About 15 years ago, I came to the realization that my career was going to be different than others around me. Not better or worse, but uniquely mine.
With that shift, I needed to decide what it was about me that would drive me to unique accomplishments:
- My values and principles.
- My life goals or life purpose.
- My unique talents, skills, and situation.
What’s fascinating is that this has helped me to a much deeper sense of satisfaction with my jobs, my career, and the choices that I make. Instead of chasing the rainbow of living up to others’ expectations, I focus on what will give my existence purpose and improve others’ lives.
To get grounded in who you are, spend some serious time on these areas:
Values and Principles
These are the basis for how you view your life and how you make important decisions. At this level we’ll see ideas such as fairness, individual or group achievement, contribution to society, fame, and family.
My clients who are working on career choices often find it difficult to get down to the truth here. They tend to start with what society has told them are ideal values (Truth! Justice! The American Way!) but then start to realize that this doesn’t actually explain how they really think.
Below the surface, then, are tough questions like:
- What does your use of time tell you about your true values?
- If you were unable to do your current job ever again, how would you go about figuring out what direction to take?
- What would your family say your values are, just based on the way they see you behave?
Life Goals or Life Purpose
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll
Over time, many people realize that there’s some longer term direction than just living their life day to day, year to year. Being clear about that end-point gives you a way to make useful long term decisions and build tangible progress with passion and energy.
If you’re spiritually inclined, you might tend to focus on a mission or purpose which is “given” to you from the outside. If you’re not, this may feel more internally generated. It doesn’t really matter, because the value you get is the same.
When you pick and commit to a certain direction, it helps you to put enough energy behind it to make lasting progress.
Unique Talents, Skills, and Situation
Your life thus far has been composed of unique twists and turns, different from every other person on the planet. This includes your way of thinking, the abilities you’ve uncovered, skills and knowledge you’ve acquired, the people you know, and your reputation.
Externally, you also have unique opportunities and challenges, presented by the people you know and your overall life situation.
The last challenge, then, is to look at these as a huge set of resources that you have at your disposal. The nice thing about having hundreds of resources is that you don’t have to worry about using each and every one – you can pick the ones which will help you reach your life goals. The others are still there, laying in wait for the day when they can be most useful.
This also means that every investment you make in learning and developing relationships is part of the creation of more resources. That’s not the only reason, of course, but it helps you to keep investing even though it’s hard work.
When you start with knowing yourself and your situation, you’ve created an incredibly powerful starting point for designing the career that’s truly worthy of the time you’ll spend working, growing, and making a difference.
And, of course, living a life of great joy and passion.
by Carl Dierschow