Nobody lives in a vacuum. Every step we take reverberates to those around us and every choice we make is influenced in some way by those around us. When you’re not aware of the messages you pick up from others—especially influencial others—you can find yourself going through the motions without knowing why.
That is not a good approach for finding joy in life or work.
For 15 years, Marsha and Alex have talked about moving to the country and building the house of their dreams. Instead, they continue to rent and probably always will. The reason: Alex’s parents warned him throughout his childhood never to trust, especially the real estate market--that everything he worked for could be snatched away in a single instant.
Michael’s influence could not be more different than Alex’s, but it has restricted him in a similar way. When his best friend Teddy unexpectedly died before they were able to take that cross country trip they had planned for years, Michael,decided he would leave his job as a successful attorney and live for the moment. Except he hasn’t been able to figure out what “the moment” should look like. Some of his friends tell him to travel the world; others advise him to grow up and get back to practicing law.
Sometimes advice from others helps and clarifies. Other times it harms and confuses. Here’s an exercise that will help you understand who influences you and why….
Imagine you are the President and CEO of your life. Who sits on your Board of Directors? Identify at least three people and up to five who have something to say or some influence over the direction you take and the decisions you make. Your Board Members may be living or dead, young or old, real or imagined. Write the name of each person in the circles below.
Once you have identified your Board of Directors, convene a meeting. You have a matter to address, and that matter concerns a question about your career, work, or future plans.
2. Next, think about how each member of your board will respond to your question. What will his/her position be? What is each member likely to advise you? Under the name of each person, write a few words that express that person’s advice to you. What does this tell you? Do your Board Members agree with each other? Does their advice reflect the realities of your life today? Does it tell you more about how they see their own situation rather than yours? Are they respectful? Do they believe in you? How do they see the world? Is the advice confusing? Comforting? Uncertain?
You will find that certain words and phases provide clear clues and helpful themes.
Take a look at Ed’s Board. He taught science for 9 years before being promoted to High School Principal. He knows that he does not enjoy his work, even though he is well liked and highly regarded by students, faculty and parents. He easily knows the position of each of his Board Members:
Father: Don’t be foolish. You have a job that pays you far more than you could ever earn as a Teacher. You have to be practical. I knew you’d have problems the moment you decided to get married instead of going to medical school.
Wife: I just want you to be happy
Superintendent of Schools: You are a natural leader with a good business sense. I can see you replacing me someday if you stick it out now.
Sons (twins, age 7): Let’s Play, Dad. Let’s build rocket ships!
Best Friend Doug: You do all the right things but it seems to be at a high cost. I think you should go back to being a teacher and forget about advancing.
Ed is surprised to learn that the people who matter most to him—his wife, his children, and his good friend—do not encourage him to remain in any job where he is unhappy. He is also surprised at the strength and influence of his father’s voice, even though he has been dead for 11 years.
When you look at Ed's Board, here's what they say: don't be foolish, be practical, just be happy, natural leader, stick it out, let's play, high cost, teach. Different opinions: that's no surprise. But who does Ed listen to? And why?
What does your board say? Who speaks the loudest? Who dominates? Who do you listen to? Who knows you best? Who speaks the truth?
Most people who complete this exercise are surprised by what they learn. Take a moment to write down your observations and thoughts about the advice you get from others…..and then, write down the words and phrases ONLY from who knows you best and/or who speaks the truth. This make take a small act of courage on your part, but filter out the "shoulds" and "oughts" and predictions of gloom and doom. Pass them on by, and then write the advice you know to be true.
Your board has spoken....
Oh, by the way, this is a good time to tell you: the observations and thoughts about the advice you get from others should be brief enough that they can fit in a pie slice. This will be your SECOND pie slice: along with words from the Line of Your Life...
...Because next week I will introduce the Good Work Circle, where you will be able to store and learn from the words and phrases that will lead you to the work of your dreams.