Are you in the precise profession? Ask your self these questions
Dorie Clark, author of “The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World”.
We spend our days replying to emails, going to meetings, ticking off to-do lists, and as our careers go by, we sometimes wonder if we chose the right profession or if our lives wouldn’t have been better to do something else. However, instead of taking the time to answer these big questions, let’s focus on today’s or this week’s tasks.
In the new book “The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World”, published this fall by Harvard Business Review, author and professor Dorie Clark argues for a different approach. She argues that many of us need to think deeper and more proactively about where we are going.
Some people are on paths that lead to unfulfilling and regret if they don’t, Clark says, while others keep turning around before they can make the progress they want.
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CNBC interviewed Clark this week about the chaotic work of building and maintaining a career. The exchange has been edited and compressed for the sake of clarity.
Annie Nova: You write that our psychology makes us think too much in the short term. How come?
Dorie Clark: Often when we are faced with a situation where we are not sure what to do, either because it is tactically complex – “How can I increase sales by 20% next year?” – or existentially complex – “Should Do I actually do this job or do something else? ”- it’s a lot easier for us to just lower our heads and work on the same things we’ve done before instead of stepping back and asking uncomfortable questions.
AN: We really seem to want to avoid the existential questions.
Direct current: In modern western society, work has become a place of meaning for many people. Worrying that we’re on the wrong track or that we’re not getting as far as we’d like it to be can be extremely uncomfortable.
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AN: But what are the consequences if you don’t do this reflection?
Direct current: If we are smart and motivated enough, we will achieve our goals, but it can become uncomfortable and even tragic when it turns out too late that our goals were wrong all along.
AN: Yikes. How can we try to find out sooner rather than later if our goals are wrong?
Direct current: The first real question to analyze is whether the goal is intrinsic or extrinsic. Are you pursuing this goal because you care, or are you performing a script that you internalized based on what society thinks is a good idea or what people around you think is a good idea?
AN: If you find yourself following a script, how can you pursue more self-determined goals?
DC: The social narrative says that everyone has to find their passion. But this framing can be crippling. It is much easier to have the space to discover what you enjoy and what you are good at if you instead focus on answering the question, “What do you find interesting?” Overall, we need to keep things easier while we are in the discovery phase.
AN: What is your advice to those who are convinced of their ambitions but have doubts or difficulties about themselves?
Direct current: Again, if we stare too much at the entirety of the task, whether it’s writing a book or being promoted to senior vice president, it can be overwhelming. But if we are able to move forward in very small steps each day, this activity will intensify and the sense of dynamism will keep us motivated. I also like to ask myself regularly: “What can I do today to make tomorrow easier or better?”