A Journey into Self-Discovery
Written on the 27 March 2010 by Marshall Goldsmith
Career Choices Are Life Choices
Assuming an eight-hour day and seven hours of sleep at night, approximately one-third of our waking hours are spent at work. For many professionals, especially physicians, this percentage is probably closer to one-half of their waking hours! That's a huge chunk of your life. This puts into perspective the significant impact our career choices can have on how we view our lives.
Understanding Culture and Language
This observation led me to create an exercise, which I have conducted with leaders regarding how they view their jobs. They are given three choices for assessing the content of their work. Please try this yourself. As I describe each of the three categories, estimate the percentage of your job that falls into each category.
The first category is "play." This is job content that is fun and what you would tend to do regardless of whether or not you were compensated for it. We have all seen people readily agree to do a task that was beyond the job description. Why? Because it was a task they viewed as fun, as an outlet for untapped creativity or a channel for self-actualization. If I tell myself, "I'm going to play," there is no resistance or creative avoidance. We all like to play.
The second category is "work." This is job content that is not play. It's work. This is activity that, although not fun, you would agree to do for reasonable compensation.
Illustration: My father was a mechanic and ran a DX gas station in Valley Station, Kentucky. He lived during a time when people might barter for goods if they didn't have the money to pay for them. A man asked my father, "I need my car repaired. Do you want to do it?" My father might reply, "No, I don't want to do it. I don't have any fun repairing cars. However, I will do it for reasonable compensation, say a 100 pounds of potatoes from your garden."
I can tell myself, "I'm going to work," and have a reasonably high level of commitment to follow through with this objective.
The third category is "misery." Job content in this category is not only not play, but there is no compensation imaginable to make it pleasurable. I tell myself, "I'm about to do something that I don't want to do and I'll be miserable doing it." I will be wonderfully creative in finding every reason to avoid that activity.
How do you see the composition of your professional experience concerning activities that are categorized as play, work, and misery? Here are the typical survey results among professionals:
There are personal assessments that promote this aspect of self-discovery. For example, completing the self-paced "Extended DISC" assessment can aid you in making better life and career choices as well as in determining how to be more effective in your current roles. Such an assessment can help you understand your intrinsic personality traits and behavioral tendencies that coalesce in the following categories:
Certain specialties may call for different aspects of these four personality dimensions. For example, an accountant may require more of the task/quality focus and attention to detail and procedure where a sales person may be more successful in the people-focus and extroverted category. A person who has differing natural tendencies may need to moderate behavior in order to work effectively in this specialty and be successful. This is not to suggest that someone with differing natural tendencies couldn't be successful in that role--only that adaptation may be necessary for professional effectiveness and personal satisfaction.
When you have to adapt yourself to fit a role, you may not be miserable, but it will likely be hard work. For this reason, it's best to choose roles that match your personality and behavioral styles.
When you are in a role that has some mismatches, plan for some conscious moderation to enhance working relationships and performance.
Ask yourself: "Given a set of circumstances, how can I make the situation not only more palatable, but how can I transform it by my 'positive spirit'?" This is referred to as "mojo"--literally, a type of magic charm. For purposes of discussion, it can be regarded as "that positive spirit toward one's activities that originates from the inside and radiates to the outside."
Your mojo is not fixed or limited in quantity at birth such that "when it's gone, it's gone." It is renewable and each person governs how it gets renewed -- and it changes with different activities and circumstances over time.
The goal in renewing mojo is two-fold: First, choose activities that more naturally maximize it, and, second, generate as much of it as possible regardless of the activity. On the inside, high mojo results in personal excitement about the activity in which you are engaged at the moment. As it radiates to the outside, which it will, you will experience spreading positive energy to everyone around you.
As with your inputs, the short- and long-term returns differ by activity. Some activities might have either a short- or long-term impact, whereas other activities may bring both short- and long-term impact.
But, life is not ideal. The reality is that we all have to do things we don't like some times. However, we're not stuck. Here are some quick suggestions for how you might engage, retain, or regain mojo, even while you're doing the most mundane activities.
As simple as it may sound, by increasing your effectiveness, you can elicit a more positive response from others. Finally, take action to discover and enhance your own happiness and meaning--through new pursuits, by reframing current activities, by extending what you bring to the situation, or by finding hidden value. In so doing, you will experience more positive associations with others and a richer, more satisfying life in general.
Extended DISC products, certification trainin, public and in-house workshops are available through Talent Tools.
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