One thing I see over and over again is people at the top of the career ladder reaching a dead end. They have spent their entire working life pursuing the top of the career ladder just to realize that where they have arrived has nothing to do with what their dream career was supposed to look like.
Earning lots of money is great. However, earning a fortune in a job you hate while dealing with people who drain your energy is no fun. It’s much more fun to earn lots of money while doing what you love with people and organizations who inspire you.
So here are a few questions to ask yourself to make sure you don’t end up at the top of a ladder that is leaning against the wrong wall.
1. What Do I Value Most in Life?
Before you do anything else, you need to consciously know what your values are. They are the guiding principles to base every decision on in your life and career.
If you highly value freedom, it’s probably not a good idea to work with an organization that treats their employees like numbers and manages through fear.
If you highly value family, it’s probably not a good idea to work with an organization where you have zero flexibility, are required to work every weekend and that has a “Business first, then family” philosophy.
If you want to get clarity on what your values are, I highly recommend you take Scott Dinsmore’s course Live Off Your Passion. I went through it myself and ended up with a perfect list of values that truly align with who I am.
That list of values acts as a filter for me for when I have to make major decisions about what projects I take on and which ones I decline.
2. What’s My Vision of What I Hope to Achieve Through My Work?
After you know what you value most, it’s about defining your personal vision statement. This is something I do with my clients as part of the Personal Branding program. Why is this so important?
Every successful business that makes a difference has a clear vision of Why they do what they do. The vision is the big picture, a drawing of the world that they want to create.
Ask any business consultant or coach who works with new or even stablished business owners and he will tell you that one of the first things they define or re-define is the vision of that business.
Your career is no different from a business. You own your career. In order to have a successful career where you get to make a difference, you need to have a vision of what you hope to achieve through your work. I call this the Why Statement or Personal Vision Statement. You can also call it your purpose or dream.
Without a strong vision of what you hope to achieve, you have no big picture to hold on to. If things don’t go as planned (and they never do), you struggle because there is no big vision to be inspired by.
One of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl where he talks about his experience being in a concentration camp in Auschwitz. He says the difference between those who survived this hell on earth and those who died is hope. Hope was the only thing that kept him alive during what probably none of us can even imagine going through.
Having a vision, knowing your purpose of Why you do what you do gives you hope, no matter what the situation looks like. The stronger your vision, the bigger challenges you are able to overcome.
Your vision and purpose is what fuels you every day. It’s what gets you up excited in the morning, no matter the weather, the economy or what challenges stand in front of you.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl quotes Nietzsche who said “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.”
I always recommend my clients to watch Simon Sinek’s TED talk on Starting with Why to get a clearer picture how such a statement can look like.
Get to a quiet place, take a piece of paper and a pen with you and start drawing the future that you hope to create through your work. What cause fuels you with inspiration and excitement?
If you need personal guidance with creating your personal vision or Why Statement to make sure your career path is aligned with who you are, get in touch with me.
3. What am I Most Passionate About in My Work & Private Life?
I believe a successful and highly fulfilling career is based on passion, strengths and experience.
In order to thrive in your career, you need to do something you love. It’s not something I made up. You can hear many successful and famous leaders talk about their experience and the importance of doing work you love.
One of the best talks on that topic is from Steve Jobs at a Commencement Speech at Stanford University.
Think about situations where you felt completely alive in your work as well as in your private life. What things did you work on? What topics did you discuss?
4. What Are My Unique Talents & Strengths?
Leaders who are extremely successful don’t do things they are naturally bad at. They do work they are world-class at because it feels natural to them. These leaders live up to the full potential of their strengths and almost exclusively do what they are best at.
You know you do work that is your greatest strength when you can hardly believe that people pay you for doing it.
If you have not already done it, I highly recommend you take the Strength Finder Test. The Top 5 version for $9.99 is completely sufficient to start with.
I have completed it for myself and many of my clients have used it to further explore their strengths. It also offers a section with ideas for action which give you inputs on how to further explore your strengths and, on a broad scale, in which career you may thrive.
5. Is What I’m Pursuing Aligned With Who I am?
Once you have clarity about what you value most and what you hope to achieve through your work, you need to make sure what you pursue is actually aligned with your values and vision.
Following a path that does not fit into the big picture will leave you with emptiness. Not just that but it will also ruin your career in a world where we no longer hire people who merely show up to do a job.
Think about which paths are possible and more importantly, which ones you think are impossible but fully aligned with who you are. When you pursue the impossible, the zone of possible expands.
If you need personal guidance to decide on the right path and to make it happen, get in touch with me.
6. What Types of Organizations Inspire Me?
If you want to walk the path of career success and fulfillment, you need to work with organizations that inspires you, the ones who share your vision of the future. See the organization as your multiplier. It acts as a vehicle for you to have an impact that you could not have just by yourself.
By joining an inspiring organization, you can leverage your super-powers in an environment that enables you to move toward your vision of what you hope to achieve through your work faster than you could on your own.
The reason the organization needs to be aligned with your vision is not just so you love your work even more, but also so your super-powers are not wasted at the wrong place.
Think about the organization as a car with a strong engine. You are the fuel that gets injected into the car. If you inject the wrong fuel it’s going to end badly. However, if the fuel is perfectly aligned with the engine of the car, the car becomes a Ferrari and you get to be a driver of change.
Your Next Steps to Create Real Results
Only reading this article, closing the browser and moving on will do nothing for you. Take a few minutes right now and write the six questions above on a sheet of paper.
If you are hyper-digital like me, create a new note in your Evernote and write the questions down there.
Then take 3 minutes for each question and write down whatever comes to your mind. These 18 minutes of your life will be well worth the investment.
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