Willpower, or the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals, starts off full in the mornings and gradually declines over the course of the day.
This is precisely why you never break your diet at 8am. Diets are always destroyed at 10pm when that bowl of ice cream or, in my world, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, beckons.
This is also why you should never plan meetings for the morning. Instead, do the work that really matters right away. Block your morning hours for creative work that requires critical thought and focus.
Put your meetings in the afternoon when a little sociality might boost your energy as your willpower begins to wane.
Minimize distractions by shutting down your email and setting specific times to take action on administrative (aka “soul-sucking”) tasks.
And, if your willpower is low but the task before you requires maximum focus and engagement, tap your strengths, which are natural catalysts for energy. Do something that releases your flow state and tap those energy stores to accomplish the tasks.
Willpower and energy are powerful forces for getting stuff done. Take advantage of them during the day to do your best work.
Need help understanding your strengths? Check out my Coaching Page (www.dustinpeterson.me/coaching) and let’s talk.
I met a woman the other day who remarked, “I love to motivate people through speaking, I just don’t have expertise in any area in particular. I wish I knew what ‘my thing’ was…”
Intrigued by that comment, I listened over the next 30 minutes as she told me about her career journey:
Look at all of the explicit and implicit lessons and expertise that could be mined from someone who “has no expertise.” It’s amazing, really.
So, what’s your expertise? Hint: it’s buried in your life story.
“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain
I can’t do anything for that first one. That one is up to your parents.
But I’m all about the second one: do you know why you exist? What were you born to do? What’s your purpose for existence and how do you maximize your potential to fulfill it?
Seven years ago I knew I had a purpose, but didn’t know HOW to figure it out. This is where most career advice falls short. We all know we should figure out our why and maximize our potential, but how the heck do you do it?
Here’s the 3-step process I followed:
1. Get clear about what you do best, those things that make you different and unique from everyone else around you. These are your superpowers, and they’ve likely either been dormant for years or you’ve been using them without realizing it. How do you get clear about them? Track your energy. What things during the week make you feel energized? Make a list. Now look at it. Ever wonder why those things make you feel energized? You guessed it. Because they are natural talents.
2. Figure out your passion. Your strengths — or superpowers — are WHAT you do best. But superheroes’ superpowers gain real power when they are aimed at a specific purpose, usually vanquishing evil. Perhaps that’s not your purpose, but what is? Here’s a hint: it often emerges from your life experiences. I didn’t know my purpose until I worked a misaligned job and saw the impact on my family. I then committed to fighting inauthenticity, incongruence, and misaligned work. Said more positively, I exist to help people maximize their potential. Your purpose should fit neatly into 5-10 words or less. It’s a rallying cry. And it should motivate you like crazy.
3. Identify how to use your strengths to accomplish your purpose. You really have three choices here: 1. Align with an organization that does your strengths and purpose already. 2. Create an organization that does your strengths and purpose. 3. Join an organization whose outcome isn’t your purpose, but who needs your purpose to accomplish their outcome. Let me unpack each.
Are there other ways to use your purpose and strengths? Absolutely. Try volunteering, parenting in a different way, joining a local organization that is purpose-aligned, practice using what you do best in your church, read about your purpose, attend workshops that train you on your talents, or write about what you know to be true and share it with the world.
If there are two important days, and one of them has already happened (or you wouldn’t be reading this), don’t let the second slip by. Get after it and figure it out!
And, if you need help, this is what I do. I take on about 6 people a month for 3-5 sessions and help them get radically clear about who they are and where they’re headed. Check out www.dustinpeterson.me/coaching for more info.
Is it responsible to tell people to do something they love instead of guiding them toward something that actually pays?
I can’t quantify how much I dislike this question, but it’s a lot.
It often comes up in reference to first generation college students, low- or middle-income individuals, or people strapped with debt. I don’t fault you for asking it, but it’s heavy laden with assumptions, all of which drive me nuts.
