Once when I was in college I remember talking to a friend, a fellow liberal arts major, who had actually graduated and gotten a job. In insurance.
This was a rather unusual turn of events in those days, so I really wanted to know all about it. I asked him what he did. He told me he filed reports and went to meetings. This didn’t clear things up for me at all. I asked him again what he did, and he responded in the same vein. Somehow I acquired an image of him walking through hallways in a suit.
Later, a rather accomplished businesswoman who’d overheard the exchange told me, “He can’t tell you what he does because he doesn’t know.”
This really bewildered me. As a student, you always know what you’re doing. You might not be sure of why but… Few students would talk about their lives solely in terms of actions, i.e. “I read books, I go to class.” They’re far more likely to say, “I’m studying Journalism,” which might not be a terribly specific objective, but it’s a far sight better than my friend in insurance.
Actors frequently look for their character’s objectives, and through that knowledge bring focus to everything their character does. For example, Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” wants to get back to Kansas, and everything she does, even throwing water on a witch, is related to that.
I think people who can identify their objectives at work aren’t only more productive, they’re happier. They’ll have an easier time performing all the actions which are part of pursuing that objective.
After all, there are tedious aspects to any job. But if you say to yourself, “I’m working here because I want people to get quality health care,” fielding complaint calls and tracking down insurance claims feel more worthwhile.
Dynamic, successful organizations have inspiring and widely shared objectives. In others, you often have to supply your own.
Sometimes, you’ll have to track your objective back a step or two. Telling yourself you’re working a job for the $7.25 an hour you make won’t help you get out of bed in the morning. But reminding yourself that this job gives you the flexibility to be home with your young children just might.
Playing an objective keeps actors energized and engaged in a play’s unfolding story, and it will do the same for you in your career. Whether you’re fortunate enough to work in a place where you simply need to remind yourself of your goals, or if you work in a place that’s not terribly connected to your true ends, it’s helpful to remind yourself of why you do what you do. Even if it’s filing reports and going to meetings.
by Danielle Dresden