It’s Your Path….

confused-face2I’d seen that look before, that quizzical cant of the head, the furrowed brow, and yes, the poor attempt to hide a frown of disapproval.

“That doesn’t sound like a good plan at all,” she stated.

I had to chuckle (a response I have since learned only solidified her belief that I was simply being self-centered and irresponsible).

“Well,” I replied, “If it was your choice, it might very well be a poor plan.”

You see, each of has goals, ideas, plans, and yes, dreams.  They are individual concepts of where we want our lives and our careers to go.  For some, it’s the endless pursuit of wealth and financial security.  For others, it’s chasing the dream of balance between work and family life.  Still others dream of travel and adventure.  And you know what?  None of them are wrong, just different.

Career counseling and coaching often runs into these differences in a rather abrupt manner.  The individual seeking a chance sees their future very differently than the coach might.  We shouldn’t be surprised by that.  After all, I can’t be in someone else’s mind, and they can’t be in mind.  But what we each can do is to spend some time upfront calibrating and co-discovering each other’s perspectives before we attempt to problem solve.

Let’s look at it in a workplace (leader-follower) realm….

MotivationSeveral years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a fascinating discussion on the issue of performance appraisal and motivation.  Leading the discussion was a leading researcher, author, and renowned scholar in the area.  He maintained a position that extrinsic motivation (in particular, monetary reward) does nothing to promote greater performance or higher levels of motivation.  His perspective was driven by considerable empirical evidence on intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation.

And all things considered evenly, I would agree with that premise.  Self-drive is long-term a much more powerful source of motivation.  The problem, however, lies in the situational nature of motivation (which drives goal setting and pursuit, I would argue).  At times, an individual may indeed focus on attaining more money, more prestige, more balance, or more of any single thing that might better fulfill them at that moment in time.

Think about it…..for an unattached, 20-something financial analyst in Manhattan, financial rewards may indeed be more powerful than for a recent college graduate building irrigation systems with the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso.  What about when that same former Peace Corps volunteer becomes a the single parent with kids nearing the college tuition age?  Think that individual may be more motivated by money at that life stage than they were 20 years before?

creative_career_path_crop380wYes, we each have our goals and our individual motivations.  So, take a moment of hesitation before you express criticism or doubt about another’s “path.”  Realize that each of us is on our own journey.  What may be right for you may not fit into my “plans,” and what you would choose would not necessarily be what I would choose for myself.  Whether you’re a leader, a follower, a coach, a manager, a parent, or a child, it’s an important perspective to keep in mind.

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