please pass it along if you know someone who would find it valuable.

  • Hi! Thanks, this was a great read! I´m stuck, or fixed, or I don´t know what on number 6. I want to be a writer, but I did not study literature, and I don´t work in something related to that. I´ve been struggling to make ends meet, but still, I´ve managed to find work in a place that I enjoy and to which, if I did not need the dough I´d do it for free. But it´s not writing. It must sound stubborn. I feel I´ve lived many other lives and I believe I have lots to offer, and that writing would be a good way to do that to as many souls as I can. And I know this even sounds worse because as I put it in black and white here, it sounds like I have all the answers. I know I don´t, I would like to tell people just that, I don´t have al the answers because NOBODY HAS THEM. You just have to try to find the answers to the questions that really nag you, and as you do you should enjoy the ride. I´m convinced now, I can do this, I can learn to write, and I can communicate things. But believe me, This is not just about ME. As I was reading your wonderful post, I kept on thinking about my nephew M who posts stuff on the net, photos mostly of things, cars mainly, of which he reports to “like”, “want”, “wow”. But who, I believe, can in fact own and enjoy these things he posts about. So I shared this with him, hoping the allows himself to take the time to read and follow through. It´s, as you are doing, about building purposeful, encouraging, positive communities. Thanks, man!

  • Excellent piece! Seriously, well written, easy to connect with and relate to, and it fits so well with the theme and energy Phil has put together. Great job on your first post and what a great addition to what Phil is building – what a perfect hire! Definitely gave me some things to think about…looking forward to the next one. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you one day as well, it would be a pleasure to work with you both.

    • Thanks for the kind words Bodhi :) I do appreciate it.

  • Wonderful article, Mike. Definitely made an impact. Thanks for sharing!

    • No problem Lauren!

  • […] Check it out here so you can learn to avoid them: Find Your Dream Job: 6 Mental Scripts That Sabotage Your Success […]

  • I like the article. I agree with most of the scripts, except #1. It holds partial truth for me. I believe that passion can be discovered, and furthered by action. Incredible dancers likely witnessed a performance that inspired them to practice. Passion existed before the act and continued to develop through action. Perhaps, down the line, the individual found scripts 2 and 3 to be true. Perhaps not.

    For those who believe that they don’t have a passion or haven’t found a passion (you can have more than one), exposure can help. This is where I agree that passion can develop for activities that began out of necessity or chance. However, I don’t believe that mastery equates to passion. There are plenty that aide others with well performed skills that they hate. A mundane example: My father habitually helped some of the elderly in the community with yard work, painting, and whatnot. I was often asked to go along. I paint quite well now. It’s fantastic that it helps people feel better in their environment, but I feel absolutely no passion for it. Some people love to paint. Some people love to cut grass. They love the smell, the aim for precision, and the sense accomplishment at its completion (like my dad). I loathe it, but I’ve practiced it plenty. Ask me to help you talk through the darkest, murkiest areas of your psyche. Ask me to help you organize your physical closets too. Don’t ask me to cut your grass or paint your dining room unless I’m your last hope.

    There are plenty of people who are great at their job but hate what they’re doing. There are some in a job that they enjoy, nursing questions of “what if?” If those thoughts are so bothersome, wouldn’t that interfere with your definition of a dream job? If they have those questions, maybe they should be exploring and developing those passions on the side. Eventually, with consideration to multiple other factors, they may desire to leave their, once dream job in the hands of another of equal skill who may feel more strongly about painting than they did. Again, it depends on the situation, multiple factors considered, etc. But a nagging, feasible possibility would irk me to no end, no matter how wonderful the job I’d settled for. But…different strokes.

    Again, I like the article as a whole. I love the Flip the Scripts!


    • Casey,

      Thank you for this well-written and thought out response. You make a compelling argument. Perhaps the combination of you two is appropriate. First, perhaps you got exposed to something that turned into activities developed out of necessity or chance. As you built up those activities, you gained a mastery at them. As you, and others, noticed your mastery grow the activity became more and more of a self-reinforcing passion.

      I suppose the trick is still getting exposed to that activity. Any thoughts on that? I mean there must be an intelligent way (perhaps simply intuitive) to focus your attention to more efficiently drive at finding that thing that might spark something inside.

      • I suppose the cliche answer would be to get out there and try new things. Talk to people. See what friends and acquaintances are doing with their time.

        I like that you mentioned intuitive. You may or may not have meant the somewhat mystical form of intuition, but that’s where my mind leans when I first see the word. Meditation is great for building intuition by de-cluttering the mind. I know of several people that were able to uncover desires that they’d written off years ago because they had been shot down by the ego or what have you. Though, that’s not a great method for everybody. Few will find a divine answer/vision in meditation.

        Still, I’d think that the de-cluttering would help us listen to the messages around us, if not within us. Maybe just hearing someone passing by on the street talking about rafting can get our juices flowing. You may decide to google it, see something else, which leads to something else and so on. I believe the universe works in wacky ways. StumbleUpon could open something up for you. You never know

        So openness and awareness are big factors for exposure, I suppose. After that comes action, which is sort of a paradox, because you were actively being aware of your surroundings and taking the initiative to seek more. But again, that’s how some people do it. That’s one thing that I really like about this site. “Ok, sounds interesting. Let’s try it out.”

        • Oh, I also like that method where you quiet your mind and ask yourself, “What do I truly desire in this moment?” From the answer you get, you can aim to go get it or break it down by further questioning why you desire it (very Danielle LaPorte). I’ve discovered so much about myself when doing that, and also cleared a lot of junk that wasn’t serving me.

  • […] June, I flew out to Boulder, Colorado to accept my dream job. I began working with Phil full time as his right hand […]

  • […] post Find Your Dream Job: 6 Mental Scripts That Sabotage Your Success appeared first on […]

  • […] June, I flew out to Boulder, Colorado to accept my dream job. I began working with Phil full time as his right hand […]

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