With a fresh batch of New Year’s resolutions on the way, I thought I would share a personal observation of mine developed over my half century plus stomping around this part of the galaxy about how I’ve come to view the way people approach life. Here at IDEAS, we’ve worked with several clients over the years whose expertise has fallen within the realm of ascertaining talent and making “right fit” hiring decisions. One of these experts taught others how to determine whether a person has an internal or external locus of control; meaning, does this person believe they have the power to affect change within themselves or do they believe external factors and forces are the dominant controlling factor of their lives. A good friend of mine who is in leadership for a top talent placement company distills the delineation of this trait more bluntly as “do things happen to you or do you make things happen?”
While I understand the premise for this assessment of how a person engages the world around them and their situational circumstances, my own experiences and observations have led me to create a slightly different set of categorizations for how I have observed the way people around me approach life. We did the Myers Briggs type indicator test at IDEAS once and I’m sure there are many more detailed, explicit and useful ways to better understand people than what I’ve come up with below. In no way am I dismissing the talent experts or established techniques mentioned above, just sharing what I’ve found to be true in my little pocket of reality in the hopes that it might be useful to others in this time of personal reflection and making resolutions for behavioral change at the onset of the New Year.
So, here goes:
Life is a Riddle
I have several good friends plus a sibling who consistently approach life as a puzzle; as something to solve. Regardless of whether they feel in control or not of the situation, their proclivity is to assess it, formulate a plan of action, and methodically problem-solve that situation until they obtain a suitable or acceptable outcome. It does not matter if the issue at hand is a people/relationship problem or something more tangible. The path to resolution always rests in their own hands – if they can just maintain their wits about them and find the appropriate answer. Some of them are employed in an engineering or science-based career, but not all. This is not a perspective exclusive to STEM thinkers. One of my good friends is an artist and shares this similar approach to life as a continual challenge to be conquered (or at least comprehended). They relish the moments of “eureka” that they encounter in life.
Life is a Ride
This is where I live (quite happily) along with some of my neighbors and a few colleagues. We have not given up on having control of our own circumstances or situation, it’s just that I (we) are more comfortable going along with the flow and taking/dealing with whatever life throws at us in stride. We embrace the roller-coaster ups and downs and fluidity of change as a comforting constant and do our best to make the most of it. I once had a girlfriend who lived so counter to this approach that had I been aware of these observations at that nascent age it could have saved me a good two years or so of angst. There is a vibrancy and thrill I get from being on this “ride” and looking forward to what’s around the next curve/bend down the tracks. We revel in the moments of “c’est la vie” that we encounter in life.
Life is a Recipe
My spouse is Exhibit A here, not only in how she likes to cook (literally following the instructions down to the nanometer – how boring!) but in how she has achieved great success in her career and our marriage. I’ve also got several old school chums who’ve achieved a fair amount of success following a similar approach. They execute with diligence and persistence. It does not matter if it’s a prescribed career path, instructions from their doctor, or steps from an article they just read. Their comfort zone rests in the completion of whatever task, goal, responsibility, or assignment lies immediately in front of them. This is not to say they are myopic, just highly focused on accomplishing what needs to be done in order to move on to whatever’s next. They rejoice in the moments of “done … next” that they encounter in life.
I share these personal observations about how people close to me approach life not to champion one approach over the other, but as a possible means for how you might look at the way you could be approaching your life and either fully embracing it or perhaps choosing to accept an alternate approach. Perhaps there are other approaches beyond these three that I am not aware of or have yet to encounter/recognize. Would be great if you could share any additional ones you’ve observed (especially if they happen to start with the letter “r”) to assist my current Walter Mitty vision of compiling these approaches into an upcoming book. I guess that will be my New Year’s resolution for 2018. I hope yours will be more successful.