Self-awareness is fundamental when consciously charting our career path
Most often we allow things to happen to us – when asked how did you chose your current role, it is not uncommon to hear responses such as “It fell on my lap” or “the money was good” or “it just happened” … using a metaphor from driving, these comments much sound like being a passenger at the back seat of the car while the driver determines the destination. That may be fine if one is on a leisurely trip, sightseeing or headed for a predetermined meeting. However, when it comes to our career fulfillment, one does well to consciously choose to be in the driver’s seat of her/his career no matter how uncomfortable that may seem or how unknown the landscape appear at first. Equally important is to manage the impulse to want to give-in or be directed or distracted by someone else’s prescription of what or who one should be or do.
This does not mean not to communicate or ask for feedback – rather it means not to pass on the helms to someone else. Why we may want to pass on the helms? So that it is “easier”, so that I don’t have to make decisions and therefore keep myself responsible for it, so that I don’t “fail”.
Since our childhood we have been told what to do, first by our parents and caretakers and then by teachers and other authority figures. So much so that we may have forgotten or given our own discerning powers away. That may have been necessary as a child but to have a fulfilling professional life that power needs to be reclaimed back. Since we spend most of our days at work, the enjoyment of our career or lack of it directly impacts quality of everything else we do, including our relationships, health, finances and our sense of fulfillment as a whole. Yet, it is so common to not follow our own path.
“But if I decided to follow my own path where would I begin?” you may ask!
One of my mentors years back used to say “Kam follow the Gold and the money will take care of itself”. I did not understand what he meant by that. What is the Gold I kept on asking him and myself?
When asked by his students about finding their path in life, Joseph Campbell the well-known educator would reply:
“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”
Ok then what does “follow-your-bliss” mean then? you may ask.
Self-awareness of our interests, skills, motivators …
In the absence of such awareness it is not un-usual to drift the career landscape thrown here and there to places and roles by the waves of happenings, economy or seeking security, approval, acceptance, comfort … that may not be aligned with who we are and what we really have to offer. Our song is left un-sung, our talents buried and our gifts not shared.
And one thing is clear – each person has her/his unique gifts that only she can bring forth in that shape, form, taste or color and in offering that gift to the world, she is gifted back.
And about the phrase “follow your bliss”? In the interviews with Bill Moyers of PBS that were to become The Power of Myth, Campbell explained it as recognising the feelings of vitality and deep interest and pursuing it.
Some Tips You May FInd Helpful
1. Resolve to bring more of yourself to work. Be present, mindful, alive and alert. What roles, assignments, projects, initiatives or tasks fill you with energy, vigour, vitality and motivation? When do you find yourself totally immersed in the doing? When does time stops or flies by so quickly that you all forget about yourself? In these moments: What skills are you using? Who are you with? What topics are being discussed? They are there – but are you there to see?
2. Take formal self-assessment tests or read books with useful self-reflective practices to help mine for values, interests and skills.
3. Welcome feedback from those who know you well and you trust. Compare their feedback with your own findings. Any similarity or patterns emerging? Somethings you did not think of?
4. Identify and research the organizations you might be interested in, do you fit their culture and resonate with their values? Do they fit your interests and skills?
5. Most importantly develop skills to work with the inevitable emotional ups and downs as you begin this journey. This is absolutely fundamental and an indispensable ally to help transmute the challenges along the way and reclaim their energy to fuel further progress. Most often we give up not because we are not serious, rather because we don’t know how to work with mind-blocks, misperceptions and strong emotions that overwhelm us.
6. If possible at all pair up with someone else or create a small group to do the work together and to share the wins and challenges.
7. Take up regular physical exercise, it can help you maintain a steady energy and clear up stress hormones.
8. Finally, be gentle and kind with yourself. Be a source of encouragement rather than self-criticism.