Article first published on www.linked2leadership.com
We are all searching for answers. The moment we stop that search, we cease to be empowered and the leader of our own life.
No matter what we do for a living, we are all entrepreneurs of our own ideas. The generation of ideas and answers to life’s questions is empowering. It helps us to identify and resolve issues that hold us back personally and professionally.
The Link Between Personal and Professional Success
Successful people understand that it is impossible to separate personal achievement from professional performance. For short periods of time, it’s possible to fool all the people all the time; but an empty suit cannot sustain itself over the long haul.
As a result, we see leaders who stumble and fall. They use bad judgment and make stupid mistakes.
And we say things like this:
“That doesn’t sound like the person I used to know.”
Perhaps the proper response should be this:
“When did they start spinning out of control by trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations?”
In other words:
“When did they stop searching for answers about their own lives?”
My favorite chapter in Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is one entitled “Inside-Out.” He states that Inside-Out means to start with the most inside part of self because private victories always precede public victories. Inside-Out is a continuing process of renewal based on growth and maturity.
Lasting happiness and empowerment always comes from the inside.
If we pursue the process of renewal through growth and maturity that Covey talks about, our goals in life are bound to change as well. If we’re not self-aware enough to recognize those changes, we end up letting others define who we are and what we want out of life.
“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacation with better care than they do their lives. Perhaps that is because is escape is easier than change.”~ Jim Rohn
People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. Mission creep happens when we lose focus and spend too much time on projects that don’t get us any closer to our goals. We are attracted by all the choices that compete for our time and attention.
Many people are plodding along at something but they aren’t excelling because they’re doing something they don’t truly enjoy. It pays the bills but they are not filled with inspiration or a sense of satisfaction.
For many of us, our goals change over the years but we’re unaware of this internal shift because we don’t look inward enough to even know it!
We empower ourselves when we identify what is holding us back from achieving our goals. As with anything, we need to choose a direction.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to go,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Find Your Dream
Your goals should fill you with delight and anticipation. They need to be made with intentionality; otherwise, you may settle for something that is second best without ever realizing when you took the wrong turn in the road.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you truly love?
- What are you good at?
- What brings you satisfaction?
- What is the road not taken?
- Have you ever explored the road not taken?
- Is that untaken road still interesting to you?
- What stopped you from taking this road?
You will not find the answers to these questions in a book. If you are to be the leader of your own life, you must be willing to look inward to find them.
The Blue Flame
As a new counterintelligence agent in the FBI, I was often called a “blue flamer.” You know the type—they have an insatiable combination of ambition and desire because they are doing something they truly enjoy. My blue flame lasted for about five years because I was working undercover cases and living my dream.
The flame started sputtering when I no longer felt the excitement and adrenaline rush of meeting Russian spies as an undercover agent.
The following is a simple exercise in self-awareness that worked for me:
- On one side of piece of paper, make a list of everything that brings you joy and pleasure. Include achievements, people, and hobbies.
- On the other side, make a list of goals.
- Draw lines to match #1 and #2. Look closely at which ones intersect—or don’t. This may provide you with direction and purpose.
One of my goals was to recruit a Russian spy to work for the U.S. government. On the other side of the paper I had written that relating to people in a genuine and authentic manner gave me great joy. It became obvious to me that I couldn’t continue the subterfuge of undercover work and develop the desire to be genuine and authentic.
My mission had not changed—I still wanted to be an FBI agent—but my goals were now different.
I knew I could not get satisfaction from my professional achievements and still hope to claim my personal values.
True leaders are empowered by generating ideas and seeking answers to life’s questions. Leading our own life is the truest form of great leadership.
What do you want to accomplish in life? What obstacles are stopping you? Is your current path taking you toward your dream? I would love to hear your thoughts!