Have you found your compass?
“Live your life by a compass, not a clock” Dr Stephen R. Covey.
It all began at age 17, when I had to make the biggest decision of my life: choose my career path.
The question “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” always was unsettling for me. Mainly because I couldn’t visualise myself doing the same thing for the rest of my life. I have always been the sort of restless, curious and impatient kid, hence the idea of becoming just one thing wasn’t natural to me. I wanted to be a psychologist, a palaeontologist, a journalist or a business woman. Yet, the time had come for me to choose.
I was at my school class trying to fill up a little blue paper with the career path that I will be on for the rest of my life. I remember the pressure and how conscious I was that my life was going to be changed forever.
Somehow I ended up becoming a producer in the advertising industry. Nearly two decades later I am looking back at it and I can say I made the right choice. I LOVE my job. I love the versatility, energy and creativity it has. However, I know I ended there by pure luck and as a result of society’s pressure to become someone and do something. Not because I had a clear idea of where my passion and mission resided. And that’s precisely something that has always been at the back of my mind ever since that day in school when I was 17.
We are so busy going with the flow and on surviving mode to make ends meet, that we forget what it is we really want and what we are really good at. The main two things that intrinsically motivate, empower and make us unique. It doesn’t help that we are living in a very volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous time (VUCA) where it’s really hard to maintain the same situations and conditions our older generations had, or to predict what will be. We are also facing a new reality of constant change that keeps us searching for new ventures. We go as fast as we can, doing as much as we can, without questioning why we do it or if we are doing it right. We are racing like hamsters on a wheel… we are on a clock.
The clock is blind. It puts quantity and speed at front without prioritising or doing any value judgement. It doesn’t have a destination and when we are at it for a long time, we get used to it. If we want to change it, it creates fear and even trauma. That’s when the anxious questions start to pop up: “What now?”, “What am I going to do?”, “What do I want?”, “Who am I?”… It’s painful, uncomfortable and confusing.
Neuroscience knows how hard it is to fight change. We are literally programmed to save energy and change consumes too much of it. But change is necessary in order to grow.
When we get to the point where we ask ourselves the uncomfortable questions, we start slowing down the clock to find a new focus and direction. We start looking for our compass.
Like Dr. Covey said “We value the clock for its speed and efficiency. The clock has its place, efficiency has its place – after effectiveness. The symbol of effectiveness is the compass—a sense of direction, purpose, vision, perspective, and balance.” The compass is the opposite to the clock. It prioritises quality and direction, it gives us information and feedback on what we need to do and how to do it. Purpose, efficiency, direction and focus arises.
I believe both are natural and healthy when they are used at the right time and for the right reasons. Nowadays we are more naturally drawn to the clock because we don’t have to think and we just do. It’s natural to get trapped there when you don’t have a clear compass.
The tricky part comes when we want to lead others, but we are on the clock. It’s not going to work. In order to lead others, we must start with ourselves. That means we must find our compass first, set a clear goal and go for it. How many companies are lead by speed and quantity but not purpose and quality? Where is the focus of the leaders? If they haven’t found a compass and are running with a clock, the company and the team will do the same. It all starts with the leaders. It starts with you.
I exchanged my compass a few years ago for the clock. It wasn’t until this year that I realised that and started to switch my focus and relearning what my passion and my mission truly are. It means to say goodbye to certain things in order to make space for the new ones that will enrich my life. I had to pause for a while to look inside and find myself again. It is scary and uncertain, but also extremely rewarding. I am feeling connected, fulfilled and happy again. And that is priceless.
So my question to you is: Do you lead yourself? What do you want? Do you focus your life by the clock or by a compass? And your company?
It’s time to change focus.
It’s time to find your compass, redefine what’s your purpose to get up and get it!