Direction, Not Motion

Hi, Sean McCool here. It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S.

And chances are, sometime this week, the big question will come up:

"So, where are you working now?” (Or, at least some variation of that.)

Now, if your family is anything like mine, telling them you’re a freelance writer is really not a good answer. Most people just don’t understand. And, when you’ve had as many jobs as I have over my … um … career, there are plenty of eye rolls and exaggerated, confused head nods.

So, these emails this week are to help you (and me) get past that frustration. I’m going to give you Five Keys to Surpassing Everyone’s Expectations. If you apply what you discover this week, from this point forward, you’ll be the envy of friends and family.

You should know I didn’t come up with these. I “stole” them from one of my favorite books: Get Out of Your Own Way by Robert K. Cooper, PhD. I suggest picking up a copy for even more insights.

You’ll get one Key each day for five days. So, stay tuned.

Onward …

The first Key is: Direction, not motion.

Be careful here. You might think this is about hitting your goals. Not so fast. You can hit a lot of goals and still be running around in circles chasing your tail. That’s why you need direction.

For me, I was chasing the tail of money for years … moving from one money job to the next. It wasn’t until I started looking at the direction I wanted my life — not just my bank account — to go that I started seeing progress in both.

In my life, direction meant following my natural skills and abilities. Abilities I’ve known I had since high school, like writing and teaching. However, I never believed I could “make a living” doing those things. How wrong I was. Plus, in many cases, my direction ignored my values … which left me feeling unfulfilled and without a purpose in life.

I’m still fine-tuning my direction, but each day — and even with each project — I get more clear on where I’m going in my freelance career and, more importantly, in my life.

Look at it this way: When a ship leaves its harbor, for fully 99.99 percent of its voyage, it can’t see its port of call. If the captain were to follow every distracting wave and current, he’d never find the port. But, by knowing the direction he needs to go, his motion is efficient and rewarding.

So What?!

One of the youth pastors at our church always finishes his sermons with the phrase, “So What?!” In other words, what does this mean to you and for you? How can you apply this to your life starting today?

There are a couple of things you can do …

Take a series of personality assessments and career assessments. There are several free ones online. I’d also recommend any book by Marcus Buckingham. Or, check out our own Steve Roller’s article “A Job, a Career, or a Calling.”

Another is to come up with a personal Mission Statement. It’s not easy, but it is a powerful tool for keeping you on track. I now refer to mine before I take on any project — personal or professional.

Finally, I simply suggest you remain very aware of why you are choosing to spend your days and life the way you are. Is it your dream or someone else’s dream for you?

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about another of the five Keys.

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Published: November 21, 2011

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