It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey
A few weeks ago I was set free. Free from a career path I embarked on over 10 years ago, with no end in sight. I, like many other young, go-getters, smart enough to score well on his LSAT, and without a foreseeable six-figure job in my horizon, decided to go to law school, because at the time, “it was a means to an end.” At least that’s what my mother told me. The only problem was that I had no idea what, where or when the “end” would be.
Even before going to law school, I was not particularly keen on making a lifelong career as an attorney. In fact, I read just about every book and article about attorneys who left the law to successfully pursue other endeavors. When asked what I wanted to do with my life, I told family and friends that I wanted to develop interesting business ideas, motivate others and forge meaningful relationships. Their response was “You could do all of those things with a law degree!” So, after reading up on the success stories and with the all-but-gentle coaxing from my loved ones, I decided, based on what I perceived, as empirical evidence in my favor, to go to law school.
Eleven years later, after working as a paralegal, three years of law school, several internships and working for big firms, small firms, the government and on my own as a sole practitioner, I decided that it’s time to pick a new means and a new end.
Don’t sit on a lounge chair, if you want to bungee jump.
If you are the kind of person who loves adventure—skydiving, bungee jumping and swimming with sharks and you want to go to Mexico, would you still go, if I told you that you would stay at an all-inclusive resort for senior citizens, with only a pool and no recreational activities? Of course not! If you’re an adventurer, you seek out adventure, for the thrill itself, regardless of whether you’re in Mexico or Maine. The same idea applies to your career: seek out a career where you’re doing stuff you love to do; don’t choose a career where you do stuff you don’t like because you think it will get you to where you want to be…remember, bungee jumpers like to jump, they’ll get antsy sitting down, regardless of how nice the lounge chair.
It sounds cheesy but it’s true—the journey is way more important than the destination. I can tell you this because I lived it. I spent many late nights and weekends at the office by myself reviewing dense documents and arguing for positions that had little relevance to me, when all I wanted was to brainstorm ways to develop cool products that change people’s lives. My time as an attorney was spent within the comfortable confines of a fancy Manhattan skyscraper with views of the Hudson River and Central Park. I was in Mexico, all right but I sure wasn’t having fun at my hotel.
It took me a long time to leave a career where I was unhappy, but so far, freedom feels pretty darn good. I’m free to reconnect with my core values and strengths and look for work that emphasizes both.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s the law, accounting, marketing or medicine. If you don’t spend your time engaging your core values, then no matter how nice the destination, you’ll always be unfulfilled in some way or form.
Think about what you like to do and how it makes YOU FEEL. Could you go through most of your daily routine without having certain core beliefs validated? If you love working in teams and someone offers you a prestigious job where you sit by yourself for most of the day, do you think you’ll be happy?
When evaluating your career options, spend more time thinking about what you like to do, than where you want to be. If you follow that simple advice, you’ll always enjoy your time, no matter where you are. It took me a long time to realize this but thankfully, it’s never too late for you to get in touch with what matters most.
Legally Free is a blogger for StrengthsInsight and an attorney at law in the midst of a career transition. For the next several weeks, he will share insights into his journey of ditching his former legal career and rediscovering his love for innovative business, new and interesting people and having fun.
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