What Am I Going To Do When I Grow Up?

Posts Tagged ‘purpose

As you think options through, I really want to underline the importance of writing it down.

Take out blank paper and engage in brainstorming.  If you have questions or stray thoughts or ideas that keep spinning in your mind… it’s important to the process to engage them through or they will just keep floating in your brain interfering with productivity and focus.

So, here are some options:

  1. sometimes when I’m trying to figure out an idea it helps to draw.  I might draw circles that overlap and think about what one thing related to another would make…. sometimes it’s about relationship and sometimes it’s about proportion.    often it is both.
  2. sometimes it helps to make lists.   here are some questions I ask myself and clients:
    • what are as many of my options (even silly or stupid ones) as I can think of?
    • what would someone I like and trust think or say?
    • what are the costs/benefits of each idea I’m considering?
    • what’s another perspective I could choose?
    • how important will this be in 5-10 years?
  3. sometimes it helps to just to start typing or writing around the idea… no one else ever has to see what you write, but just getting the ideas out there and following where them gets you unstuck.

You see, if you only think about things or “I have it ALLLLLLL up here” is your philosophy, think again.  Your brain can’t get traction on ideas and fully process them if all you do is process things internally.

To grow, change, and fully engage in exploring your options, it’s very important that you physically get them outside of yourself, so you can truly visualize, prioritize,  and organize.   Here are some key brainstorming options:

  • talking it over with a supportive friend, mentor, or coach.
  • drawing
  • free-writing
  • blogging
  • list-making
  • using pictures or clippings, collage with them to create a vision board

So, explore your options….using whichever tools work best for you.  If you want more ideas, just ask.

Sending fabulous energy!

If you’ve been reading along in my series on going to graduate school, you might at some point in the process get overwhelmed.  That’s totally normal.

If it’s helpful, I get overwhelmed as much as the next person.  Thinking about life… career options… relationships… from the big picture to the smallest pixel… there are moments when it can all become too much.

From questioning where one might to live, work, study, or raise a family?  to considering what others might think?  how it might work?  or even what might happen if…? Sometimes, it can be good to pause, take a minute to breathe, and consider the larger purpose of why we are heading off to do something.

Just like anyone, I can get caught up in exploring the enormity of options, unknown variables, quantity of elements to coordinate, etc…that it’s just a seemingly never-ending pointless laundry list of tasks and duties and responsibilities…and it’s at that moment, especially if I find myself discouraged, frustrated, or wanting to just quit, one of the most powerful things I’ve found I can do for myself and others is to ask “What’s the Point?”

Try it.  Take a deeeeeeep to-the-belly-kind-of-breathe…hold in and sloooowwwwwlyyy–as slowly as you possibly can– but evenly…let your breath out.  Gather your focus in doing so.   Slow your heart rate by slowly breathing in and out.  Ask yourself: “What’s the Point?”

When I’m asking “What’s the Point?” it’s not typically in a despairingly dramatic “ohhhhhh woe is me….what is the point of living…” while swooning, gnashing my teeth, and falling on my heroic but trite sword of death, while whining that “it’s not faaaairrrr.”  Not typically.   but you know everyone has their moments.  😉

More helpful in asking “What’s the Point”, I’ve found, is that it calls for a focus on purpose or mission.  In  Breaking the Rules, A Visionary’s Guide to Effortless High Performance, Kurt Wright examines the difference between a goal and a purpose.  For example, going to graduate school or getting a job is a goal.  It is a specific (albeit large) task that can be accomplished.   Goals are great.  But, a goal without a reason is hollow, demotivating, and unlikely to be successful.

Consider any time someone orders you to do something.  It really typically doesn’t matter who it is doing the ordering: it could be your mom, your boss, your significant other or roommate; it could even be yourself, but almost every time, our natural response is “Why?”  Often that “why” question is a way to resist…or contest power…but that’s deeply understandable.  Anytime we commit our time, energy, and resources to a task, it it is more helpful to know why we are doing so, than to simply march forward with a 1000-yard stare into meaningless action.

So, in someways whenever we get overwhelmed, frustrated, or otherwise feeling grumpy about something, it can be useful to take a moment to consider that core “Why” questions because the answer is central to providing a motivating reason to each goal.  Providing context and purpose is key to swift action and to meaningful results.

“What is the Point?” is another way of asking “Why?’ and gets at the central motivating reason or purpose of the goal.    Knowing the purpose of a goal is much more likely to move me into action.  Simply telling myself “I have to do this or that” makes me actually resist or procrastinate action.  When, we know why we are doing something, we have the power of choice.

Yet, if it’s helpful for me to share, sometimes that all important “why?” question can simply be too confrontational, too personal, too combative, or too philosophical to be helpful in asking ourselves and others.  It’s a crucially important question to ask, but because it’s the most core question,it can be too much for us to address, especially at stressful moments in life.

