There’s no real secret to landing the perfect job, or getting into the college program that offers the most personal fulfillment. Why? Because those secrets don’t exist. Life is a long series of decisions, and who we are today is not the person we were five years ago. Ten years from now you will be somebody different. So here are three questions you should ask yourself as you prepare for your life’s journey.
This sounds simple, but take the time to really think about your standards—your personal beliefs, the parts of you that you could not do without. If you write the word integrity, define it. Does integrity mean that you will never leave a task. Half-done? Does it mean you will keep your word? Never betray a confidence? Live your beliefs even when you’re under pressure to compromise? What would that compromise look like? This question is meant to help you define your standards, and standards are the outward expression of your inner self. Defining them early does not mean you have decided on your career, but you have decided on how you will approach looking for your career.
We’re not talking about learning to love broccoli or weeding the garden, although that’s a start. What you are evaluating is your willingness to change. The best professional athletes learn to love the drudgery of practice—to find ways to make practicing enjoyable. Why? Because they take the long view. They know that exercising self-discipline will lead to a higher reward, so they find ways to enjoy the process. When you start a new class, can you look at the textbook and say: “I’m going to love studying this enormous, boring book because I know the reward at the end is a good grade and more opportunities to learn and grow—and ultimately the opportunity of finding a fulfilling career.” The advice often given to high school graduates is to “do what you love.” Better insurance for success is “to love what you do.” Ask successful people if they expected to be in the industry they are in and most will tell you no. What they expected was to work hard, to find challenges, and to make opportunities—all of which they looked forward to.
This is a question of resolve. Get in the habit of overcoming failure by honestly evaluating it, learning from your mistakes, and moving forward. Nobody ever got ahead by making the same mistakes over and over. And none of us can improve our past. It’s gone—learn from it and move on. Life is uncertain. Failure is for sure. What will you do about it when it comes? Visualizing resiliency helps form mental toughness. It can also help us develop patience—not only for others, but especially for ourselves. We have to learn to give ourselves a break when we fail, to say: “It’s OK; it’s my fault. Let’s learn from this.” This kind of humility creates respect among your peers. It forms a natural bond of support with them so your next effort will have their trust behind you.
These are three questions to think about, to ponder, to pray about. Our life is one big classroom. There are lessons for us to learn. Start by defining who you are, and it will be much easier to see who you will become.