own-pathTreading your own path – not easy, but you won’t regret it!

We’re continuing the trend of inviting guest writers to contribute to our site.

And this month we’ve got an absolute peach!  We’d like to introduce Jo Pursaill, formaly Director of Global Talent Development at American Express.  You can connect with Jo here!

But enough of our waffle.  Ladies and Gentlemen we proudly present Jo Pursaill…

‘Read something every day that inspires you’.  This was the advice given by leadership guru, Ken Blanchard, at a conference I attended a year or so ago.  This really resonated with me.  It can be easy to get caught up in day-to-day ‘stuff’, and not always stand back and remember the things that are important

For a while now, I’ve been subscribing to ‘The Daily Guru’ – an email service which sends me [very] short inspirational emails each morning.  Many are quotes which take less than a minute to read.  Some naturally resonate more than others, but overall they are great and often help provide a sense of perspective and focus.  Here’s one on authenticity I’ve been thinking about a lot lately:

“To be authentic is literally to be your own author…, to discover your own native energies and desires, and then to find your own way of acting on them”
— Warren G Bennis

This one is on my mind, because whilst it seems obvious and easily said, it would appear not so easy in practice.  I’ve been talking to lots of people about their life, work and career – trying to get an understanding of what ‘career’ means to them and how they define meaningful work.

Interestingly a theme which has come through strongly is that many people don’t actually know what they want – and this finding doesn’t appear to be uncommon.  In an article featured in Forbes Magazine, Kathy Caprino – a Career and Executive Coach who has coached hundreds of professionals – highlights this is something she hears consistently. One of the top reasons people give for wanting to leave their job is due to a lack of meaning or purpose.

The topic of purpose is receiving a lot of attention at the moment.  It’s an essential ingredient for a fulfilled life and career, yet it can be hard for people to define.

Jelly Bean Diversity

It’s different for everyone and therefore needs to start with – as Warren Bennis puts it – ‘discovering your own native energies and desires’.

In Bronnie Ware’s book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, the author shares her experiences/ learnings when working in palliative care and tending to the needs of people who were dying.   She spends intimate time with them at this difficult stage near the end of their life, and gets to know them, their life experiences, and their regrets.  The top regret?  ‘I wish I had lived a life true to myself and not what others expected of me’.  I was quite sad to read this….to get to the end of your life and feel this…

So how do you find and tread your own path?

There is clear value in taking some time to figure this out – for the individual, and also for organizations looking to support employees in their career development and provide opportunities to do meaningful work.  Research shows that employees who are optimally motivated and doing work matched to their strengths/passions are 10 times more engaged by their jobs, 31% more productive, and significantly more likely to stay (Optimal Motivation; Blanchard; 2015).

In terms of the ‘how’, conclusions from my research are that whilst this is articulated in different ways, it seems to boil down to 3 things:

Make a deliberate effort to get to know yourself better. There are various self-reflection questions and exercises that can help (organizations can provide toolkits, training and coaching to help employees in this exploration).  A few thought triggers: What have been your greatest achievements?  What can you do better than most?  What would others say?  What do you get ‘lost in’ and time just flies by?  This can take time to figure out – it can sometimes help to draw a ‘life map’ plotting key points in your life, to get you thinking.  Also just to ‘observe’ yourself over time and see what you’re noticing about what energizes you, what you’re drawn to, etc.

Spend time really figuring out what you want. There are unlikely to be straight-cut answers, and again it will take some exploration.  Questions to consider include: What is your personal definition of success? (it’s different for everyone). What do you value most in your work/life?  For what do you want to be known?  Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’ll enjoy something until you actually do it.  Some recent advice I received….write down all the things you think you might want, then create low risk ‘testing strategies’ for each so you can try them out, e.g. talk to someone already doing the job to learn about ‘a day in the life of’, do a short-term project assignment.  Then you can start crossing things off and/or get closer to what you want.

Make a plan and start taking action. Now you’re clearer on what you want, you can be more deliberate about the things you can focus on to get there.  Who do you need to speak with, what new skills/experiences will you need, what relationships do you need to build?  If it’s a big change it can be scary – in reality there’s no getting away from this as it’s a natural part of the process.  A coach can sometimes help to work through any fears or barriers.  It’s also a good idea to write down your career aspirations/plan to help you stay focused.  Amazingly, Ken Blanchard has written his obituary, personal mission and values and reads them every day!

What I’m learning is that treading your own path is not necessarily easy or straight-forward – it takes time, exploration, self-honesty and a deliberate effort.   But in the grand scheme of life and looking back on a good one…it’s got to be worth it!

To get in touch with Jo directly about this article you can follow this link,