I’ve had a lot of conversations lately that end up being about helping people think through what they actually want. I thought I’d hit on a few themes that I think are important and seem to be consistent across these conversations. I’ve written about this in past posts, but my thinking has evolved over time. I want to dig a little deeper.
This will be a multi-part column with the first post focusing on the traps I see people fall into. Part 2 will discuss how to think through your actual goals.
There are a number of common traps that I see people fall into. Almost all of them come down to some form of getting caught up in externally driven expectations. It’s important to name some of the common traps to help identify WHY you are perhaps off track.
1 – Others’ expectations – Anything that is driven by your perception that other’s goals for you matter more (or even as much) as your own.
Examples: My parents (or family) have certain expectations of me. I can’t major in (fill in the blank) because it isn’t what I’m supposed to do. They won’t pay for that. What will other people say?
2 – Competitiveness (ie: I have to “win”) – Any motive that is driven by your need to be “the best” if it is in an area you don’t have personal passion around. Competitiveness is perfectly fine if it’s directed purposefully into things of your own choosing.
Examples: I’m going to get that position because it’s the hardest one to get.
3 – Cultural Influences (ie: Keeping up with the Jones’) Decisions driven by your perception of income levels, standard of living or “coolness”.
Examples: It’s the best paying position I was offered. That career path is what I’m supposed to want (everyone else wants it). If I take that I can afford a new Acura.
4 – Laziness (ie: Path of least resistance) Any decision predicated on the fact that you haven’t worked at generating more interesting options. You’re following the well trodden path because it’s easy, not because you want to.
Examples: I just applied for the positions that were posted. I don’t have time to go meet with people outside the company given my busy schedule. I don’t have time to think about what I want.
5 – Our own illusions – Sometimes we haven’t re-thought our own goals in awhile and are holding on to some path for reasons that are no longer valid.
Examples: It’s always been my dream to do x (except it really isn’t anymore and I won’t let myself off the hook).
I want to make two points in closing out. First, we all get caught up in other’s expectations to some degree. The point of this post is to get you to think through your motives and make sure there is a big part of the direction you’re headed that is YOU.
Second, any of the above reasons may be a perfectly appropriate motive if it is in line with your own internal compass. It’s great if you and your parents and friends all want you to be a doctor. BUT, if everyone wants you to be something that feels like the wrong track to you then I would start thinking through your direction.
My next post will be about ways to think about what YOUR goals are.