Note to Self from Contentment

Dear Self:

Sadly, you watched your parents and other early heroes climb their hierarchy, seeking their job summit and measuring worth by rank and title, by status hook or crook. Signs of loyalty were seized upon to truly distinguish, as if meritorious achievement was not enough: last one to leave the office…the great provider…weekends spent on the job…major moves of home and family to please the boss…tough overseas tours to prove the point…tell Johnny I’ll make his next game… I miss you…better luck next time… I’m sorry…at least we have the weekend…! The Company Man or Company Woman. No sacrifice too great.

Duty, God, Company! The American Way.

Yet, we learn at the end of their careers that putting company above human being is rarely wise, often foolish, always costly, frequently embittering. Bitter…like cynics’ blood, with hardly enough nostalgia to clean the stain. But, they cheered themselves along the way, with stiff lips and beery rationalizations, like, “If I don’t do it, they’ll find someone else who will…!” Or, “Someday, the kids will thank me!” Sort of heroes…sort of rationalizers…sort of foolish, once the story is honestly told, about me. How about you?

Seasoned executive coaches know: the organizations that are truly worth working in are not interested in taking your Life. They want you to enliven, not frighten. Yet, such organizations are hard to find. We learn to lead by emulation; and executives who are more generative than demanding, particularly today, have led very few organizations.

The first challenge is overcoming powerful cultural conditioning, Cinderella thinking, belief in the Good Fairy, and all that. One must sever the blind prescriptions that monetary wealth means “success” in Life, or “the boss knows best,” or “the company will take care of me.” Individuals who obsess about status tend to become exhausted long before their status indicators expire.

For those who have a higher vision of life, who sense the excitement of crafting their course forward into a life of human consequence, resolution awaits. The process of strategic planning offers tools for constructing the frame for cumulative Life achievement, and the guidelines for personal and career accountability. Among the planning resources for personal reinvention and reframing are: (a) Life/work Design, by Nella Barkley’s Crystal-Barkley Corporation; and (b) Strategic Terminology, when powerfully applied to the individual.

Surrendering your career navigation to an overbearing employer is foolish. The alternative is taking responsibility for your own career planning; not obliterating Life with career, but rather integrating career and Life. You can employ resources to create a strategic itinerary for your Life, aiming toward worthy goals, guided by core human values, adjusting your Life/work plan as you go… thus, holding yourself accountable for your Life achievements and significant contribution.

Yes, I’m suggesting that workday achievements may not be Life achievements, and if one is alive, with inspiration one can recover. It’s all research. I am attainable, but only when you proceed as a true Human Being.

Sincerely yours,