For example, even people close to us…even when we mean no confrontation…even when we ask a simple curious “so, why’d you park out front, honey?”…and it’s not a deep philosophical issue that requires soul searching…people can snap at you when you ask “why?”

So, here are ways to ask “why” in more effective frames:

  • What’s the larger mission?  What’s the central purpose?
  • Where does the mission point?
  • How does the larger purpose or mission frame options?
  • When does the mission connect?
  • Who benefits?

Ask yourself these questions at any point along the way.  Asking and answering these can keep you going, as well as keep you focused and motivated.

It can also be a great tool in crisis.

  • So, if you haven’t yet articulated a specific mission and find yourself adrift, unfocused or unmotivated, this can be a great jump start.
  • Or, if you at one point were on a mission and then started to forget to keep checking in with your mission and begin to get frustrated and overwhelmed, this can knock you out of your rut.
  • Or perhaps like all of us, even when you are clear on a mission, certain days and experiences are just hell.   Being able to not get stuck there is key.

Asking great questions, creating mission statements, or reciting inspiring quotations  and the like are a powerful tools in controlling our thoughts, beliefs, motivations, actions, and are a few of the key elements of transforming our lives on our terms.

Sending fabulous energy!

Perhaps you’ve already applied to graduate school and are nervously awaiting the response?  Or perhaps you’re a recent graduate frustrated in the job search and find your thoughts keep turning to graduate school?  Or perhaps you’re stuck in a job and think that perhaps a graduate degree would help you move to the next level of your career?  Or perhaps you are an undergraduate student consider graduate school as the next step?

No matter what your situation, here are a few things to consider as part of the process:

1. This is the most important aspect and it might seem really basic, but know specifically WHY you are going.

  • What are your motivations for going to graduate school?
  • What do you hope a degree in a specific field will accomplish?
  • How is it tied to a specific career plan?  how realistic is that plan?
  • Who do you know who has a career in that field?  What do they suggest regarding your plan?
  • How very specifically do you think the schools you’re applying to will partner with you to meet this plan?

Put this all in writing.   This is the basis of each of the different letters of application you will send to the schools.

2.  Know your audience.  Each application to each school must be crafted with the specific school in mind.

  • Read absolutely everything you can about each school and this is mandatory:  Read the entire website of the specific department to which you are applying.  i.e.  if you are applying to the English program, read the entire English departments’ website.  if you are applying to law school, read the entire school of law’s website.   It is not enough to read the information admissions provides to you.    Know who the faculty are that teach in the program.  Know what the program requirements are.  Know what the structure of the program is.  Know everything the program put out there for you to read.
  • Speak to a specific audience in the letter.  Do not use the same letter of application to each school.   You might have an initial template you start with, but identify specific people in the department from whom you want to learn, name resources such as libraries in your field or research facilities in that program that are attractive, and  list experiences that the program provides such as teaching, research, interning, surveying, clerking, or whatever actually attracted you to them about their program.   Make the pitch to them as to why you selected their program out of the many that exist and what you hope to contribute to the program.
  • Best fit is key.  Part of the letter should address why you as a candidate are a good fit for their program.  Do it from their perspective:  How are you a team player?  What in your background qualifies you for their program?   What experiences led you to feel that going to graduate school in their program was part of your career or mission in life?  What’s your planned contribution to the program or field?   Use specific examples.

3.  Go Visit.

Perhaps you’ve already turned in the letters and didn’t do the above things?   It is what it is.   This is still a great move.  Or perhaps you are still exploring going in the future?  No matter where you are in the process of considering graduate programs, there is no substitute for a scheduled on-site visit.

  • Reading about a program online is great.  It’s mandatory before applying to a place you will be studying for a minimum of at least a year and typically 2 to 6 years.  Knowing the program’s culture is something that you will only truly understand by meeting the people in the program.  So, an on-site visit really helps you make sure this is a solid professional choice.
  • Visiting will increase your chance of acceptance.   It shows you are serious about your application and helps you fill in the gaps any application might leave.   Visits are very impactful any time of year, but timing is a factor.
  • Make sure you make appointments in advance.   People are not just waiting around in their offices on the off-chance you might pop by and if you don’t have an appointment they might not have time for you.  Scheduling appointments far enough in advance will ensure a great experience for everyone.
  • Request the experiences you want.   Ask to meet with faculty who do research in the areas of study and would potentially be teachers of graduate classes and/or your faculty adviser .  Ask to sit in on a class that is required in your area of study.  Ask to meet with graduate students in the program.    Ask to tour the facilities.    Ask for information on housing, student organizations or clubs, career services, programming, and time to meet with people who can answer these questions.
  • Be prepared to make quite a number of phone calls to set this all up.  It is likely that people keep their own calendars and there is not a central person to make this magically happen for you.   This is your job.

