I’m not very good at journaling. It’s one of those things I really like the idea of, but can never seem to keep up with. I’ve probably started 20 journals in my life that each have between four and ten entries. At this point, I think it’s fair to say that I have failed at journaling. However, there was one time where one of those rare entries came back to help me and caused me to make an important change.
A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away), I took a job I was very excited about! Now, I’m an easily excitable person, so it’s not too surprising to find me enthusiastic about a new opportunity, but I was really excited about this one! I was so exhilarated, in fact, that I decided to begin a new journal. (You already know how that ended!) The day I accepted the job, I made an entry in the journal expressing my excitement and, more importantly, expressing why I was so excited. As I finished the entry, I realized that what’d I’d written down was essentially a list of the values of the place I was going to work. The things that they valued were what excited me and what led me to take the job. After a few more entries, the journal was put in my desk drawer where it sat for many years until it was nearly forgotten.
Fast forward a few years. I had some fantastic experiences in my new job. I learned a lot and grew a ton. Then, as things tend to do, they got a little bit less fantastic. And then less. Some of that was the end of the honeymoon phase where the reality that nothing is perfect sets in. Some of it was that things were changing. At the time, I was just living my life and doing my job and wasn’t really taking the time to critically evaluate my situation. What I did know was that I was suddenly living with an unsettled feeling all the time. My situation wasn’t horrible or anything like that… things just didn’t feel right and I couldn’t totally put my finger on why. This went on for a while until, one day, I opened my drawer and found my old journal.
As I read through the entire journal (reading the four entries took about 7 minutes), I was confronted with my own, hand-written list of values that had brought me (very excitedly) to the job I’d now been in for several years. This led to a huge realization: for better or for worse, the organization I was working for had changed and literally none of the specific values that attracted me to this job applied anymore. This was the source of the unsettled feeling I was living with.
While I’ve given up on journaling, I have started to make lists! When I get involved with something new, I list out the values that are drawing me to that thing and I make sure to check in with the list occasionally to see if everything still lines up. It’s also challenged me as a leader of my own projects. I always make sure to take the time to spell out the values of my endeavors and check in regularly to make sure that I’m holding true to them.
What about you? Maybe you didn’t make a written list. It’s not too late! Think back to what it was that drew you to the work you’re doing now. Are those values still in place? If they aren’t, why aren’t they? How do you feel about that? If the things that once got you excited no longer apply and you’re feeling unsettled, it might be #Time2MoveOn!