One of the most important decisions that you will make concerns your driving force. Very few people know early in life what they want to be when they grow up. My mother always wanted to be a nurse. Of course, that was one of only four career choices available for women in Western culture at the time, but that’s another post. Most of us find academic areas that we excel in and then try to find a job that will fit those areas and will pay a decent wage. My exhortation to you is to stop it. Instead, STEP BACK and look at your life from a higher level.
Not just at what you are good at doing, but at what your driving force is. What is it that you can’t not do? When put into new situations, where do you naturally gravitate and enjoy?
by Karen Walker
I, for example, excelled at maths and science and went on to earn an engineering degree. Had I thought of myself as only an engineer, my career would have been drastically different. What is underneath the maths and science is my driving force – solving problems. Almost everything that I do is in the service of solving problems. I research, I scan, and I take in many odd bits of information without ever knowing where and when they will be of use. And, then, when I’m with a client and the problem shows itself, I spring into action with direct problem solving, creating models or supporting the client in learning this skill.
Secondly, what situations will best allow you to develop and display your driving force? Once you are clear about the driving force, you must put yourself in situations to maximise your ability to contribute. It will come out anyway, so it might as well be in places where you are able to make the most difference, be paid well, et cetera.
And, lastly, how do you cope with situations that require other skills? For example, in my partnership, it is sometimes wisest to let the problem sit for a bit – to stew – allowing more clarity perhaps, or for an ‘aha’ moment by my partner, or for significant new information to arise. Don’t be the person who only has a hammer in their tool chest, lest everything looks like a nail. Know your areas of weakness so that you can minimise your blind spots. They may or may not be developmental needs; sometimes, they are just areas where you do not excel.
In an appreciative-inquiry approach to life, the question is put this way:
If you are at an A in one area, and a C in another area, where do you put your energy? For most of us, we work on bringing that C up to a B. How much more productive to say, “I will never have an A in all areas”, and to put your energy into being the very best A that you can be with your driving force.
If you are clear about your driving force and always work towards applying it, you will forge a career that is successful and true to who you are. You will always be ‘directionally correct’ and not find yourself looking back and wishing you had made other choices or taken other paths. You can’t make a more important inquiry in life.
Karen D Walker, President of Oneteam Inc., works with organisations and individuals to dramatically strengthen alignment, support growth and create value, irrespective of culture or geography.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Karen D. Walker 2013
(As published in CEO Mentor Me 2013)