My friend Pam Slim, who has been blogging about meaningful careers since 2005, has a fantastic new book out called Body of Work. The book helps every reader find the thread that ties their unique story together and has been praised by everyone from Seth Godin to Nancy Duarte.
I recommend reading the whole book, of course, but I especially enjoyed the section on identifying one's roots. Your roots are the purpose, beliefs, and convictions that provide the foundation for your body of work. They keep you strong and stable when you face challenges in your career and remind you why it's important to keep moving through adversity. Here are five questions Pam suggests you ask to harness the power of your own roots.
1. What do you value?
Your values describe what is most important to you. They guide you to make decisions and set boundaries around what you will accept in your life and career. When you know your values, you can answer questions like, "should I take this job?" and "should I partner with this person?" Examples of values are critical thinking and honesty.
2. What do you believe?
Your beliefs are unique to you and form the foundation for how you interpret and act in the world. They are shaped by your childhood, your life experiences, your education, and your philosophical or spiritual orientation. A simple way to understand beliefs is to answer the question: "what do you know to be true?" An example of a belief is that everyone has the capability to do great things.
3. Why do you believe it?
Which experiences have shaped your values and beliefs? What has made you certain in your values and beliefs? Using the example above, you beliefe that everyone has the capability to do great things because you watched your father, who came to this country as an immigrant, build a successful business with next to no money.
4. Whom do you care deeply about serving?
Of all the people who you could impact during your time on earth, whom do you want to work with? Which type of person "gets you" and really needs what you have to offer? An example is that you are a trainer and you love to work with highly technical people. You appreciate their intelligence, curiosity, and critical perspective. You notice that when you teach them, you are pushed to deliver the highest quality courses.
5. Which problems do you want to solve?
Which challenges get you really fired up? What impact do you want to have in the world? What specific knowledge do you have that can make a difference? An example is that you are passionate about childhood nutrition. You notice that parents are so busy that they don't have time to plan and cook healthy meals and you feel you can help solve this problem.
Pam says not to sweat it if you can't answer all of these questions right away. Simply plant them in your head and pay attention to the answers as they come to you. A little insight goes a long way!