Written by Russell Johnson
If you’re looking to improve your career experience radically, then strategy is the point at which to start. Its role in a successful career is central and fundamental.
Strategy sits between our overall objectives and our tactics. That is to say; strategy requires clear objectives. And if you don’t already have such objectives, it will enable you to gain them. Moreover, strategy stays above the details that are addressed by tactics.
It will help you stay focused on the ‘big picture’ of what you want from life, instead of being consumed by day-to-day activities. These activities soak up time but add little of lasting value.
A strategic approach will benefit your overall quality of living. Namely, by leading you to confront questions that most people place in the ‘too hard basket’ because they’re difficult to answer. And questions that your employer is likely to have little or no interest in your answering – most fundamentally “What is my overall aim in working?”.
A tactical approach is the kind that at the beginning of each new year, leads us to make new year’s resolutions that we soon forget except for a lingering and ever-increasing weight of demoralization.
A strategic approach, however, has a very different effect. If you conceive your strategy well, you’ll simply review and reaffirm it from time to time. Perhaps you’ll tighten up a particular perspective here or there before progressing to the tactical activities required to advance. If adjustments are required – e.g. if you’re behind schedule – they’re likely to be at the level of tactics, not strategy.
The Intangible Benefits
The intangible benefits of a strategic approach run deep. Unlike most people, you’ll be pursuing a vision that ties together everything in your life. Meanwhile, it will focus and energize you as nothing else can. When you pause to review your progress, even if you haven’t achieved everything you wanted to, you will feel the satisfaction of knowing you have moved forward on a consistent journey. A great adventure in which you’ll recognize any setback as simply a necessary learning experience.
Your progress will come to feel relentless, and the outcome, inevitable.
Essentially, it’s the same sense of satisfaction experienced by those who pursue any of the many constructive hobbies we can choose – or the physically adventurous ones. But it’s deeper, because of the depth of your commitment, the amount of time you devote to it and its meaning for you.
In committing your career to something that matters deeply to you, with a strategy to achieve it, lies the opportunity to become the person you want to be.
Through exercising our skills in ways of our choosing, we increase our sense of efficacy and benefit from the increased self-esteem this brings. Consequently, we experience a sense of becoming more capable and confident human beings.
Guideposts That Will Confirm You’re on Track
As you strengthen your capacity to create yourself, you’ll find old limitations slipping away. You’ll observe indicators of progress such as these:
- Unlike the sense of scarcity you may have suffered in the past, you’ll begin to experience a sense of abundance.
- Old fears will begin to fall away and will be replaced quite naturally by a growing sense of concern for others – and of a desire to help and serve.
- You’ll likely remain competitive if that has been your nature; but you’ll also experience an increasing inclination toward kindness, as well as an ever-increasing sense of inner peace. These feelings are natural indicators of increasing clarity and connection to your inner strength.
- You’ll find yourself becoming less prepared to remain in destructive conflict-based situations, because you’ll know you don’t need to accept them. If you’re not in a position to transform them, you may choose to move to a higher quality working environment.
- Your relationships will improve. And you’ll find others for whom you are responsible will begin to look to you more often for wisdom and guidance. With the active collaboration that naturally follows, you’ll find your rate of progress increasing; you’ll go to your goals naturally and irresistibly, like a stone through water.
- Along the way, the peace of mind you are experiencing will also begin to manifest itself in a deeper and more robust level of good health, energy and joy in day-to-day living. Likely, you’ll even recognize that you’re turning the clock back on ageing in some ways.
A Well-Proven Pattern
There are yet other ways in which a career strategy will improve the quality of your life. As you begin to achieve your goals faster, you’ll be eager to invest effort in achieving other things that may not have previously been ‘on your radar’. Subsequently, you may even find you no longer care about some of what you formerly wanted. Although you may have needed to experience this to move beyond it.
Your commitment to strategy will progressively increase your level of clarity and thus further accelerate the journey to the life you really want.
Ultimately, we all want to be happy – but without deep reflection and broad experience, we tend to pursue activities that will make us unhappy in the long run. Or at least will contribute less to our happiness than we expect. For most of us, the quickest way to get to a high and stable level of happiness is to pursue motivating goals, learn from achieving them and then adjust our vision.
That is to say, you recalibrate your vision and refocus your strategy to achieve your newly increased level of clarity. As a result, you will again be able to accelerate your journey to the outcomes you genuinely want. Strategy can thus be used to deepen clarity. The two can work harmoniously in tandem because you have taken the trouble to create a deep enough level of alignment for this to happen.
Can Your Purpose Change Over Time?
Certainly, don’t be concerned if you don’t yet have clarity about what you want to do with your life. When you find your deeply motivating purpose, you’ll also find that it’s truly never too late to start. You’ll want to get on with it and to make your contribution as significant as it can be. At the same time, if your contribution has to be less than you might have preferred it to be, you’ll know and accept that you have done the most possible with what was available to you.
And you’ll feel grateful for the opportunity to do so. That’s the nature and benefit of a labour of love.
Indeed, you can change your purpose as many times as necessary during your lifetime. It’s all part of our natural journey of growth. And when you change your purpose, you’re accelerating your journey of self-discovery and transition to higher levels of self-actualization.
In the early stages of your career, you may be (or have been) content to work for an organization with limited vision. Perhaps with a lot of fine language that’s actually all subordinated to the quarterly results. At a later stage of your career, however, you may see financial returns as merely a necessary and natural side effect of meaningful contribution. You may even find yourself ready to step up to the challenge of helping your organization hold itself to a commitment to truth and benefit from the deeply engaged workforce that accompanies such an undertaking.
And while at earlier stages in your career, retirement may seem an attractive goal, at a later stage it may come to seem unattractive or even unacceptable. When you find a compelling purpose, you may find your vision becomes one of contributing to that purpose for as long as you are able to.
Furthermore, if that becomes the case for you, you may very well live a lot longer. Longevity is a common experience for those with a compelling purpose. Deep engagement with such a purpose can make your work, your play.