What is Your Destination?

Prague Leaders Magazine, January 2011

I always used to get lost, even with a map, and while getting lost has some benefits (you discover unexpected places), it can also create unnecessary stress. So, a few years back, I was thrilled when I received a GPS unit as a gift.

I gave my new GPS a nice masculine voice and named it Archie, and we soon became best friends. I really appreciate his suggestions and advice, and Archie has gotten me to all manner of places without a hitch.

What do I like the most? When he says, “You have reached your destination.” Every time I hear Archie telling me that I have reached my destination I take it as a real achievement – I have made it.

Unfortunately, even with Archie’s help I still occasionally get lost. Like last November, when I ended up driving an extra hour to reach the location where I was expected to deliver a keynote speech. What happened? Did Archie, after a few years of good and loyal service, overreach his competence? Blaming Archie would be convenient, but too simple. It turned out that I put the wrong address into the system.

Listening to my clients’ professional challenges lately reminded me of my dear Archie and how useful it would be to have a professional GPS to help us reach our business goals. Wouldn’t it be great to start the week by checking our career destination, and then have our professional GPS map out a strategy to avoid being confused or facing a dead end on our professional path?

Like most people who need a map or a GPS to get where they want to go, many of us would be grateful for a career GPS that would outline the exact route to an exciting and fulfilling position. But unless we first decide on the final destination – what we really want – no GPS will be able to help.

And while a professional GPS would be of great help to map out a strategy for achieving our goals after we have chosen a destination, we first need to identify that destination – we need to listen to discover our passion.

Discover your passion

Too often, we get so consume by our day-to-day responsibilities and daily tasks that we don’t take the time to reflect on what we would really like to do, versus what we think we have to do. There are several ways we can recognize our passion. The challenge is to pay attention to our discovery opportunities and interpret the signals of our heart to translate them into action.

Discovery by A-Ha! Moment

This often occurs while encountering an unexpected situation which triggers a sudden and intense awareness of an underlying passion. It is a wake-up call. Like the one a local software engineer had while reading about the self-taught professional dog behavior specialist, Cesar Millan, and wondering how he could transform his dog training hobby into a career. Next thing you know, he’s an entrepreneur with a very successful doggy daycare facility.

Discovery Through Change

Major life events like birth, death, marriage, losing a job or taking a new one, illness or recovery, can often transform our outlook on life and prompt us to review the way we live. When a friend of mine was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago, this investment banker and mother of two struggled to make her own well-being her priority. Following her doctor’s advice to deal with her illness through some creative activity, she took on painting and discovered that she had a knack for illustrating children stories which she turned into a very profitable part-time activity.

Discovery Through Experience

Many people uncover their passion gradually as a result of day-to-day experiences. A cousin of mine who got married very young to a widower found herself in charge of feeding a family of six. While cooking for her new brood she discovered a passion for food and delicious meals that she then turned into a thriving catering business.

Follow your passion

Before making the adventurous move and take a leap of faith to follow your passion, you first need to examine the pros and cons of your decision and identify what works and what needs some fine-tuning.

Step #1: Ask yourself some questions

Where am I today? Where do I want to be tomorrow? What do I want to do with my life? What makes me happy?

Step #2: Focused attention

Grab a pen and write a list of what you are passionate about or like doing, what you do happily, totally absorbed no matter how unusual the activity might be. Try to remember what you do without thinking about how much time or effort it requires. This focused attention will help you recognize what you really like to do and what motivates you.

Step #3: Experiment

Do not hesitate to explore and experiment with various activities. Finding your passion requires that you try out different things. Like buying a car or new clothes, you won’t know how it feels until you drive the car or put on the outfit you saw in the window. Not knowing what you want is perfectly acceptable especially when you are young. But get out there and start experimenting without worrying about making mistakes- that’s how you will learn and grow.

Step #4: What would you do for free?

Too often, people choose a job in relation to the amount of money they want to earn and/or the social status they want to achieve, instead of what would make them happy. In France, a whole generation of students is miserably going to university without any idea what they want to do later, while some less-impressive manual profession would offer them the opportunity to lead a very fulfilling life.

Step #5: Dealing with your fears

One of the major challenges you’ll have to overcome before answering the call of your dreams is your own particular crop of fears. Fear of the inner critic who will tell you that you don’t have what it takes, that you’re not smart or competent enough. Fear of confronting the litany of excuses that has prevented you all these years from trusting your ability to do what you really want to do. Fear of failure, disappointment, not enough money, not enough time, not enough staff, not enough… whatever.

Finding and following your passion can be scary but it beats the alternative of spending the rest of your life wondering what would have happened if you had made that leap of faith. As the poet Mary Oliver said, “The world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting- over and over, announcing your place in the family of things.”

It is up to you to answer that call, to find your passion with or without a career GPS. And while a career GPS would be very helpful to guide us through life’s uncertainty and the professional hodgepodge, the best person to tell you if you are doing what you should be doing and if you have reached your destination is ultimately yourself.

Originally published inPrague Leaders Magazine.