Mid-career professionals considering whether to quit their job and go after the big dream; students at the professional doorstep deciding on a major and a life path; the unexpected job offer; deciding whether and whom to marry; committing to having children – there is usually one key question left dangling in the middle of all the weighing and choosing.
We assess things like how far are our commutes going to be? Will our children get a great education in that school district? Is the salary an expression of my value? What will I learn in this position? Do I like the boss who interviewed me? Does my future life partner share the same interests for vacations and hobbies? Does my potential spouse want a family? If I go back to school, what will I gain long-term vs. the short-term sacrifices and debt? If I retire early, can I afford it?
What we fail to ask ourselves is “What is my day going to be like?” This is a simple expression of a multi-faceted analysis with serious consequences. It addresses whether or not we will live the majority of our lives in flow – a documented neural state, fulfilling the calling that is unique to our God-given gifts and talents, and creating the greatest impact we can have in every aspect of our lives. This is not whether or not our favorite Starbucks blend is available to give us a flavored kick-start. Our antennae must be up, sensitive to the red flags, and our acknowledgement of temptations swift to prevent calamitous diversions.
What is my day going to be like has us looking at whether we will be surrounded by people whom we can impact positively and who will in turn feed us, teach us, stretch us, and be for us. For instance, it may sound great to be a lawyer, because you want to offer the best defense possible through our justice system. Have you taken the time to find out how days are spent outside of the courtroom? Do you like research, long hours, and volumes of paperwork? Do you realize that there is a system one must learn to navigate; that’s, shall we say, “complicated.”
Have you thought about quitting your job and working for yourself, because you are sure you could do this as well as your boss? Do you realize that when you do that, you no longer do what you do all day now? Are you ready to take on the risks – a second mortgage, being responsible for employees, making sure you’re following laws and regulations, taking on insurance payments, buying or leasing buildings and equipment, creating a strategic plan, leading and coaching others, working longer hours and more days, and giving up hobbies, time with friends and family, and being unsure whether it will pay off?
Do you think as technology changes around you, employees want to communicate and collaborate differently, and speed is an increasing factor that you are just going to retire early, because you can? Witness the fear of the blank page in many who think just removing themselves from their situation today is the great resolution. If your day now is so packed that you don’t have a minute to yourself, have not created other outlets, rich friendships, and clarity around what you will do with yourself; in other words, answering, “What will my day be like?” – don’t leap yet. Take the time to design. The blank page can have some unintended consequences. Some die. Some jump back into work within a year without designing and fill up time, but aren’t completing their calling. Those who create their days are happier, fulfilled, and contribute impact to others most of their waking moments.
It may sound great to be a model, an entomologist, a pilot, a spouse, a parent, or a leader. Each choice has a reality component to it that is generally not celebrated but is essential to success. It is those struggles that hone our ability to excel at what we do, and it’s those deliberate choices that define our ability to maximize our potential. An essential life skill is knowing whether we are engaged in productive struggles that keep us in flow; maximizing our calling, or completely mis-match us, because we failed to do our homework before choosing. Rushed and careless decisions impact every person around us in our families’, friends’, and colleagues’ lives.
Being intentional about answering the big question is important for everyone we interact with on our journey. Whom will you impact? What will your contributions be? How will you feel in the moment? What will your days be like?