There are just too many people stuck in a life determined for them twenty years earlier by an unaware and uninformed teenager obliged to choose a career course in high school or university. Yes, changing direction is a risk… but what if you don’t change? Which risk would you rather live with?
Do you like what you are doing now? What would you really like to do? As we delved into those soul-searching questions (and more) in exploring the Law of Awareness, the notion that you have to know yourself to grow yourself became crystal clear. “There is no point continuing to just do activities to fill my days,” said a U.S. Naval officer who has decided to suspend courses he was going to enrol in to now do a full and fresh audit of the direction of his life and examine his passions and gifts.
In the ensuing discussion a McNulty Prize laureate and serial entrepreneur shared how following her reflections at 40 she had just given up her Africa-wide regional role in a rich Europe-based NGO to start a new African impact investment venture with zero money! Why would anyone do that? Of course I also shared how I left medicine to pursue my passion for leadership development and Christian mission. It’s been more than a decade since and I have no regrets, none.
If a person sets out to run a mile, and three quarters of a mile ahead there is a cliff, should that person try to finish running the mile just because he started out to do so? As you ponder that question from the content of the 15 Laws of Growth mastermind group that all the people I’ve mentioned here are a part, I hope it becomes apparent how ridiculous it is to be bound to a trajectory determined twenty years earlier by an unaware and uninformed teenager obliged to choose a career course in high school or university. This is the time for true self-awareness and new growth. Yes, changing direction is a risk…but what if you don’t change? Which risk would you rather live with?
JACK WHERE ARE YOU?
Have you ever gone to a huge place, say a large mall of six floors, and wondered “what’s where and how do I get there?” Whenever I have, whether it’s in the huge malls of the USA, South Africa or the Philippines, I would hunt for a map of the place, typically mounted on each floor at vantage points. If you’ve used one of those before, the most striking marking and boldest text on it tends to be not the various potential destinations and routes but the sign that says, “YOU ARE HERE.” That is a huge inadvertent lesson in self-awareness. A big gap in my personal growth has been overemphasising goal-setting (where I want to go) and often overlooking self-awareness (where I am right now). I’ve almost always looked at the map and been nearly obsessed over where I want to go and not taking enough note of “YOU ARE HERE.” Yet in the words of Denis Waitely, “No one can produce great things if he is not thoroughly sincere in dealing with himself.”
The following are at least four pairs of things one should be aware of, first, and then align. Like a fork and knife, they should go together but often don’t. Yet unless they align, forget about the kind of exponential growth that leads to sustainable success.
1. WHAT YOU WANT & WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
What you dream of and/or desire must match with what you can do well. To be crazily successful you need to be doing what you’re good at so only entertain a dream in that direction. The key is to “discover your uniqueness; then discipline yourself to develop it” (Jim Sundberg). It is a curious observation from my mentor Dr. Maxwell, that “some people have an inherent ability to know know who they are and who they’re not. Others have to work hard to make those discoveries.” Poet and critic Samuel Johnson put it well, “Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess.” Are you still wasting time? No more! Get coached!
Although I realized a long time ago that my calling was leadership, communication and education, it took the significant crucible of a fatal road traffic accident to catalyze my resolve to move more fully into my purpose. It isn’t good enough to live out one’s purpose part-time because of a full-time job that pays the bills. When I coach, write, speak or train and make a difference in people’s lives I feel most alive. I feel “I was born for this.” I was! Claremont professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in positive psychology, put it simply eons ago: “Find out what you are good at and what you like to do.”
2. WHAT DRIVES YOU & WHAT SATISFIES YOU
Many of the things that drive us are externally given or measured, like money, but these should align with what internally satisfies us as well. That is über powerful! Harvard professor Bill George lists things such as having power, a title, public recognition, social status, winning over others and monetary compensation as extrinsic motivators. Intrinsic motivations, on the contrary, says George, “are derived from your deepest inner desires, not the world’s adulation. They are the basis for your True North and are closely linked to your life story.” These include personal growth, satisfaction of doing a good job, helping others develop, finding meaning from efforts, being true to one’s beliefs and making a difference in the world.
Your sweet spot is the place where what drives you (extrinsic motivator) and what satisfies you (intrinsic motivator) align and synergistically combine with what you want (dream) and what you’re good at, for sure!
3. VALUES and PRIORITIES
Everyone has values, overtly or covertly; what we consider good and valuable. Unfortunately these are often violated by how we actually do life. As mentioned before it takes things like the accountability of a coach or mastermind group to gather the power to make the quantum leap from valuing something to re-prioritizing things in our lives to own it (action!). See here. When values and priorities converge, powerful things happen!
4. PERSONAL VALUES AND PRIORITIES & ORGANIZATIONAL VALUES AND PRIORITIES
The majority of people spend most of their waking hours at some workplace or the other, physical or virtual. The challenge is that, as Maxwell asserts, “if you and your employer are working at cross-purposes, success will be difficult to achieve.” Again, in an earlier blog on personal and corporate values, I was unequivocally clear: “I strongly advise individuals to make sure that their personal DNA aligns with the corporate DNA of whatever organization they work for/with (or seek to work for/with).”
SO! WHERE WERE WE?
First, find what you really want and align it with what you’re really good at! Then, align your extrinsic and intrinsic motivations. Thirdly, harness your values and priorities and finally make sure these personal values and priorities jive with your organization’s. Align these four pairs and you’re en route to a sustainably successful life, one of deep fulfilment and significance with no regrets. These are four pairs that must be aligned for prosperity but as you can tell, it all begins with a keen self-awareness.