Do you like to tackle tough questions?
Here’s one of the toughest:
“What do you want?”
Do you know what you want?
There is real power in knowing that your goal has a personal element to it.
“Want” is too close to “desire” or “passion” for most tastes. They fear it is not professional to feel things at work despite the obvious fact that you have to care to do your job.
For most, it’s a struggle to come up with anything beyond basic short answers that ultimately boil down to “paid money and left alone”. While most can agree that as awesome as that might sound, it won’t lead to fulfillment beyond a sense of peace from knowing you can pay the bills.
I’m developing an approach for career seekers/changers that can help them discover and direct their career assets to align to a sense of purpose and mission. As part of this process, I’ve been creating fictional scenarios and characters to illustrate the points and then workshopping them with techniques I learned studying improv.
So, let me tell you about Earl.
Earl is 46 years old (Gen Xer)
He has been at his present company, a small engineering firm, for 12 years and has been a VP for the last 7 years
He has an MBA, a spouse of 22 years, 2 kids, 1 dog, a Split-level house in a suburb.
And, most importantly- Earl doesn’t like me.
Why doesn’t Earl like me?
Because I told him the truth, which he didn’t like.
Because Earl doesn’t want me to bother him about what his Purpose or Mission is! He just wants to get paid and be left alone. He doesn’t believe in all this ‘woo-woo’ Purpose stuff. “It’s called work for a reason. It sucks, but you do it, and eventually, you retire”
I can explain all day long how not having a career strategy and development plan, even if you’re staying put in the same job, is by far one of the riskiest things he can do. He refuses to think beyond running out the clock until the buzzer goes off in 21-ish years.
Running his reality through my model, I demonstrated that he really does have a purpose.
So what was his Purpose?
To Pay His Mortgage.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
He’s not working for a goal beyond paying his bank what he owes.
What comes after that? Waiting to expire?
Now this is a free country; you can do whatever you want with your life and paying your mortgage is an admirable goal. In my estimation that is playing a very low-skill game. He’s playing T-ball when he could, at the very least play, competitive intercompany softball. He doesn’t have to play professional or even semi-pro. He has all the skills and knowledge to play a larger game but chooses not to. He instead is focused on being a cog, not a partner, in his workplace.
To play a bigger game, you have to be invested in the outcome. You play better when you play to ‘win’.
Maybe you know an Earl. I suspect you do. You might even agree with or be him! So let me clear, being like Earl is NOT wrong. In my estimation it’s a little sad, but that’s my opinion. It’s when we promote the absolute ethic that work cannot ever be more than just paying the bills that we wander beyond the boundaries of personal opinion and into territory where this attitude can harm others and the workplace itself. One of my inspirational heroes Zig Ziglar would have called this is Stinkin’ Thinkin’.
I believe the act of choosing to purpose a goal that you’re personally invested in and care about is the difference between existing and living.
I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks about how to define what you want, so if you’re stuck and want to help figure out what you really want to pursue, stay tuned.