As a career and executive coach, I often wonder: Why is that many of my intelligent friends and clients are doing work that they do not feel passionate about? Why do people make career decisions that are “kind of” on track with their passions, but are a few degrees off? Why do people make career choices that “sound good,” but ultimately leave them feeling empty? When capable people do not work with passion, it seems like such a waste. If you are feeling like your career is not on the right track, but you have lots of great skills to offer the world, it may be time to “crack the code” and figure out why, so you can create a fulfilling career in 2011.
The Foundation of Career Success
If you want to create a fulfilling career you need to start by reflecting on who you are, what you want, what you are passionate about, and your strengths and preferences. By doing this, you will create a vision for success that pulls you forward and inspires you to change. However, just knowing what you want is not enough. You also need to create a game plan for moving forward and develop a strategy for overcoming any obstacles. From my experience, the obstacles are usually what holds people back. I call obstacles “personal glitches.” Every person has a glitch – that little thing that holds them back that they keep repeating over and over again like a worn out record.
The Three Most Common Career Glitches
In my coaching practice I have found three common glitches that stop talented and amazing people from working with passion. These are taking on too much, pleasing other people instead of yourself, and being triggered emotionally.
Taking On Too Much –Most of my clients are highly productive people that are leading full lives. The challenge is that they have way too much on their plate and they are exhausted. They have little time for doing the things that energize them and that put them in an optimal state – the state you need to be in if you want to do personal exploration and create positive change. Instead, they are tired, running on caffeine and wishing for the day (“Someday”) that they will make the change they want. If these same people do take the time to reflect and create their “working with passion” vision, they need to really self manage and ensure that they don’t continue the cycle of taking on too much, or they will run into a situation where they are loving what they are doing, but they have way too much of it on their plate and it all starts to feel like drudgery again. Taking on too much is a western disease that we need to manage in the same way that we need to manage our sugar and fat intake. Too much of a good thing is just that – too much.
Pleasing Others Instead of Yourself – The second little glitch that holds people back from working with passion and living the lifestyle they want is pleasing other people at the expense of their own needs and values. This is a huge one for corporate executives of all people. There is so much old baggage around what is expected of “leaders” and how they need to be 110% committed and fully engaged with the team, and they need to work long hours and do team dinners etc. What ends up happening is that the job becomes a lifestyle and it dominates all aspects of life. The end result is that the team and organization is satisfied, but you are left feeling fat and out of sorts. Not good. One of the keys to working with passion is figuring out what YOU value and actually have the discipline to create it.
For example, I recently helped a client hire a Vice President in the environmental sector. As part of the search, I talked to a well known mover and shaker in the industry about the job. The client really wanted this fellow on the shortlist. When I told him about the role he said, “No, sorry, I am not interested. I am like a generation Y person now. I want to work less, enjoy life more, and only do stuff I am passionate about.” This is not your typical interview answer. I loved the authenticity and I could totally relate to everything he was saying. He was 47 and living this life. He understood that he needs to say “no” to opportunities in order to say “yes” to what he truly wants.
Emotional Triggers - The third most common glitch that holds people back from working with passion is emotional triggers. Basically, a person is going about their business and trying to implement their vision and live their values and then something happens and whammo! They are in a state of stress or anxiety about it. They feel out out of sorts (which totally contrasts their usual “in control” self) and instead of preserving they go the safe route. Again, and again, and again. Don’t let this happen to you. Emotional triggers are something to manage, they are not something that should stop you. We all experience them and they are typically tied to stressful events or outdated beliefs from the past. Instead of letting them block you, you need to really get to know what your triggers are and work through them.
Questions to Consider To Get Your Career on A Fulfilling Track
• What is your vision of success next year
• What do you need to be doing each month and week to feel good? This could be exercise, time with family and friends, going to movies etc.
• What is the biggest distraction from doing these fulfilling things?
• What would you need to say “no” to in order to say “yes” to being fulfilled?
• Examine the major decisions you have made in your career so far. Which ones put you on a fulfilling track? Which ones fell flat?
• What would you need to stop doing in order to get your career on track?
• What would you need to start doing?