If there’s a secret to be discovered regarding personal and professional growth, I’ve yet to uncover it. What I do know is this: complacency leads to stagnation. Don’t become complacent when it comes to your own development.
The last twelve months of my life have taught me that I own my career. That ownership extends to all aspects of my work life. I once believed that accountability for my development belonged to “the company.” I used to think that the company owed me a training plan. I used to think that the company owed me a career path. I used to think that the company had the responsibility to mold me into the kind of employee that it needed me to be, and that the process for molding should be laid out in black and white and customized for little ol’ me.
I realized that the company did have a plan for every employee. All I needed to do was conform. All I needed to do was squeeze myself into the mold, and everything would be OK. I lived that life for a number of years, quickly finding myself in the management mold. It suited me. I kept on trying to fit the mold.
But there’s a problem with the mold. The mold, you see, is based on somebody else’s ideal for the job you are to fill. There’s nothing inherently wrong with understanding what your role means to the larger organization. In fact, that understanding is crucial to your success in the organization. The problem with fitting into the mold is that…well…you just can’t. You can’t expect someone to become the company prototype of a manager or the prototype of a great employee without losing some of what makes that individual most potent as a human being. Conformity is compromise. In small doses, it’s reasonable. As a wholesale approach to management, compromise demotivates, suppresses innovation, and dulls the keenest intellects. When an individual compromises to that extent, their individuality is more than likely lost, and, as a result, their greatest potential to impact the organization is also lost.
Uniqueness is not insubordination. Uniqueness is not a path to anarchy. Uniqueness is not a desire to rebel against the system, rage against the machine, or undermine the corporate structure. Uniqueness is wealth. Uniqueness is empowerment. Uniqueness is a desire to raise the stakes, to improve the collective “game,” and to give the most the individual has to the organization. The notion of separation of our work and personal lives is becoming obsolete. It is an archaic way of looking at the individual within the world of work. It is a relic of the industrial age. Living dual lives takes energy, and the energy spent takes its toll. It weakens the individual, lowers their ability to succeed, and adversely affects performance.
That could be you. Maybe in ten years. Maybe now.
For the individual to be most powerful, they must be whole. The whole individual is the worker for the 21st Century. Whether within the hierarchy of a multi-national, Fortune 100 company or as a freelance consultant, the ultimate accountability for the development of the individual resides with the individual themselves. A corporation can outline the skills needed to fulfill the basic requirements of the job, their 20th Century responsibility, but only the individual can choose to explore and discover the wider world for those development opportunities that will help them achieve their life goals. There is no need to promote a separation between the person you are at work and the person you are at home. You can modify behavior to fit the appropriate social situation, sure, but the core of who you are is critical to your success, critical to your happiness, and must be honored at all times.
This leads to the most important question you can ask yourself: what is your intention for your life?
Professional life? Personal life? Nope. Remember: the need to separate the two no longer exists. It is an artificial construct that is meant to promote conformance. Reject the idea. Embrace the notion that you can be respectful of boundaries while revealing and fulfilling your full potential.
What is your intention for your life?
Here are three more questions that you can ask yourself every morning before letting your day get ahead of you:
What do you want to accomplish today?
What do you want to accomplish this year?
How does what you want to accomplish today relate to what you want to accomplish this week?
I know. This sounds like a rip off. I promise you, though, that there is nothing cheap about focusing on your intention for your day. After all, it’s just an extension of your intention for your life. The first step in freeing yourself from the idea that somebody else owns your development is understanding your intention for you life. Once you give yourself that gift, you will be able to take full and total control of your development as a human being. It’s a human being we want. It’s a human being we need. And if you find yourself working in a place that doesn’t value you as a human being, I’ve got one more question for you:
What’s your exit plan?
I am privileged to call him Friend.
Read more from Ric at woowooleadership.com
For more on this 21st Century Leadership Skill … Skill 1