FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Todd Wangsgard | Career Changes
Last Wednesday between client events, I took a quick stroll down memory lane while visiting my collegiate alma mater in the small eastern Idaho town of Rexburg. I slipped presumptuously through an unlocked backstage door of the performing arts building to find this single work lamp illuminating the space where I once played the lead in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” just 23 short years ago. I took advantage of the solitude and sat in the middle of the house seats to ponder the production that was a central part of my freshman year of college.
So many decisions are made during this formative stage. The first time living away from home. Contemplating the career one might pursue. Making friends who are in a similar stage. Reinforcing life-views that shape one’s future.
This recent pondering got me thinking about subsequent stages that make us who we are. For some, the stage of courtship and marriage. Extended volunteer service, sometimes internationally. Children. Career changes, lay-offs and even self-employment.
The wild swings in the economy over the past 15 years have certainly reinforced the need to remain focused on things that matter most. Today the economy remains uncertain. One thing is certain, however: our ability to purposefully engage in a new stage, learn, contribute, and grow.
For any of us feeling stagnant on the current stage, perhaps now is the perfect time to deliberately embark on a new one. What are the most important things to you? What are you particularly good at? At what points throughout your life have you performed at your best? Who should your consider a valued partner in this proposition?
There’s nothing quite like opening night on a new stage to generate the creative tension required to keep us performing at our best.
I race in my first triathlon tomorrow morning. Surprisingly, I’m not terribly nervous, just concerned that I’m going to forget some important piece of equipment or preparation. You’d be surprised just how much “stuff” there is to pull this thing off.
Items to bring:
- Swim cap
- Swim goggles
- Bike shoes
- Bike gloves
- Running shoes
- Energy gels
- Water bottles
- Helium balloon
Yes – One inflated helium balloon, preferably of a bright and obnoxious color.
I made a special acquaintance in Detroit last month who got me into this adrenaline-induced fervor. Bob, my triathlon Jedi master, has shared his own race stories and offered some rather practical racing tips to help me prepare. The oddest tip he offered was to attach a helium balloon to the rack where my bike, helmet, glasses, shoes and socks will be waiting after the swim. When hundreds of dripping wet racers arrive on shore, they’re all attempting the same goal – to make a complete and speedy transition from the swim to the bike. Unfortunately, some triathletes spend several seconds – even minutes – just trying to find their own bicycle. A helium balloon attached near my bike will serve as an instant visual bearing, thus allowing me to sprint directly to my equipment.
Life is much more than a triathlon.
Think of the various “events” or “stages” in one’s life. Formal education. First job. Marriage. Children. Unemployment. Continuing education. Career changes. Disability. Unlike a triathlon, these events are not always distinct and separate from one another. They often overlap. They don’t all happen in the sequence we planned. Some are harder to train for than others. And we don’t always know whether we’re “winning.”
However, all of life’s stages can benefit from a clear and visual bearing that has the potential to keep us moving forward and ultimately on track. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we choose our values and goals. Each time we look up to take a breath, each time we gaze across the horizon of our life, we should recognize those values and know that we’re headed in the right direction. They are our instant visual bearing.
Stephen R. Covey has often said, “No one wants to climb the ladder of success, arriving at the top only to find out the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”
If you haven’t already done so, carve out a few minutes in the next couple days to define and refine your own values. Anchor those visual bearings into your routine by sharing them with a loved one, making them visual and accessible. Use them in your weekly and daily planning routine to evaluate how things are going. There will be little doubt, as you look up now and again from the chaos of life, that you are fervently moving in the direction of your life’s mission. You’ll have the peace of mind and satisfaction of knowing that you are indeed winning the race!