January 2017

Labyrinths, Career Development and Making The Right Decisions

January always seems to bring with it a feeling of fresh expectation.

There’s an intangible buzz which invites us to try something new, to fix what is broken and to forge new paths. This invisible force encourages us to look within and weigh up where we are versus where we want to be.

This time of contemplative soul-searching aligns beautifully with our career development – a fact which was brought into sharp relief for me in an unexpected way in December.

We decided with friends to head south on an epic 3,567 km road trip, exploring the hidden treasures South Africa has to offer.

It was extraordinary. Our country is a place of rich diversity, exquisite beauty, harsh countryside and weird weather! We headed into Nieu-Betheseda at 43°C and Knsyna at 19°C, Gariep Dam with hot and clear blue skies and Hogsback with rain, cold and heavy mist!

It was mystical Hogsback in the Eastern Cape that sparked the idea for this blog. The atmosphere was enhanced by thick, swirling mist that blanketed us as we explored the cliff edge next to our accommodation. We were advised not to explore too far … unless we wanted to bungee without a cord!

But one activity that was ‘safe’ enough to try was the Labyrinth on the Edgepersonal development labyrinth

Labyrinths have a fascinating history, steeped in tradition and Spiritism. Prehistoric labyrinths were believed to have served as traps for malevolent spirits or as paths for ritual dances. They have also symbolised a path to God or merely been used as a means to achieve a contemplative state. As you walk the many sharp turns and curved strips, it’s easy to lose yourself in the walk, to forget about the world just a few metres away.

But what do labyrinths have to do with anything?

As we walked the labyrinth, contemplatively as instructed, it became clear to me that this was a metaphor for life. In fact, the more I walked, the more the path resembled a career path in my mind.

It seems to head in a particular direction and then unexpectedly takes a sharp turn. Sometimes it seems to lead away from where we thought we were headed. Sometimes it seems to be going nowhere. But if you keep going, knowing that life offers (punishes?) us with many unexpected twists and turns, our job is to keep going, to keep following your predefined path until one day, there you are. In the middle. At your destination.

Choose the right labyrinth

A labyrinth serves as a metaphor for jobs, career choices, companies and industries from which we find it difficult to extricate ourselves.

As in life and in your career, you need to be on the right path … for you. There are tens of thousands of labyrinths scattered throughout the world and all of them have a centre. However, so many people spend their whole lives walking the labyrinth and giving up before reaching their own centre that best harnesses their most important talents.

Your career is an individual and personal choice.

Your career development should take into consideration your personal strengths, your background, your interests, your values, skills and needs.

Consider your current position. Are in you a job, simply paying the bills? If so, then you’re in the wrong ‘labyrinth’. And no matter how hard you work in your current job, you’ll never get to the right ‘centre’ for you.

Start walking

It was Lao-Tzu who said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Once you have identified the centre of your labyrinth (the purpose of your career), you need to enter your labyrinth and start walking. Hovering around the edges of your career, perhaps taking jobs because they pay well and not because they draw your passion or serve your end goal, will stall your trip to the centre, the achievement of your career goals.

Certainly, choosing a goal and reaching for it can be frightening. The fear of failure lurks at every corner, and chances are, it’ll be tough going if it’s worthwhile.

But as Wayne Gretzky told us, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Keep walking

Some think of labyrinths as a symbolic pilgrimage. Its twists and turns may confuse the unwary, taking them off guard and obscuring their destination. The sheer length of the journey may cause some to tire out.

Your career may take some unexpected twists. Perhaps you were passed over for that promotion, or your manager is pushing you into a role that diverges from your path. Maybe the training that you worked so hard to complete is taking longer to bear fruit than you expected. The hours that you put into your career development may be physically or emotionally draining.

There are many issues that can derail your career, but if you have a firm understanding of where you are headed – and why – then you can put your head down and keep on walking.

As we left the Hogsback mountains behind us, the metaphor of the labyrinth as a career path made me smile: how appropriate it was as we headed north to Queenstown and later Clarens.

It’s a new year, anothchoose your careerer opportunity for a fresh look at where we are and where we want to be.

Choose your labyrinth wisely.

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