Step 3: Develop and sustain a clear focus or mission for your life’s work and re-evaluate regularly.
What comes to mind as I consider the importance of sustaining a career development focus is the exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Here is an excerpt from that conversation, beginning with Alice’s question of the cat.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“… so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.
And, every once in a while I’ve come across the following shortened version of this exchange attributed to Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” In either case, it’s quite clear how it might be challenging to choose a path when facing a career choice fork in the road especially if the traveler doesn’t know where they want the path to take them.
Might it also follow that if you don’t know what you want to pursue in terms of a lifework, any course of study or life/work path will get you there? Well, if that’s the case, you might as well throw a dart at a map of the world to determine where you’re going to live and THEN determine what you’re going to do to provide for your basic needs and hope you can receive at least some satisfaction out or your job/career/lifework once you get there.
Well, if that doesn’t sound like a particularly wise or satisfying thing to do, you might want to consider developing a focus for your future. And, where the eight or more hours you’re likely to spend each day engaged in some type of work for pay makes up a significant portion of our waking hours, wouldn’t it be wise to have a clear idea of just how you might want to spend that time and further help assure that time will be spent in an enjoyable, satisfying and energizing way? Does that sound better than the “dart option”? If so, then I suggest you spend some time thinking seriously about “where you want to get to,” to quote the Cheshire Cat. If you find that task to be a bit overwhelming, you might want to seek some assistance from a career development professional like a licensed career counselor, the career or alumni services department of your educational institution or someone in your organization responsible for human resources and/or talent management.
Also, if you like thinking of your lifework focus in terms of mission, you might like, and find helpful, the step-by-step process for “Finding Your Mission in Life” as can be found in the book What Color Is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. Where the first two of the three steps of finding your mission according to Bolles, are spiritual in nature and particularly related to your religious orientation, the third part, he writes, is the “province of career counseling” as it relates to “the identification of talents, gifts, or skills.” So if you’re interested in developing a talent/gift/skills oriented mission statement, consider working through Bolles three questions under step three of the Mission section of his book. And if you’d like a little help identifying those talents, gifts and skills … well, by now, you’ve got a pretty good idea about what I’d recommend, don’t you?
Oh, and by the way, once you’ve clarified your focus, mission, purpose or direction to aid you in choosing the next step on your path, know that you can and will be likely to ‘course correct’ any number of times throughout your life. In fact, we can all find ourselves re-evaluating where we “want to get to”. So, know that you are not alone and that how you are learning to clarify what you want and where YOU “want to get to” will serve you well always. It WILL be worth the time and effort. And, in the meantime, here’s wishing you clarity of focus!!!