I recently wrote an article that focuses on 3 keysthat can help anyone break through their performance barriers; achieve that better tomorrow, whatever it is. The first step was to have a vivid picture of what your ideal future state looks like. After all, you can’t aim for the bullseye if you don’t know where or what it is. But what if you just don’t know what you want to achieve, or you end up picking someone else’s goal for you, or the wrong goal, all together? I’ve posed this question to a few of my friends and colleagues, and lively discussions ensued. I’d like to share what came from those conversations.
Find your own path, not somebody else’s. Especially as a first-generation immigrant, the most immediate thought that comes to mind is “parents”. They want what’s best for their children and often their “guidance” is driven by a desire for their kids to have a better (financial) life than they had, so they point their children in a direction they feel will help lead them on a path to prosperity. Become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. Many of my immigrant friends had a similar path to mine. They largely did what was expected of them. All of them are “doing well”, so what’s the problem? “Define well”, is what one friend asked. You see, our parents measured much of success and happiness as a function of money, because they didn’t have it. I told myself that becoming a corporate executive of a Global company was my goal. Unfortunately, when I got there at age 33, I realized I achieved a goal that did very little for the whole ME. Had one person (perhaps a coach) asked me one simple question: “what makes being a Global 200 executive so important to you?”, I’m afraid I would have had a blank look on my face and possibly said it was because of money. I could write a book on that topic, but, in short, that’s not a very emotionally intelligent perspective and it certainly doesn’t lead to fulfillment.
Hint: When you believe you have a meaningful goal, ask what makes it so important to you. Really do some digging here, so you can be sure to identify a goal that speaks to all your senses.
It’s OK not to know…yet.Not knowing can invoke this uneasy feeling inside us. How can anyone not have a career goal, right? I often tell my clients, especially the early career clients, to enjoy the journey. Consider it took It took Steve Jobs about 10 years to figure out he wanted to start Apple from the time he dropped out and took his first calligraphy class. In his famous commencement address, Jobs said something profound I will remember for the rest of my life. He said, be able to connect the dots looking backwards, not forwards. Mind blown! How could so many of us have missed this our entire lives? Conventional thinking seems to suggest if we cannot connect the dots looking forward, we have “a lack of direction”, but that’s not necessarily the case, unless you are just watching Oprah all day. So how can you make sure those dots connect, as Steve Jobs suggest, looking backwards? When what you do on the journey to figuring things out is driven out of (your) passion.
Hint: If you don’t know your goal yet and it’s causing you to feel like you aren’t measuring up, try changing your perspective of not knowing. Look at it as a journey to passionately collect the information you need to know and to gain the experiences you want to experience, so that eventually a lightbulb turns on, leading you to say, “I got it!”
Most decisions are reversible. The stigma that sometimes comes with making the wrong decision can make anyone second-guess themselves. However, most mistakes are reversible, and few aren’t. So, if you go down the wrong path and make a mistake, so what? Is it really the end of the world, or just a lesson, giving you new insight on how to simply change direction, or do things differently? If you want to accelerate your professional or personal growth, don’t let the risk of making the wrong call keep you from making the call, in the first place.
Hint: When contemplating not taking a risk out of a fear of failure, ask yourself if you are really headed down a one-way street with no possible way to course-correct.
The path of growth is riddled with failures, but it’s your perspective of failure that will determine whether you eventually soar or take a nose dive. Sure, we said previously that most decision are reversible, but it’s our choice as to how we let failure affect us. Do we let it stop us, or do we look at it as one step closer to the promised land? You’ve heard the expression risk-reward. So, remember the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. Why is it called a comfort zone? Because inside it, we are more certain of the likelihood of success BASED ON PAST SUCCESS. Comfort, because we won’t fail! With the recognition that most decisions are reversible, we can change our perspective of “failure” and see it for what it really is… “learning and growth”. Embrace those failures that happen outside the zone and see it as a chance to take incremental steps to get you where you need to go.
Hint: Instead of reflecting in the negative, you can do something incredibly powerful… do it in the positive. Instead of asking “why”, ask yourself, “knowing what I know now, what should/would I do differently this time around?”
In conclusion, let your passion drive your goals, enjoy the journey of “figuring it out”, take those calculated risks, and remember that failure is your friend.