Steve at All Things Workplace makes a great point in his post about figuring out what career is right for you. He says to ask yourself: What are things you can't not do? Those are clues to a career you'll thrive in.
This resonated with me in a huge way, because I can see it at work in my own career. At the start of my working life, I couldn't stop myself from rewriting the company's form letters, publicity materials, even internal documents. It wasn't my job, but I literally couldn't not do it, to the point that I once found myself rewriting the office phone manual late one night. Sure enough, I soon found myself working as a staff writer at a different organization, and for the rest of my 20s, my career revolved around writing and editing. And my quality of life skyrocketed, because just like when I was sneaking those activities in at that first job, it didn't feel like work at all.
Later, I found myself increasingly unable to stop myself from becoming a thorn in the side of my manager until all manner of problems were addressed, from inefficient procedures to morale issues. I was spending more and more time thinking about how I'd restructure things if I were in charge and finding ways to get my ideas in front of my bosses ... who -- luckily for me -- were actually receptive and indulged me in this, rather than telling me to get back to what they had hired me to do. Eventually this moved me out of writing and into managing, and again, what I do now doesn't feel like work. Looking back at it, it feels inevitable -- as Steve wrote in his post, these were things I couldn't not do.
I've seen this at work in others too. One entry-level guy I worked with maniacally analyzed the cost-benefit ratio of every new project the organization took on, on his own initiative. After identifying enough cost-saving measures, he ended up getting moved into a position where his job was to do exactly that. A woman I used to work with used to always suggest ways to make a certain research series the company produced more user-friendly and engaging. She ended up in charge of it.
(It's worth noting you probably can't engage in this behavior without irritating some people. But if you're good at what you're doing, truly good managers and coworkers are going to see you as an opportunity, not an irritant.)
This isn't just about taking initiative. It's about the things you cannot help but do no matter what -- ways that your brain works, things that you will spend time on, even if it means working well into the night to fit it in.
Take a look at the things you can't keep yourself from getting involved in. It might point you to a far more satisfying job.