Where is your ship heading?

Audio Blog, 6:29

Let’s say you go down to the local port to board your sea going vessel, christened the “U.S.S. Mylife”.  You are the captain and in charge of the actions of the ship. Would you simply steam out to sea without having a planned course?  No.  At a minimum you will need to know where you are heading.

Of course, it is virtually impossible to plot an effective course across the “high seas” of life, weathering the squalls and hardships, without first establishing the definitive destination. The goal of this post is to introduce a general process for you to set your long-term objective.

In the blog “Two Questions That Lead To Life Satisfaction” 2 Qs we focused on identifying your natural strengths and interests.  If you have not yet read that post, please do so before continuing.

Once you have noted your most natural strengths and interests, and you have committed to remaining consistent with this self-analysis, you are prepared to identify a long-term objective that prioritizes your strengths, and revolves around your interests.

How do you accomplish this next step of converting self-awareness into career aspirations?  Research.  The beauty of the Internet is that you can utilize Google and Yahoo engines to conduct simple and effective information searches.

For example, let’s say that you identify your natural strengths as “the ability to create with my hands and hand-eye coordination”, and your main interests as “science and exploration”.   Start by typing in Google:  “What careers require good hand-eye coordination?” or “What careers require using your hands?”.  Several links will appear.

One site lists the following career paths:

  • Assemblers and Fabricators
  • Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Airline and Commercial Pilots

So, do any of these jobs match well with the identified interests of “science and exploration”?  In this case, the obvious matches for potential “career paths” are physicians/surgeons and pilots.

Early on in the process, make sure that you cast a very wide net, so that you are not pre-maturely focusing on one area at the exclusion of another.

Once you have identified a handful of good candidates, you must transition from the reliance on the Internet, to direct interaction with people currently involved in these specific roles.  Ask everyone in your life; including family, teachers, friends, and counselors…if they know any surgeons or pilots that you could meet.  This will provide the opportunity for you to engage in a free flow dialogue that provides true clarity of what the career really entails.  Whether it is a 30-minute Starbucks meeting, or a summer long internship, the direct human exposure will be a valuable experience.

Ask them practical and direct questions:

  • Describe a typical day?
  • What is the most important attribute required for long-term success?
  • Can you describe your journey from high school to this position?
  • What do you like/dislike about this field?
  • Who else in this field would be willing to talk with me?

Remember, achievers will recognize a young person with focus, and want to help you to succeed.

After these in-person experiences, ask yourself if any of these careers still really excite you.  If not, start the search again.  It is much better to be slow and right, as opposed to fast and wrong.  You should not feel pressured to accept one of these identified paths.  Continue this process until you find one that you really like and are absolutely focused on pursuing.  When you find the right objective, the challenge should consume your thoughts.

Do not be intimidated if you can not see yourself (currently) capable of this role.  If it is the right selection that prioritizes your natural strengths and interests, it will be achievable in time with determination and hard work.  Therefore, do not exclude any of them out of personal insecurity or fear of failure.  I remember the sinking feeling I experienced after my first week of trying to fly an army helicopter in the hot Alabama sun with a grizzled combat aviator screaming at me.  I kept thinking, “Oh man, I’m in way over my head”!  A year later, after overcoming multiple challenges along side of my classmates, the silver wings were pinned upon my chest.  Precisely because of the daunting challenges, it was a sweet victory.

If you are going to reach your true potential and fulfill your God-given talent, you must identify the strengths that you are blessed with, and seek to maximize your potential in an area of your greatest interest.

After deciding on your “destination”, it may feel like you are embarking on a great sea voyage filled with danger, challenges and uncertainty.  This is a natural feeling.  Everyone who ever decided to make a big change by chasing his or her grand objectives has experienced these moments of quiet panic.  When I read “1776” by David McCullough, I was somewhat surprised to learn about the doubt and feelings of inadequacy of General George Washington in the early days of the American Revolution, before growing into the role and leading our nation to victory.

How will you succeed on your great voyage?

Simply ensure that each maneuver along your navigational route steams the ship a bit closer towards the definitive destination.  There may be some rough waters ahead, but one day, you will arrive.

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