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Blogger Norm Wright was profoundly affected by the opening lines of William Irvine’s book A Guide to the Good Life: What do you want out of life? You might answer this question by saying that you want a caring spouse, a good job, and a nice home, but these are really just some of the things you want in life. In asking what you want out of life, I am asking the question in its broadest sense. I am asking not for the goals you form as you go about your daily activities but for your grand goal in living. In other words, of the things in life you might pursue, which is the thing you believe to be most valuable?”

The notion of a grand goal in living cut to his core. Mr. Wright didn’t have an answer . But the book told him it mattered. It was the first component of a philosophy of life. And without one, he would mislive, a scary word and notion.

Do you have a grand goal of life?

It sounds awfully ambitious, something only heroic, larger-than-life people may have. It also sounds dangerous, setting ourselves up to fail. But hard questions are worth grappling with.

Career development consultant Helen Tupper takes a more mundane approach by suggesting that, to identify your next career move, you shouldn’t bother with anything as weighty as a career plan but just understand better what drives you and then use that to sketch out some possibilities.

She says that many of us struggle with the direction in which we want our careers to go over the long term and also with what should be the next role we take on. “The uncertainty about what we really want to do leads to one of three outcomes. One: You stay in your current role and after a period of time, stagnate and feel demotivated. Two: You hop around from role to role, in the hope of finding the answer. Or three: You progress to the most obvious role or the easiest next move. Sometimes, this can pay off, but more often than not the frustration remains and the desire to get to the bottom of what you really want is left unsatisfied,” she write in Marketing Week.

But planning your career too rigidly can also be a mistake as organizations change so rapidly. She suggests you focus on three time frames:

  • The past: Think of your career to date, and what patterns emerge. For her, it’s that many of her low points have occurred when she has not had enough freedom in her role or been too isolated and internally focused.
  • Now: Take a look at your schedule for a recent four-week period and see what activities generated energy for you and what drained energy.
  • The future: Think about the roles that really excite you, particularly future roles that you might not feel quite ready for. Look at LinkedIn and job ads to see what thrills you. “Get to a short list of five roles and then review the specific elements of each role to identify what it is within them that makes you feel so positive. From this activity, you should aim to write down a maximum of 10 role elements that generate the most interest and excitement for you,” she writes.

So not a grand goal for living, but maybe some helpful hints for the near future at least while you ponder that bigger issue.

Quick Hits

  • Freelance writer Caroline Liu suggests creating an optional calendar that is integrated with your regular calendar, listing events that you feel you ought to take part in but would be jettisoned if you’re feeling stressed. When life gets too hectic, with one click on the optional calendar setting, those events will disappear and you face only the must-dos.
  • If you have a complex diagram or image you need to convey in PowerPoint, presentations expert Dave Paradi cautions not to display the entire visual and wave a laser pointer around while explaining the different components since that will confuse the audience. Instead, start with a higher level visual to give context. Then move to a series of slides to explain the details of each of the high level steps or sections.
  • While challenging the status quo in your organization seems risky, new research suggests that employees who raised a concern or offered an opinion differing from a superior were ascribed higher social status by co-workers.
  • Sales consultant Colleen Francis says too many sellers don’t bother to ask customers how they are using the thing they sold to them.
  • Firefox browser has a better screenshot capability for capturing web pages or parts of them than your computer’s built-in screenshot tool, notes tech writer Jared Newman. Just right click on a page, select “Take a screenshot,” and then you can pick between capturing the entire page, just the visible portion, or a custom area.

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