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Unanticipated Opportunities from Career Choices We Make

By Elaine Cercado

New year signifies goals, resolutions, possibilities, options, choices and changes. I recall a friend’s post of a quote on the last day of December that captures this well:

Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.

When we make choices and changes in our careers and lives, we naturally hope that the outcomes will turn out as planned. Yet life has its mysterious flow and ebb. Unintended consequences happen.

Christian Christensen, author of How will you measure your life? views these as unanticipated opportunities, which he explains this way:

In our lives and in our careers, we are constantly navigating a path by deciding between our deliberate strategies and the unanticipated alternatives that emerge. Each approach is vying for our minds and our hearts, making its best case to become our actual strategy. Neither is inherently better or worse; rather which you should choose depends on where you are in the journey… What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests and priorities begin to pay off.

Decision-making is both science and art. With decision-making comes risk-taking. In Simon Sinek’s video, he explains that decision-making comes down to the filters we use in life, which may change as we journey through life’s different stages. Bottom-line is to make the best of our life choices, whatever the outcomes might be, to live fully.

When I took my first leadership overseas-based assignment, I was a young mother and wife. I never imagined work-life balancing to be so difficult. The physical, emotional and mental demands stressed me. This was the unintended consequence of what I thought was a delightfully rewarding career development.

To thrive, all my senses opened up to adaptability and prioritization. Without formal training, I began to institute changes, manage a complex business and lead a diverse team. I learned to deal with my emotions when the outcomes didn’t play out as planned. I appreciated failures as much as successes. There’s truly no substitute to experience.

Career disruptions can become joyful discoveries and lead to unanticipated opportunities. We get to connect the dots at some point and gain wisdom from the disruptions. As Steve Jobs has famously said:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something…If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.

In today’s world, it is not surprising to shift careers quickly, or to do several things at the same time. A person could be simultaneously working as an employee, participating in a small business, earning from passive incomes and cultivating income-generating passions and hobbies.

I come from a generation where it was common to remain loyal to one company for 16 years. While I got promoted to manage different business units and teams, I generally devoted my energy to one entity. Then I made a crossroad choice to embark on another field, fueled by my passion, strengths and experiences. With this change, I re-discovered purpose, simple joys, balance, meaningful contribution and success. The dots connect!

2017 is another year of possibilities and options, of choices and changes, of successes and failures. Indeed, everyone has another 365-page book to write. Let’s make every page count!

Note: This article is published in LinkedIn.