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A colleague of mine was sharing a story that struck me as one of life’s ironies.  In the days before GPS was available on every phone, he and his wife were travelling cross country.  She was driving and he dozed off.  Upon awakening he asked her how they were doing.

She replied, “I don’t know where we’re going, but we’re making great time.” 

That’s true for many of us, particularly as our careers progress.  Many of us start out our careers with a plan that, by necessity, is to get a job that will pay us enough to be able to support ourselves.  If, once we satisfy those first rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy, we neglect to define what we want to accomplish in our careers, we can travel along the path of working for one company, one industry, or in one career field, while moving up the ladder with no particular plan except the “next” position.

That might be perfect if there are positions being offered and if those positions satisfy what you want to do with your life.  What we want from our careers and lives deserves careful consideration. When we go through our careers without a clear definition of success, we take the risk, like my colleague’s story, of being all velocity and no direction.  It’s not hard to get on a career path that, while financially rewarding, doesn’t satisfy what you really want to do with your life.

In the early 2000’s, Daniel Burrus, the author of Technotrends, (Burrus, 1993), was a guest on my radio show, The Executive Toolbox.   As I got to know him during the pre-interview process, I found he was one of the happiest people I’d ever met.  I asked him to what he attributed his deep sense of contentment.

He answered with, “I figured out the way to be happy is to find your passion and wrap a career around it.”

Defining the vision of what we really want from our careers helps give our careers direction.  Just as our principals help guide us to make decisions that are congruent with our beliefs, our vision helps us make career choices congruent with what we want to accomplish.

Asking ourselves, “How do I feel about the work that I’m doing?” is a good place to start.

Leah Ward-Lee is a management consultant and business writer based in Dallas, Texas and the author of $1,000 Start-Ups.  Her next book, The Executive’s Toolbox, will be released in early 2017.