Let me unpack why:
1. Are doing what you love and getting paid to do it mutually exclusive? Is there a chance these can coexist? The answer is yes, they can coexist. Let me remind you of the swim whisperer making six figures a year or the pig farmer in Nevada who received a $70 million buyout offer. Need more? Read Po Bronson’s “What Should I Do With My Life?” It’s got 200 stories of people getting paid to do what they love, and it’s not mainstream stuff like consulting, law, or medicine. Oh, and I do what I love every day and get paid to do it, so I can be a proof point as well.
2. It presumes that the “what” in “loving what you do” is a job. Jobs don’t bring us satisfaction. Jobs are merely the places where we choose to deploy who we are: our values, our strengths, and our ideal environments. One could transfer who they are to any number of jobs and reap satisfaction. I could get energy doing what I do best in education, law, the corporate world, or training my son’s basketball team on how to box out for a rebound (just happened last night). We’ve got to teach people that “doing what you love” isn’t a job, it’s bringing who you are and what you do best to the job you acquire. And what you do best isn’t writing a memo, playing basketball or teaching a class. Those are manifestations of talents, not talents themselves. What you really do best might be articulating thoughts in a coherent manner, working with a team to achieve an immediate outcome under pressure, or empathizing with an audience real-time to facilitate dialogue around a topic. Is it responsible to teach people to do what they love? YES. It’s the best way to love what you are doing for work.
3. Is it responsible to tell people not to do something they love but just to find a job out of duty? This is terrifying. As Dave Ramsey often comments, I don’t want a doctor who only became a doctor because his dad was one, or a pastor who’s friend thought he would be good at that, or a dentist who really loves something else but does this job out of a sense of duty. Imagine the impact on the products and services we consume if every service provider was doing their work out of obligation instead of passion! Oh wait, that’s most service providers (see McDonald’s).
4. Oh, and by the way, creativity, resourcefulness and efficiency are all tied to desire and passion. When you love what you do, you take risks, try harder, and…this is key…PERSIST. You get where you want to go more quickly and efficiently. And your satisfaction is higher. That’s right,persistence through difficulty is tied to desire and passion. Again, is it responsible to teach anything other than “do something you love?” Not if we want people to persist, whether that’s persisting through college or persisting through debt.
5. What is the impact of driving people toward work they don’t love but that pays well? Well, let me ask you this: have you ever lived with someone who hates their job? I have. Me. And the emotional impact on my wife and kids wasn’t worth it. If we encourage getting a job without regard to passion we risk setting people up to expend all of their energy in a job that drains them only to come home to a family that gets the leftovers. There’s a better way, and it starts with encouraging people at a younger age to focus on what they do well and do more of it.
Is it responsible to tell people to do something they love instead of guiding them toward something that actually pays? Yes. Yes it is.
In fact, in my opinion, anything else is irresponsible.
This post is already long, which I prefer not to do, but I need to say something more on the topic for those who decide to stick around.
I think this question is an excuse to not have to do the hard work and take the risks to figure out what you love to do and do it. Wouldn’t it be easier to accept your fate at a decent paying job you hate than to actually have to do some reflection, take some risks, and potentially fail, but at least fail gloriously in pursuit of something you love?!
“But I have a family and can’t afford to fail.” False. Because you have a family you can’t afford to continue to toil away in something you hate, draining your energy throughout the day and bringing home what’s left of you for your family.
This question is the easy way out. You want to hear, “Yes, it is irresponsible. Just go do something you don’t like but get paid well to do.” You’re never going to hear that from me, because it doesn’t have to be that way.
Don’t take the easy way out. Take the hard way. It’s harder. And more rewarding.
And for career professionals — those people whose job it is to help others figure out their career — I think this question is a subtle and subconscious attempt to absolve ourselves of the responsibility to help people figure out their best-fit career and go and do it. “What if I help them figure it out but don’t have the contacts or network or skills to help them land there? What would that say about the service we provide?” That’s your job. And mine. And if we can’t do it, then why do we do this work?
No more excuses.
Hi! I'm Dustin.
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