At 3:00 am yesterday morning, I woke up with a pain in my left leg. I think my hamstrings were so tight they cramped. It took a few minutes of trying to walk around and stretch before I could get it to relax enough to let me go back to sleep. Six hours later it still hurt. It’s taking quite a bit of stretching to get it back to normal.
It amazes me how closely taking care of the physical parallels the professional and how dependent one is on the other. I’ll be the first to admit that taking care of my physical self has always been secondary. Now that I’ve neglected my health enough, I’m feeling the effects: less energy; poorer concentration; and muscle cramps.
When we fail to stretch ourselves professionally, we get similar results. It doesn’t lead to muscle cramps, but it often leads to other types of “cramping”. We feel less energy for our work, sometimes even a strong aversion to it. Some feel boredom and begin developing a sense of apathy. I believe too much of this can lead to health problems as well (mental and physical.)
I see three things that need to be done to help avoid this problem:
- Identify your goals. If you have no idea what you want to accomplish, you don’t know where to go. It’s like being in a new city without a destination. Sometimes it is good to wander, but not all the time. Make sure your goals are higher than where you are now. If my goal is to take out the trash — I’m setting the bar rather low. Instead of choosing goals that you know you can accomplish, choose ones that require some work. Just don’t set the goals unrealistically high. Here are some tips for goal setting.
- Create rough plans for accomplishing your goals. This doesn’t mean putting together a full project plan, just a rough outline that helps you understand how to get there and how to measure if you are successful. For example, if you want to move into management, you might want to start reading up on managing or attend a class. Maybe schedule an informational interview with a manager you respect to get a better perspective. The key here is to identify actions you can take to move towards your goals. You’re in the city with a destination, make yourself a map. Paradise Valley Community College has a Interactive Quick Goal Plan tool you might find helpful.
- Take action! You’ve chosen what you want to do, identified a rough plan for accomplishing it, now get started!
And remember the proverb:
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Lao-tzu (604 BC – 531 BC), The Way of Lao-tzu [source The Quotations Page]