This time last year I was in the middle of making an important decision for my career and life. I had to decide whether or not I would resign from a corporate job that looked fabulous on the outside to write on a full time basis. To begin with I had national management responsibilities and was the youngest member of the executive team in a multi-million dollar startup. I was working with like-minded people and reporting to a female CEO worthy of imitation. My pay package was quite competitive and I had a 20-minute commute in mild traffic – and across Sydney’s Harbour Bridge which offers a stunning view of the Opera House.
So who in their right mind would even consider resigning from a job like that? Before you judge me too harshly, know that as good as my job sounds, it was not meaningful to me. It was the role I was aspiring to for years but was ultimately unfulfilling – and that did not feel good inside.
Maybe you’re thinking that I’m asking for too much. I think it’s quite the contrary. I left looking to give more, not receive more.
“How so?” You ask.
I reached a point in my career where I’d taken enough. Among other things, I had the flashy title and the salary I set out to achieve five years earlier. It was time for me to give back.
In this, my final post for 2008, I share with you the questions I answered and the guidelines I followed that led me to discover what I really want to do with my life.
Read – at your own risk – if you’re also looking to lead a more meaningful life.
Start with the end in mind. Begin by asking yourself: “What do I need to achieve in the following five years to feel fulfilled with my life?” When you answer, allow yourself to dream huge. Craft your answer around ‘and’ not ‘either/or’ terms.
If you don’t know what you want, start by writing down what you don’t want, or want less of in your work life. In my case I knew that I wanted to contribute in a more meaningful way. But I did not know what that meant exactly. I knew that I had to do something that was genuinely me. Not follow a ‘me-too’ path. I also knew that selling insurance and managing a team were not what I called ‘contributing’.
Fill your goals with meaning. Now ask yourself ‘Why?’ “Why do I want to achieve my goals?” Identify what it will mean to you, the ones you love, your community and the world in general once you achieve your goals. Take time to look inside. If you find it hard to answer this for a particular goal, be open to the possibility that it could be because that goal is not as important as you originally thought. If that’s the case, don’t be discouraged. Instead use this as an opportunity to identify a more meaningful goal.
Knowing the real reasons why you want something so much will help you stay committed to your goals and focused. For those very reasons, this is the most important step in the process.
Develop a plan. Finally, ask yourself: ’How?’ In other words, ask: “What do I need to achieve my goals?” Focus on the resources that you’ll need. How much time and money will you need? Do you need to up-skill? More education? Experience?
Then take time to think through the obstacles that may come across along the way. Take it a step further and come up with at least two solutions for each obstacle. Make sure not to confuse real obstacles with your fears. To tell the difference, test your thoughts against reality. Are you being catastrophic? Or are you generalizing?
It took me a few days to complete this three-step process, but I guarantee that the time I spent working through it has been one the best investments I’ve made on my career.
May 2009 be a meaningful year for us all.
Take a deep breath – with a little smile.
*Rash decisions may lead to career suicide.