The Art of Strengths Coaching

D is for Developing By Pursuing A Direction rather than By Aiming To Reach A Destination

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People often develop by aiming to achieve certain goals. They love to make a plan, work hard and enjoy the thrill of reaching their targets.

Society reinforces this message. People are urged to pass the next exam, get the next badge, climb the corporate ladder or reach some other aim. Such an approach can prove rewarding, but there is also another view.

A person can develop by aiming to pursue a particular direction, rather than simply focusing on reaching a particular destination. They may choose to follow their interest in voluntary work, teaching, science, music, design or whatever.

Somebody who takes this route can find it exposes them to many more experiences and opens their eyes. Exploring new fields, they grow as a person. Sometimes they discover fascinating topics and what they really want to do in life.

Looking back on your own life, have you ever chosen to take this approach? You may have been following a passion, exploring a field of study, doing voluntary work in another culture or whatever.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation when you developed by pursuing a chosen direction rather than simply aiming to reach a destination.  

Describe the specific things you did to pursue your chosen direction.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.

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Mitch Joel describes elements of this approach when talking about Squiggly Careers. Below is an extract from his blog. You can discover more via the following link and his book Ctrl Alt Delete.


Embrace The Squiggly

If there’s one thing that has become abundantly clear to me, it’s that the most successful people I know have had very squiggly careers.

No linear paths and no constant and consistent ascents. It’s been bumpy, weird, strange, funky and all-around fascinating.

During my mentoring work I hear many similar stories. One leader explained their career path in the following way.

I have always been fascinated by how people work well together.

At university I studied chemistry, but I actually learned more from captaining the sports teams. I also became interested in the mental side of the game and attended several of the earliest courses in sports psychology.

After university I took some time off travelling and doing voluntary work. I visited lots of places where people were experimenting with different ways of working and living. Some were really odd, but I learned a lot. 

Returning home, I worked for a medical charity. Getting frustrated with the internal divisions, I threw myself into leading new projects across the world.

This led to working alongside some technology companies, one of which asked me to lead one of their start ups. The venture proved successful and led to other projects.

The company liked my work and asked me to run an established division, but that did not work out. I work best with motivated people who want to build something special.

Since then I have worked for several other companies. My skills lie in helping talented people to do pioneering work and build successful prototypes. These frequently produce new revenue streams for the business.  

Looking back, it would have been hard to predict what I would do in my career. At various times I have wanted to go into sports management, voluntary work, medicine and other fields. At the moment I am working in digital. 

Looking to the future, I do not know where this will lead. Sometimes recruiters ask me: ‘What are your career ambitions? Where do you want to be in five years?’ My answer is:

‘The world is changing quickly, so I can’t tell you for certain. What I can say is that I want to be leading groups of talented people who are doing pioneering work in a particular field.’

You may have your own version of pursuing a particular direction and developing a Squiggly Career. Sometimes, however, you may simply want to explore a particular route for its own pleasure.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Looking to the future, this invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation when you may want to pursue a particular direction rather than aim to reach a particular destination.

Describe the specific things you can do to pursue your chosen route.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of taking these steps.

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