You've got the power to design your own career, no matter how much you currently earn, where you live, or what you'd like to do. Let us show you how!

Questions about what you want from a fulfilling, long-term career can be really difficult to answer; even talking about the direction you want to take can be uncomfortable.

It's easy to think about your future career as something far-off, untouched by the decisions and choices you make now. However, that's not true. The path you choose now will influence where you get to later. So, the best thing you can do is get the most out of the life you're living now, today, and create opportunities and choices for yourself.

So, how are things now? If you're just getting along fine day-to-day, waiting to see how stuff pans out, that's great. Whether you have a master plan or you're just curious to see what life holds, the best way to ensure you're always heading in the right direction is balance.

Your life is a juggling act between work, play, love and health. Once they're all nicely balanced, you'll feel great, plan or no plan.

Here's a simple step-by-step guide to designing a career which will make you happy and fulfilled. You can start this process right away - and it doesn’t require you to melodramatically resign from your current job to ‘find yourself’.

Oh, and the best part is it's totally free. There's no cost to working out how to plot your best way forward; the only things you'll need are time and energy.

STEP ONE: Think about the opportunities you have

Imagine three different paths for your working life over the next five years:

CAREER ONE: This is the career, or plan, you have now, projected forward in a positive direction. What will it look like if it all works out right?

CAREER TWO: Imagine a career if you absolutely couldn’t have Career One (maybe your job has been made redundant because robots took over!). What would like to do instead?

CAREER THREE: If the amount you earned or what people thought of you weren’t factors, what career would you choose? (Tip: Be realistic!)

Now, on a piece of paper, write a few short paragraphs on each life. For example:

CAREER ONE: I'll keep working hard, doing what I'm doing, and look out for other opportunities within this company. That way I can get to where I want to be slowly and surely. I'm happy with that.

CAREER TWO: OK, right - I'll need to learn to do a new job. What skills and strengths do I have that I could turn into a decent career in five years – one which will enable me to earn enough to live a reasonable life (a house, holidays, etc)?

CAREER THREE: I'll do the job I've always secretly wanted to do, but never had the courage to admit to myself or anybody else. It may mean some extra training and an initial paycut, but it will enable me to feel great about what I do and take real pride in my career.

STEP TWO: Prototype your way forward

For each of your three career paths, prototype your way forward.

You may be asking what a prototype is. Well, it's a small, early-stage low-risk experiment to test out assumptions and seek answers, done in the name of improvement, learning and development. Prototypes are essentially lo-fi, small, flexible and easily changeable plans which you can test and switch out as and when you please.

  1. Talk to people you know about your potential choices and get some feedback from people you know you.

  2. Find people who work in the fields you are considering. Talk to them about their careers.

  3. Figure out some good questions to ask! What is the salary like? Do they work long hours? What are the best and worst things about the job? Do they work on weekends? Is there scope to move up the ladder?

  4. Uncover your hidden biases and assumptions.

  5. Find a way to try out (if only for an hour or a day) what you are considering; hands-on experience is vital.

STEP THREE: Test your findings on yourself

The final test for selecting your career path is to put each scenario on top of a mountain. Go big. Think Everest. Think of something huge, imposing, unsurmountable to all but the very best.

Which career energises you the most? Which one will inspire you to grit your teeth and keep going, even when the going gets tough and the snow and ice are hampering your journey?

STEP FOUR: Make an informed decision

The path which energised you the most should now guide your decision making. Bear in mind that it’s not set in stone, and it can change. You might ultimately try all three paths. However, for now, you have a clear reference point.

As you make your career plans and face big or small decisions, constantly ask yourself: Is the decision I am about to make going to positively or negatively affect my route up the mountain?

Stuff will get tough from time to time. As long as you're on the right path and you're working towards a life you truly want, you'll be fine.

So, just to recap, here's what we'd like you to take away from the article you've just read...

1) Try stuff. You can start designing your career today by prototyping your way forward.

2) Be curious and imaginative. You might be surprised by what you discover.

3) Rethink old problems. Look inside yourself. Ensure your hidden biases and assumptions are not the barrier.

4) Seek advice. Speak to people who know you. Speak to people in the fields you are interested in.

5) Know it’s a process. It’s not a treasure hunt for your ideal job. It’s a journey.