Recently I suggested that perhaps the best way to decide how you want to make a living was to simply ask Who Needs Your Gift Now? The implication of that question is that your Gift is something you both love (it’s your Passion) and are good at (it’s your Genius). For many that is easy — some people I know have known what their Gift is since they were old enough to talk. For others it has been elusive, either because they feel a mis-fit between their Passion and their Genius, or because, for whatever reason, they have yet to discover their Passion or their Genius. This article is for them (or perhaps I should say, for us).
The chart above is a more elaborate version of the Venn diagram I have used in several recent articles. I use this chart when I review the important-but-non-urgent projects on my Getting Things Done list, to decide which of these projects to work on each day. I had originally planned to flag each of these important-but-non-urgent projects with a number from 1 through 7, depending on which area on the chart above it fell into — and then focus on the projects in area 3 first. But I discovered it isn’t as easy as that (it’s never that easy, is it?), because of the six questions that I’ve now added to the chart:
So how do I categorize these projects — career options really — when because of these ‘hitches’ they aren’t really area 3 projects? And what do I do about the projects that are area 1, 2, 4, or 5 projects — but might become, or be changed to, area 3 projects with time or dedicated effort?
Let’s take the questions one at a time:
Let me be personal for a moment and tell you how this applies to the projects in my Getting Things Done list.
I’ve said before that if you can’t find work in area 3, you haven’t looked hard enough. That may be harsh, but I think it’s true: It takes courage and perseverance and a lot of self-knowledge to find (or create) that ‘perfect’ job, but it’s out there waiting. But if asking the question Who Needs My Gift Now? doesn’t get you there, is it really possible to ‘move’ a project from one of the other areas to area 3?
My answer to this question, which will probably be controversial, is probably no. Things are the way they are for a reason, and if the potential customers of your pet project just aren’t persuaded, or aren’t ready, for what you have to offer, chances are all the brilliant sales pitches in the world won’t change that. Set your area 2 projects aside and wait for the market to catch up. If your work has you disengaged, and you’ve started to hate getting up in the morning, it’s time to give up on this area 5 work and find something you love. And if you love your work and it’s important, but your co-workers and customers have no confidence in you, chances are training and study and more experience won’t change that (unless you’re brand new in the job, in which case stick with it for awhile) — shelve the area 4 work and find something that’s a better fit for your capabilities.
It’s the same way with relationships. If the love goes, or your partner ceases to appreciate what you have to give, or you just can’t seem to make it work, to the point you feel it’s more trouble than it’s worth, it’s really hard to get it back on track. Often the wisest thing to do is walk away and build a new relationship with someone else you love, who values your Gift and who you are just right for. Just like the perfect job, the perfect partner is almost certainly out there, waiting to be discovered, and a less-than-perfect relationship, like a less-than-perfect job, is incredibly difficult to improve by sheer will power and self-sacrifice.
How do we get in these situations? Sometimes we just take the easy road, accept the first job offer that comes along, so we never know what we might be missing, and suddenly wake up to the realization that life is too short to work at something you hate, or can’t do well, or which just isn’t appreciated. And sometimes what seemed to be the perfect job turns out to be something less than perfect, or else something changes to make it less than perfect (the market moves on while you stay behind, or new skills are needed that you can’t seem to master, or it just become routine and all the joy goes out of it). It’s really hard to turn that around. It’s usually better, I would argue, to start from scratch and search for the project that, right now, falls in area 3. It could take a long time and a lot of work to find, but it will be worth it.
We each have our Gift (our Passion and our Genius), and our Purpose — allthat is required is to discover what they are and where they meet.
Now if only I could learn to take my own advice.