You’ve decided upon your stated direction. You have committed to the attainment of one or two strategic priorities that will most move you forward. And then an opportunity presents itself; a door opens with an interesting and exciting opportunity you didn’t know existed. Is this opportunity a meaningful new option or merely a shiny new distraction? These are the choices that we have to make as we navigate towards the future we most value.
It’s all well and good to say that we should dig deep, commit to learning and move forward with intention. But move forward where? What are we trying to accomplish? What goal are we really trying to bring to life. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us are wandering around with dozens of partly-formed dreams, ambitions and aspirations that hope our future self will get around to bringing to fruition. Continuing to push those ideas past the horizon into the future makes that realization unlikely. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Acting with intention is an interesting notion. Intention—our ability to choose our response and act upon it—is our unique gift as human beings. We don’t just react, but can instead choose to act. The challenge is that we don’t always do so, and there are several ways that we undermine our ability to act and to exercise the agency that we theoretically enjoy. Understanding what compromises our intention, and knowing how to overcome those impulses, is essential to being able to take the steps that we most value.
Personal growth and development is not a cakewalk. Whether you have chosen the path—or had it inflicted upon you—embarking on change is complicated, stressful, angst-ridden and uncomfortable. It is the liminal journey come to life, although it doesn’t make it any easier to accept or process. For all the theoretical merits of changing, you are going to feel adrift, challenged and very likely incompetent. The desire to retreat to a safe and familiar place is going to be tempting. Nonetheless, there are strategies to make it through to the other side.
Your approach and appetite for learning says a great deal about who you are and how you approach your work and your life. We often view success as being defined by accomplishment—work done, status attained and accomplishment realized. In reality, much of satisfaction comes from actually doing the work, immersing yourself in experiences and challenges and formulating ways to realize accomplishment. Nowhere is this more true than in situations where success requires learning and growth.
Immersing ourselves in a challenge is one of the great joys of work. Finding situations that engage and stretch our abilities, and completing them successfully, can be a huge source of joy and inspiration. Despite this, it is easy to fall into ruts and fall back on routines. The creative solution that we critically engaged ourselves to find yesterday becomes the default and unthinking response today. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are strategies available to find engagement and inspiration, even in the most familiar of circumstances.