Personal strength expert Marcus Buckingham answers questions on finding happiness in life and in a career. Ask Marcus your career question
Q: Twenty years ago, I moved to Australia to "leave my past behind and start a new life." I was a single parent at the time, serving in the U.S. Army and had just returned to the United States after a three-year tour in Italy. Two children (ages 16 and 18) and a divorce later, my oldest son (the one whom I parented on my own since his birth until my marriage to the Australian man) died in an accident (December 2007).

One of gifts of this loss (there are always gifts) is my family asking me if I'd like to come home (back to the United States). So I am temporarily leaving my public service job (secure and well paid) in Australia to spend a year back in the United States (a year at least initially). I will bring my 18-year-old son with me, and my daughter will remain in Australia at boarding school (with her father two hours away). While couched in security (going home, a job to come back to, living with my family, etc.), it feels like a bold move and I recognize I have a rare opportunity to really think about living my life differently. How do I make use of this year? This opportunity? What is the journey I can commence that will help to find joy and fulfillment?I want to reconcile my past, my present and my future. I want to integrate my experiences. I want to take meaning and purpose from the loss of my son. I want the courage to live differently and create my life—not keep doing what I've done because it is safe and familiar. I took the Strong Life Test for Women, and I am a creator. It is a good fit. Thanks!

— Suzanne, age 49

A: Suzanne, first let me say how much I admire the spirit you show in looking for the gifts and opportunities in your situation. You're right to view this time as an opportunity. I love your thought about reconciling your past, present and future. The best way I know to do that is to pay serious attention to all three of them. Dive into your past and understand what drove you, what made you passionate, what made you feel strong. Look for those same currents in your present situation. What have been the constant strengths that have stayed with you throughout your life? Although we do change and grow and develop new abilities and knowledge throughout our lives, our strengths and our core personalities remain remarkably consistent from a very young age. Once you have a good sense of what your strengths are, you know what to build on. Take the time to learn about what you want to do. Can you read books or articles related to your strengths? Can you take courses and learn new skills to help further them? As a creator, you most likely love to read and take stock of your own mind and record the insights that come to you. Take full advantage of those traits to help yourself build the future you want.

One last thing: You mention so many people in your family and clearly have a wonderful network to support you. Make sure to include that network in your deliberations. Involving family, friends and colleagues in the attempt to think things through is often beneficial for creators because it can keep them from going around and around in circles in their own minds.


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