Review: “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was” by Barbara Sher

Often I’ll meet businessmen and women who are reevaluating their career trajectory. They may be unemployed, underemployed or even over-employed—but they’re all feel the need to be redeployed. Some are not even sure why they need a change, but they do. And they’re just not sure how to go about it. Usually, when I mention to them the clever title of Barbara Sher’s classic book, their heads nod as they respond, “That’s me!” It’s one of the reasons I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was (Dell Publishing, 1994) is on my list of books that I most frequently recommend to those seeking a vocational change.

Therapist and career counselor, Barbara Sher, combines skills from both disciplines in this easy-to-read New York Times bestseller. In the first three chapters, Sher seeks to illuminate what she refers to as our inner conflict. “One side of the conflict is arguing in favor of your getting what you want, and the other side is determined to stop you,” she writes. Getting a handle on the type of conflict is key to creating a strategy to overcome it. Each of the successive chapters are written to offer questions and strategies depending on the type of conflict. Are you:

  • Thinking that the only way to make a change is to quit your job? You’ll find a strategy for that in the chapter entitled “The Sure Thing.”
  • Thinking that you have so many interests it’s impossible to pick one? You’ll find some encouragement in Chapter 6.
  • Thinking that you have no idea what you want to do? You’ll find some helpful ways to rediscover your interests in the chapter entitled “Regrouping: It’s A Whole New Ball Game.”

Sher covers eleven such inner conflicts in a format that I’ve found particularly helpful. When I first read it a number of years ago, three of the conflicts she described resonated with me. Though the book is written from a secular worldview and with a bit too much self-help, rah-rah, you-can-do-it-speak for my liking, the thought provoking questions and the breadth of her material is well worth the modest investment in time.

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