Last month, I launched a new quiz designed to help professionals understand more deeply their dominant action style – the preferred way in which they take action towards a goal, and move forward to accomplish something that matters to them. The quiz is designed to shed important light on what motivates people to go from Point A to Point B, and to understand the deep values, preferences, beliefs and approaches they are currently honoring in their life and work.
I also wanted to help people evaluate if the way they are behaving in life and work today actually aligns with what their heart and soul wants most – if, in fact, they are acting in alignment with who they really are and want to be. This assessment emerged from years of observing and researching how my clients, course members, students and workshop attendees talked about the “why” behind the many actions they’d taken to create the career and life they’ve built.
The six key action styles that emerged from my research are:
Here’s more about these styles and what they mean in your life.
Only after I developed the quiz, then took it myself, did I realize something I hadn’t seen before. I thought about my own career, and saw that, at my unhappiest, I had been a driven “Striver.” All I did, every day and every hour, was “strive.” And at my most joyful, passionate and fulfilled (the last 15 years), I allowed myself to follow my true nature — to be a Seeker and an Advocator.
Over 2,100 people have now taken the quiz, and I’m hearing such fascinating feedback. All sorts of comments like “Yes! I’m the Advocator and now I know why I’m so miserable in this meaningless corporate job!” Or “Wow, I’m a Pacer but I’m getting really tired of plodding along so slowly. I’m ready to run!”
But one comment really surprised me, and I’m now hearing some version of it over and over again, every week. In fact, I just heard this again today.
It goes something like this:
“Kathy, I’m a Striver, and that really fits me. I spend every minute in my job striving so hard — to fit in, to do a good job, to accomplish something, to be recognized and valued. But really, in my heart, I’m exhausted and drained. I’m done. I think what I really want to be is a Seeker. What do I do about that?”
I resonate very deeply with this problem, because it epitomizes exactly what I went through in my 18-year corporate career in marketing. I was a Striver through and through. I worked really hard, toiled, slaved, pursued, and persevered, exhausted myself to the bone, and even got very sick with a chronic infection of the trachea for four years. The ultimate goal? To do good (or more precisely, to feel good enough), and to be recognized, to make a difference, to contribute well. But in the end, this driving need to strive took me on a long detour away from myself — who I am at my core, and what my authentic self really wanted. I had been striving my whole life and it was very familiar to me. But in reality, it wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. And it was the very thing I needed to stop doing to truly live. What I needed instead, was to Seek. And I finally created a pathway to become the Seeker.
How can you evaluate if your Striving mode is serving you, or actually holding you back from the life and career you really want?
You know you’re ready to let go of the intensive Striver focus and begin honoring another, more authentic mode when:
1. You’re exhausted and drained every day trying to make what you have work for you, but it simply isn’t.
2. You realize suddenly that your boundaries need a lot of work. You see that you need to brave up to speak up and stand up for yourself and say “NO!” to what isn’t tolerable any more.
3. You’ve subconsciously bought into ideas from society and culture that you’re blindly following, but when you stop and really examine them, you see that they don’t fit you, deep down.
4. You’ve been craving external validation all your life (praise from parents, family, and friends, more money, raises, promotions, power, titles), but you’re now realizing that all this external validation isn’t feeding you internally.
5. You’ve become someone whom you’re not really proud of or excited about anymore.
6. You’re green with envy at people around you who have a more adventurous, fluid, and rich life.
7. Finally, all of your striving efforts have left you hungry, angry, and worn out, and you know you want a different kind of life.
If this speaks to you, there’s one answer and that’s to let the Seeker in you come out and play. Let yourself expand, evolve, change, flow, and become what you want to, not what the Striver drove you to become.
Here are six steps you can take this month to let the Seeker do a bit of steering for the next chapter of your life:
1. Let yourself brainstorm, explore and contemplate what you could be doing for a living that would make you feel more helpful, vital, contributive, passionate, and alive, and make good money doing it. Then take a few steps to explore these new directions more thoroughly.
2. Ask yourself: What new ways can I be of service in the world that would allow me to have fun using my talents in service of others?
3. Ask yourself: What beliefs have I hung onto for dear life about money, work, power, prestige, esteem, stability, etc. that have kept me locked in this direction that I no longer want?
4. Identify what would make you the happiest to explore, learn or tackle – a new skill, a wild adventure, a new relationship, a new city, international travel, a new home, etc. Then do something about it.
5. Meet in person or on Skype with the three people you respect most in the world. Ask them for help. Ask them to tell you what they see in you, in terms of your highest potential for doing more enlivening work or making a contribution that would bring meaning and purpose — and seeking — to your life.
6. Finally, do something brave! Get out of your narrow comfort zone. (Here’s why that’s essential to your happiness and success.) Seek excitement outside of your limited confines. Do something bold. Remind yourself what you’re capable of.
Not every Striver on the planet wants to be something else. Some Strivers like how they’re living and working, and find joy in their Striving. But I have to say that virtually every Striver who comes to me for help has shared that their version of Striving has become like a prison – they’re chained to a concrete, immovable wall with links of their own making, and they’re finally ready to break free with a sledge hammer. They’re ready to let another dimension (or voice) inside themselves out so they can finally lead a different, more joyful and meaningful kind of life. And they realize they can’t lead a company, a team or a vision if they can’t lead their own fulfilling life.