Blog Post 5: As always, thank you for your comments, questions and ideas. A good friend raised an important point recently regarding how many people don’t really know what they are passionate about. He suggests that this is an issue at least until they’ve had enough life experience to discover what appeals to them and what doesn’t. We agreed that time isn’t wasted, merely invested, and reflecting on past experience is a very effective way to better understand what truly makes you happy.
I do believe, however, that there is value in trying to cheat the course of time and accelerating the traditional route of self-discovery. By using the various tools and methods available today to better understand desires, interests and strengths at the beginning of a career, a young person may reach a higher level of enjoyment and gain rapid development earlier and throughout the experience-gaining years. Hindsight will always be 20/20, but what about finding a way to increase foresight?
You see, whenever I’m confronted by younger adults asking advice, I fall back on one of the most important principles guiding the Create Your Own Luck philosophy; the importance of knowing yourself. I can’t stress enough how vital it is for people to seek self-awareness and discover what is truly important to them. This is doubly so for people in their 20’s and 30’s where the information gained through self discovery can be used to make decisions early on, leading to much happier results later. However, one could easily argue that the importance of self-awareness doesn’t decrease with age. We are all here for a limited time only, and that precious commodity becomes more and more treasured, regardless of how many “big” decisions we have left to make.
Recent surveys continue to show the high percentage of people that are generally unhappy with their profession and/or lifestyle. Jokes are made about “the richest man in the graveyard” or how “nobody on their deathbed ever wishes they spent more time at the office”. Although part of this can be chalked up to the way we look at our lives, getting an early start on a conscious life can negate that most painful demon, Regret.
Anyone who knows me, or has been following this blog, can definitely tell you how much I’ve changed over the years (hopefully for the better!). This is largely due to going through this process myself, something I hope I never stop doing. My idea of Success has changed over the years, as well as my plan for seeking it. Whether for security, freedom, family pressures, etc., paths often lead to a desire for abundant wealth…and I was no different. Over the years I sacrificed and made decisions that led me away from my core self, because I thought I was going to get what I really wanted. Now I understand that there are many paths that can lead to prosperity, and I have more understanding about what being “successful” truly means. These days we’ve discovered that having a balanced life, which includes career, family and self-discovery, can be preferable to an “all or nothing” approach, chasing a particular facet of success. An abundant life consists of more than a swollen checkbook. Anyone doubting this can just look at the stories of wealthy, attractive, respected people that struggle with escapism or suicidal tendencies, or of lottery winners that end up bankrupt. I know it sounds like a cliché, but money truly doesn’t solve everything, and the misconception that it does often results in tragedy.
So I urge my readers to delve deeply into self-discovery. Find your passions, understand your wants, needs and what drives you. Will you make mistakes? Of course. Will it require realignment? Definitely. But will it pay off? I’m certain that it will.
Start by seriously considering what Success means to you. Some questions you may want to consider are; What do you enjoy? What excites or fascinates you? What motivates you? What are you curious about? At first you may have a clearer understanding of what you don’t like. That’s fine too. In this process, all knowledge is good knowledge. And you don’t have to be right…you just have to be right for Now – for the next stage of your development and to give you something to build experience on. You may stumble on something you want to do 24/7 from now until forever, or you may find that you are building a personal experience ‘well’, one ladle of life at a time.
It’s more important to be guiding your decisions to incorporate your passions than to find your one career and stay there forever. I was giving a guest lecture at an MBA program last week and I realized that more intense self-discovery at an earlier age could have guided me into a career I was even more excited about. After a very positive experience at IBM during my 20s I began to look for a more lucrative position so I could better support my growing family. I had been trained at IBM to sell large, complex, high-ticket mainframe solutions. The software business was the new growth area back in the late 1980s, so I thought it was natural to transition there. It was rewarding but I was not passionate about it. During class the other night I mentioned how Boeing had just launched it’s new 787 airliner that week. I’m not sure why but I’ve always been excited and passionate about flying, new aircraft, jet propulsion, and speed in general (and I have the speeding tickets to prove it – ouch!). As I’ve said before, I have no regrets but I think I would have had a lot more fun selling aircraft for Boeing. I probably would have traveled more too, which is another thing I love.
So, with the understanding of how important this voyage of self-discovery can be, how and where can someone get started? Let me give you a few ideas…
The EruptingMind Education website is chock full of self-improvement ideas (and while we’re on the subject, becoming a lifelong, dedicated student of self-development is a great habit to pick up). Under the category of Personal Development, click on the Discover your Life Purpose topic link. Although the site has a number of helpful links, this link in particular is tantamount to our topic today, provides some helpful advice and contains a helpful, moving YouTube video with Will Smith giving advice on pursuing your passion. You may find this a nice way to start the search.
If you don’t mind providing your email information (and maybe watching for a bit of junk mail later), egouniversity.com provides a free, interesting, 6-part self-awareness quiz on their website. It’s true that they are providing this free service in order to find participants for their more expensive self-improvement course, but the quiz itself is free for all and fairly well thought out. Also, the site provides “scores” and a decent interpretation of the results that can be very useful to someone seeking guidance on what areas to focus on. Take 10 minutes to do the quiz, print out the interpretation sections, and then decide for yourself what the next step is or whether you are interested in any further assistance from the site.
SelfGrowth.com’s article, “40 Questions to Improve Your Self Awareness” lists questions to add to the others I’ve asked above. Together with a notebook and a quiet hour of reflection, these can provide you with a very personal, interesting dialogue. In life, finding the answers is almost always a direct function of asking the right questions. These can help. Likewise, RevolutionOfMe.com has a short Self Awareness Questions .pdf on the web. Only 10 questions, but pretty powerful revelations can come as a result of taking the time to think things through in their helpful format. It’s also easy to print out and take with you if, like me, you prefer to work off paper when you can.
In today’s hectic world, it’s more important than ever to take the time to get to know yourself, and guide your decision making based on that knowledge. Living day-to-day can easily become routine and your will to grow and carve out a life based on your desires, interests and strengths is vital in overcoming the tide of mediocrity. The web, bookstores and libraries are full of resources that can help you build a knowledge base of what your purpose in life could be. I urge you to seek them out, take the time, and get to know the one person who can have the biggest impact on whether you discover and reach your potential; You! I’d love to hear what tools, books and resources others have used to find guidance. Kindly share them in the comments, and together we can make this post a helpful, personal best practices reference. Rob