It was an unusually warm April evening, when my childhood friend invited me to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps play at BC Place. While watching the Whitecaps retreat back into their own zone with the ball, I whispered that ‘they should try and move in the right direction.’ My friend quietly responded by saying that ‘sometimes you have to go back, before you can move forward.’
This short, yet simple phrase was packed with so much meaning, not only in its applicability to the game of soccer, but also with regards to our lives and careers. As young individuals we are hard-wired to push and push forward until hopefully, our dream professions come to fruition. However, through all this pushing and shoving to find that ‘dream job,' how much time do you actually spend stepping back and reflecting? To be successful you must take frequent steps backwards. By this, I don’t literally imply taking a step backwards in your career, but rather, suggesting that you take a mental step backwards to reflect objectively on your current state of affairs or career status quo. Essentially, you should continually ask yourself a couple of questions such as: why am I doing what I am doing? Or what is the reason or motivation behind my work? And when you continually have a strong answer to these questions, then you are headed down the right path.
Often (but not entirely) I find that those individuals who are struggling to find career-related work are challenged not because they lack a strong work ethic, a stellar educational background, or the necessary skills for the position – but simply because they lack a reason. By reason, I imply an underlying motivation where individuals do what they do simply because they enjoy doing it. Maybe this is just a byproduct of not knowing where one’s real passion is – which is okay too. But again, only through that self-reflection can one even begin to uncover their hidden motivations – and hopefully begin to piece together a picture of what that ‘dream job' may entail. Steve Jobs once said that the only way to do great work is to love what you do. Those success stories such as with the Walt Disneys or the Steve Jobs of the world do what they do because they are passionate, driven, and motivated beyond belief. Even after failure they push and push because they have a strong reason or motivation to do so. And all too often, it is only when a deeper passion is present that you can pick yourself up after failure and keep going. But it is often hard to find what those deeper passions and motivations are without the proper self-reflection and personal accountability. Take those steps backwards to truly and objectively reflect and to assess your current state of affairs. That said, in no way am I encouraging structuring your careers around passion alone because this is simply unrealistic and passion must be taken in conjunction with a wide array of other factors that may impact your career choice. But rather, I encourage you to delve deep and uncover your hidden motivations which will help your drive and focus.
This does not only speak to those currently seeking work, but also to those who are in the early stages of their careers. Take numerous mental steps back to reflect and answer those specific questions. Continually evaluate yourself to see if your passions and interests align with what you are currently doing and seeking. These are the elements that you will have to lean on when either searching for a career becomes grueling or enduring those long hours at the office becomes a reality. Taking a mental step backwards and reflecting will not only refresh you, but it will help you realize your current state of affairs and maybe in the future even help remind you of why you chose this specific career path in the first place.