Most of us grew up on a steady diet of fairy tales. And Red Riding Hood is one many of us know very well.
You have been shown the path, told what to do and the only important thing for you to remember is to follow those rules.
If you do not – bad things will happen.
For children they serve a very important purpose: they teach the lessons and expectations people have around them. But what is the cost of us following this mind map instilled in us from childhood, without pausing to question it?
How many of you fell into the trap of following a path, so bad things would not happen?
Recently in a call one of the participants mentioned how she ended up in the completely wrong career, because she was told she was good at maths and was shown the path she should follow.
When I was at university so many of my student fellows were there not because they loved business, but because they were told by their teachers and parents that they are so bright and should follow the path of business studies because they have the intellectual capacity for it.
I remember so vividly asking one of my friends, who was obsessed with the English language, why she would not change her degree (she hated business studies). You should have seen the horror in her eyes. Business studies was the path she was on and going off it now would be a failure.
So how do you question if the path you are on is yours alone, or are you following someone else’s?
In all the above examples the intention behind steering us on the particular path might be a good one.
Your maths teacher who remarked on your maths ability was right: you might have been very good at maths.
Your parents and career councillor who wanted you to get the most popular degree in a top university was right too: you could do it from an academic point of view. And they also wanted what was the best for you in their eyes: the security of a potentially lucrative career.
What they could not see is your passion and energy for said paths.
This might be still the case with your current job role. Stuck on the path that leverages your competence well and leaves you drained of energy.
People around you will be able to judge your competence in the area that you work in, but it will be much harder for them to see how much inner enthusiasm you have.
And this is where you have to be very careful to examine your path. You might have started on the right one, but needed to take a different turn along the way. Being good at something is just the beginning. Understanding in which areas you would love to apply this competence is another matter. If you are good at maths:
- Do you want to apply it in a very technical way? Are you fascinated by maths concepts and can spend hours engrossed in analysing numbers?
- Do you actually find maths easy, but you are only interested in it as much as you need it to complete the task? In that case your focus should be on the tasks you like to complete with the help of maths, but not the maths itself.
- Maybe you love to teach others how math could be applied in their work?
And the list of possibilities goes on. What is important here, is that you get very curious not only in what you are good at, but also what gives you energy and inner motivation.
After you are clear on that, only then you can evaluate if:
- You are on a completely wrong path and it is time to wander off (being stuck in the area of competence and no energy will risk leading you to burn out and the feeling of dissatisfaction. You might be choosing to stay on the wrong path currently, just because you are afraid to meet a metaphorical wolf).
- You might be on the right path, but just need to steer it slightly in a different direction. And here talking to your manager, exploring other business areas in the company, taking extra courses, volunteering for certain projects might be the best course of action.
One thing for sure: before you continue on the path you are on, or dropping it all together and going to a new one, take time to evaluate not only which one will lead you to your goal, but which one will be rewarding to be on. The journey is just as important, as the destination.
Do you ever question if you are on the right path? Does your competence and energy meet in your current role? We would love to hear from you. Connect with us via LinkedIn or e-mail as to firstname.lastname@example.org