Energize Your Leadership
Energize Your Leadership
1: Energize Your Values
"Whose life am I going to live?"
It's a question I would confront many times in my early career, beginning the moment I went off to college. In high school, I had taken those career aptitude tests that identified which jobs would be a good fit for someone with my personality and interests. My intuition told me they were spot on. Yet, instead of pursuing one of those career paths, I allowed my choices to be driven by the well-meaning, and seemingly wiser, voices of those around me. Intellectually, they made a lot more sense than what I intuitively felt would be a good fit for me.
I have no doubt that those well-meaning voices had my best interests at heart. I consider myself fortunate to have been surrounded by people who truly loved me, believed in me, and cared about my future. For a while, their guidance seemed to be working. My job was going very well. I had the time, energy and funds to enjoy doing things I loved to do. By all accounts I had a great life and a successful career.
Then one day a deceptively simple conversation jolted me awake. A friend at work shared over lunch that he was leaving the company to go to chiropractic school. Even though we were only in our twenties, it seemed like an incredibly gutsy move, one that required courage and insight.
When I asked him what drove his decision, he explained that he wanted his life to be "more than about crunching numbers and getting promotions." He genuinely wanted to help people lead healthier lives.
I didn't sleep much that night. Although I really enjoyed my job, his words somehow re-awakened my desire for my work and my life to have more meaning.
It became clear that at some point I had surrendered my quest for meaning, and had instead chosen to follow the path that had been laid out before me for as long as I could remember: go to school and get a good corporate job. "You can rise to the level I could never attain," my father had said, "because I did not get that degree." I was the first person in my family to graduate from college and with it came great hope and possibility for my entire family.
Over the next 10 years I explored many alternative careers, but I was continually frustrated that I still seemed unable to find the "right path." Did such a thing even exist? Perhaps I was expecting too much. I wasn't miserable or rudderless, and I didn't regret any of the choices I had made up until this point. It was just that something had been missing - the spark that made me want to seize the day, every day.
After years of searching for the "right" career path I had one of those aha moments: the meaning and satisfaction I was searching for had nothing to do with what I did for a living. I realized that the source of meaning and satisfaction came from the inside out, not the outside in. It wasn't a career I was seeking, but rather a compass to help me navigate. The thing I had been searching for was within my grasp the whole time - the compass was my values.
In that moment I had a clear choice: I could make my life one entirely of my own making or continue letting others drive my choices. I wanted my life to be my own, and I realized that the key was to get in touch with what really mattered to me. Fortunately, I had a strong personal code of ethics so my values at the level of my integrity were clear. Yet there was another set of values I needed to explore - the values that were the source of my motivations, behavior and satisfaction. It was in discovering these values that opened the door to understanding what gave me both meaning and satisfaction. The clearer I became about what these values were, the more energized I became about my future. I now had the tools to invent my life and career from this moment forward with confidence. I could find a way to make the difference I wanted to make in the world, and to live my whole life in a way that truly energized