January 8, 2013
We all make this mistake. You, too, are guilty of it. While you may not even be aware of it, at a point earlier in your life you decided the type of person you are. Since then you have been making choices that you think fit with this image of yourself. The problem is your image may no longer be accurate. Further, the choices you are making may not be the right ones – the ones that will make you happiest, lead you to success, or bring you fulfillment.
By way of illustration, when you were fifteen you decided that you are a person who likes mint chip ice cream to the exclusion of all other flavors. For thirty years you have bypassed “Can I have a taste” and beelined it to the mint chip and “I am ready to order.”
This is well and good, but what if you are not a mint chip person anymore? Perhaps there are other flavors that you would find more pleasing. Tastes change. Flavors change. People change.
If this type of behavior were limited to dessert then maybe we could chalk it up to “no harm, no foul.” Alas, that is not the case.
It occurs as often in the professional arena. However, when it comes to your career, it goes something like, “I am not a risk taker. As a result, working in a law firm where I receive a steady salary and have a relatively clear career trajectory is where I belong. I would never make it as a solo practitioner responsible for bringing in business.”
This may have been true when you were just starting out, but maybe something has shifted during the ten years you have been practicing law. Maybe you have developed a high risk tolerance. Maybe you have developed into a gifted rainmaker.
When you started down this path, you wanted to make partner – fair enough. But does that still have meaning for you? Is it still what you want? Is it worth it? Sure, your father is a litigator, and your father’s parents were litigators, and your grandparents’ grandparents were litigators and you grew up thinking you’d be a litigator too. For obvious reasons you gave litigation a shot, but you don’t have to do it forever. You can ask yourself, “Do I still like it?” You can decide not to walk up those courthouse steps and shift to M&A instead.
The essential point is that it makes sense to check in with yourself every so often. Confirm that the options you are exploring, the feedback you are seeking, and the strategies you are pursuing are in line with the “January 2013 You” and not just your former self.
It is okay to have your tastes, hopes, desires, fears, and the understanding of yourself change. Changing course, modifying your position, expanding your dream beats the continuity and consistency that results from clinging to the past and to an outdated image of yourself. The life that you think you should be living will never be as rewarding, satisfying or lucrative as the one you actually want. Give yourself permission to be the person you are today.