Where Do I Go From Here?

Making Your Future Work Better For You

It's the commonest concern people have about their careers. Where am I heading? Is this the right direction for me? How can I tell what will suit me best? Making good career decisions doesn't have to be agony if you clear away a few misconceptions.

Break Out of Your Limits:

Ignore the naysayers. We aren't limited from birth by some trick of inheritance. We make this mistake because we restrict our goals to a few, narrow areas: making that specific promotion, winning those specific sales, being CEO by the time we're 40. The goals may not even be our own; sometimes we pick up unrealistic aims from those around us.

Find New Options:

Setting your eyes on a single goal and achieving it through every obstacle makes a great story, but it's like betting your life savings on a horse. If it wins, you clean up; if it loses, you lose everything. The more possibilities you can see, the more likely it is at least one of them will work out. Everyone has some untapped potential. You just need to recognize the flavor. Find what fits who you are and do that before everything else.

Form Your Own View:

Your future potential isn't defined by other people -- even your boss. All someone can see of us is our past or present behavior, not whether this represents our true selves. We often fall short of what we could do -- or would do, if we remembered to make better choices. So much of our behavior is automatic. Constant repetition of what worked before wears grooves into our minds. We run on railroads of habit, doing what we always do and missing chances to explore better options.

Let Go Of Old Habits:

These boundaries that hem us in are formed of nothing more substantial than habit -- the automatic habit of repeating what worked in the past. They can be tough to let go, even if they no longer serve us well. Give them a decent burial. It's time to move on.

Discover Your Possibilities:

We can make sense of this mass of possible futures by putting them in categories. Do you feel best when you have lots of people around you? Do you enjoy making new relationships and keeping old ones fresh? Are you a social animal? If so, your future probably lies in the category of directions we call Relationship-oriented.

Do you prize fairness? Does injustice make you angry? Are you the kind of person who feels standards of behavior are important? Do you need to feel what you're doing has meaning? Do you like to see things done correctly? If most of these statements are true of you, your direction probably lies in the Ethics-oriented category.

Practical, active go-getters; people who prefer less talk and more action; those who are driven by the need to succeed and the sense of satisfaction that comes with reaching your goals; people of these types come under the category of Achievement-oriented. They flourish in fast-moving roles full of clear objectives and challenges to be overcome.

Learning-oriented people are creative, innovative and prefer to solve problems with brain rather than brawn. They enjoy discovery and developing their abilities. they're more excited by ideas than activities; some are dreamers who see far into the future and bring about radical change.

Do What Comes Most Naturally:

Whichever flavor your future potential comes in, it's yours to relish and enjoy. Stop worrying about weaknesses. Forget so-called gaps in your abilities. Fasten on what comes to you most naturally, pursue it with all the energy you can muster, and wait for the fireworks to begin. Building on your natural strengths is the best possible way to create a life that gives you fun, excitement and the satisfaction of being fully yourself.

We can't always have exactly what we want, but the more you can find ways to use your strengths instead of fretting about what doesn't work so well for you, the more you'll find yourself enjoying what you do.

Adrian W. Savage writes for people who want help with the daily dilemmas they face at work. He has contributed more than 25 articles to leading British and American publications and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Chicago Tribune.

Visit his blog on small business life.

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