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Where Are You Heading?

Mount Rainier, Washington, August 21, 2004, 11:30 p.m. Our tent strains with the weight of new snow and furious winds. The storm has been unrelenting for 2½ days. We’ve just “calmly debated” about whose turn it is to dig us out of the tent. We have a difficult decision to make; the barometer reading on my wristwatch is dropping like a stone and the tension inside our tent is thick as thieves. A decision needs to be made about which way we are heading. The way I see it, we can push for the summit or retreat back down the way we ascended.

This is what life is all about – deciding in which direction you’re heading. And your career is no different. So, here’s the question: Which way do you want your career to go? Up, down…or nowhere?

Keeping this question in mind, I’d like to share something with you that goes well beyond the usual concepts. It gives insights that can help you formulate a useful career/life plan of action. It’s not all happy reading¯ it’s healthy reading. See what you think of the following three thoughts.

Thought #1: We should have more dreams than memories. Most people find themselves in a comfort zone in which they’re so concerned about being consistent with what they’ve done and said in the past that they’re reluctant to try anything else. They’re also afraid of the opinions of other people, especially the possibility that other people may disapprove of them.

I meet people all over the country who run into second income opportunities that have the potential to make them financially independent. But they turn aside from these opportunities and continue working for wages, at far lower levels than they are really capable of, because they’re afraid that someone else will disapprove of them. They’re afraid that a friend or relative may criticize them. One of the things I tell our clients when they begin setting goals is to keep their goals confidential. If you don’t, other people will quite freely “rain on your parade.” They’ll step up to tell you all the reasons why you shouldn’t even think about doing any better than you’re doing today. And because you’re so concerned with their opinions, you will often hold yourself back, year after year.

When you’re in your twenties you might say that you don’t really care what people think about you. When you’re in your thirties you do care what people think about you and you are far more sensitive. But when you get into your forties, you learn the great truth: No one was ever thinking about you at all!

The fact of the matter is that very few people are really concerned with you or your life. The most foolish thing that you could ever do is to hold yourself back from fulfilling your dreams and ambitions for fear of what someone else might say or think. They don’t think about you at all. They’re so busy with their own lives that they don’t really have the energy to be concerned about yours.

Thought #2: Wherever you are, be there! Develop the ability to absorb, to soak it up. Be like a sponge. Don’t miss anything. Don’t miss the words. Don’t miss the atmosphere. Don’t miss the scenario. Don’t miss what’s going on.

Most people are just trying to get through a job search day-by-day. Be committed to learn from this experience. Don’t just get through it; get from it. Learn from it. Let the career transition experience teach you something. Join the university of life. What a difference that will make in your future. Commit yourself to learning. Commit yourself to absorbing. Be like a sponge.

A friend of mine is so gifted in this area. I think she has soaked up and remembers everything that’s ever happened to her. And the reason is because she gets it. It’s more exciting to have her go to Acapulco, come back, and tell you about it than it is to go yourself! She’s unbelievable; she has this extraordinary gift. And why is that? When she’s there, she doesn’t miss anything.

Thought #3: It’s all a mystery. There is very little of real value in life that we can see with our eyes ¯ not our love for each other, our hopes, our dreams, our aspirations, our courage, nor the mystery of life that moves us or suddenly sets the heart of an unborn child to beating. It’s all a mystery. And if anyone tells you they have the answers, leave him or her alone; they can’t help you.

An open mind stimulates enthusiasm and bolsters hope. We can grow only as long as our minds are growing. We stop growing when the mind stops learning.

The definition of genius is the ability to think in unhabitual ways. How are you doing in that department? If you’re following anyone, remember this: The odds are pretty good that he/she isn’t any smarter than you are.

In the last year of his life, Dr. Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant people who ever lived (in my opinion), said: “The more I have studied physics, the more I realize I do not know.” And he went on to say: “To me, the real lesson of my whole life is that the more I know, the more challenged I am to know, and the wider my mind is open to new ideas and new concepts.”

Now, what about you and me? If we can manage the difficult job of keeping our minds absolutely open to new ideas, new possibilities, new permutations, new concepts, not only in a job search but also in life, we can continue to grow as he did. And life will become more interesting with the passing of every year.

- Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor

J.M. Wanes & Associates

www.jmwanes.com

Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, www.jmwanes.com. J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.