How to tell if you are in the wrong job

by Marshall Goldsmith: Bestselling author, speaker, teacher and executive coach.
Every once in a while, you have a moment of clarity, a flash of insight into what you really want, who you really want to be, how you really want to live your life.

Can you recall a few of these glimpses?

I’ve had three such flashes of “temporary sanity” in my life. The first was years and years ago. I broke my neck surfing. I thought I would never walk again. For many months I went through an incredibly long rehabilitation process. During that period I reflected on what I wanted to do if I walked again, I looked at what is really important to me and made a promise to myself to follow through on those things if I got better. The good news is that I am walking again and I have followed through on much of what I wanted to do.

The second time I had temporary sanity, I was on an airplane. The pilot announced over the speaker system that we were going to have to crash land with no landing gear. I thought I might die! I asked myself, “What do I regret?” The answer I came up with was that I had never adequately thanked the many people who had been so good to me in my life. I told myself, “If I ever get back down on the ground safely, I will thank these people.” The plane landed safely and when I got to my hotel room, the first thing I did was write thank you notes to at least 50 people who had helped me in my life!

The third time I had such a flash of sanity, I was about 30 years old. I went on a volunteer trip to Africa with the Red Cross. I saw many starving children having their arms measured. If their arms were too big they did not eat. If their arms were too small they did not eat. Their arms had to be just the right size if they were to eat that day – meaning they were not too hungry to survive and not too well fed so as not to need food. It was during that trip that I realised how fortunate I am. I remember this trip and picture those children every time I feel “justifiably” upset, like when my plane is delayed for hours on end and I need to get to my next location. When this happens, I remember those beautiful children, and I repeat this mantra over and over in my mind: “Never complain because the airplane is late. There are people in the world who have real problems. They have problems you cannot even begin to imagine. You are a very lucky man. Never complain because the airplane is late.”

Every once in a while we all have these moments of clarity, these flashes of temporary sanity, especially when we go through traumatic, potentially life-threatening events. What are yours? What did you tell yourself that you really wanted to do, be, act, when you were faced with these events?

If you’re not doing those things now where you work, take a good look at your job. Ask yourself: Is this what I want to be doing? Do the company’s values align with mine? Am I living my life according to my temporary flashes of sanity, or am I just “selling days” paycheque to paycheque as my vision and hopes for myself fade into the background until the next moment of sanity comes, which could be a lifetime away.

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Marshall Goldsmith
Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is a world authority in helping successful leaders get even better – by achieving positive, lasting change in behavior: for themselves, their people and their teams.
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