4.  Remember that you are interviewing them (the school) as much as they are interviewing you.

Take this as seriously as a job interview.   So, be prepared.  Ask questions.  Do research.  Set expectations and conduct yourself professionally.  Going to graduate school is an enormous professional investment in time, energy, and resources.  If you aren’t willing to commit to a serious search process, ask yourself if you are ready to commit to what graduate school demands of you.   Make sure that going to graduate school is a meaningful conscious choice on a path to a career you have chosen, researched, and are entering aware of what the graduate degree will do for you.

At the same time, just like a job interview, this is not a one-sided process of trying to squeeze into someone else’s expectations of what kind of candidate should do, be, or act like.  This is a process of you knowing what you want and asking questions…seeking to find the program that will be the best fit for you and one in which you can make a meaningful contribution to a field.

Graduate school can be a great investment in yourself personally and professionally… and like any investment, if you to do the research and groundwork to ensure the investment is a good fit for the goals you have, it is more likely to pay off.   And, if all of this seems a bit daunting, that’s understandable.    Most people find it pretty overwhelming to do this all on their own and so it’s wise to have a mentor or coach helping walk you through the process, pointing you towards resources, and providing accountability so you stay on track.

So, start where you are, take inventory of your resources, and if you need assistence, ask for help.  You aren’t alone.

Sending fabulous energy!

All of us want to be liked, but most of us feel it’s a bit of a random process of who likes us and who doesn’t.  We worry and obsess about whether or not someone might like us or not, but we often feel that it’s not something we can control.  That’s totally normal and understandable.

So, let me share a secret with you…and this is the honest truth: I was voted class introvert in high school.  Painfully shy and insecure, most days I felt like nobody liked me.   What I discovered over time was that feeling came from not fundamentally liking myself very much.  In that I discovered a bigger secret that can benefit us all.

So, want to know how to make people like you?  It works almost every single time…with all people and all situtations.  And, if it doesn’t, you will know that it wasn’t you.  That you’ve done everything you can do.  It’s a powerful tool and it’s very simple.

There are two ways to make people like you:

  1. Like them first
  2. Be helpful

There it is.  So, whether it’s a social gathering, a job interview, or first date….if you want someone to like you (and that is completely up to YOU) then start by just liking them first.

Find something about them that you can genuinely like. For some people that might be that you like their shoes, for others it may be that you have a shared interest in a cause or field of study, and for still others it may be that you like what they do.   The like has to be genuine for it to work or you will do more damage than good by being fake.

Then, if you want to build on that initial sense of like and create a solid relationship, focus on being helpful.

And, by helpful, I don’t necessarily mean you need to go tromping though someone’s life doing stuff for them.  Often there are things people do because they mean to be helpful, but aren’t because they are intrusive, bossy, or irritating.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  Rather, adopting a spirit of helpfulness or an openness to being asked for help is more on target.

For example, after chatting with someone,  a simple “it was so very nice to talk with you today.  If there is ever any way I can be helpful to you, let me know”  can do wonders in building long term relationships.  It doesn’t matter who the other person is or who you are.   This offer of help resonates with people as deeply likable.   You don’t commit to anything in particular and of course reserve the right to say no if what they ask isn’t something you can do, but you hold out an openness to helping them but don’t assume you know what might be helpful.

All of that communicated very simply, honestly, and directly.  Likably.

So, just try it to see.  Smile at a stranger.  Talk with someone sitting by you at a meeting or in class.   Take a leap of faith and know that you are deeply likable and there is absolutely no reason why someone wouldn’t like you if you like them first and radiate helpfulness.   Life’s so much more fun when you like people. …  Starting with yourself.

What if education happens every time we learn?

Consider for a moment: what is the difference between a degree and education?

So, how could it be helpful to shift the focus from  degree completion to learning?

How could this shift in perspective make the practice of learning far more purposeful and passionate?

For you, what is the value of a degree? Where is the value of a degree? When is the reward or success of a degree?

What do you think?  What would it mean to know?

So, what IS the value of a degree? Does it guarantee an educated person? Does it ensure meaningful employment? Any employment? What about success? or happiness?

A lot of people hyper-focus on the completion of the degree.   Often we feel we “have to” complete the degree so we can get on with our lives.  When we do that, we work from the standpoint that education is something we must “get through.”  This deeply affects the quality of our education because if we aren’t engaged, it reduces our ability to articulate our knowledge and transfer our skills to new situations.   This impacts our satisfaction, our happiness, our success…

So, what motivates you?  what is graduation about for you?  …and how are you on planning your career?

Ben Zander says in the Art of Possibility “…performance is not about getting your act together, but about opening up to the energy of the audience and of the music, and letting it sing in your unique voice.”

So what if this is true in life?   How can we be open to the energy of our audience and let it sing in our unique voice?

If that were possible, what would that mean in your life?