career goals

Are Your Climbing The Right Mountain?

It's a sad story... for 27 years, Dan climbed The Mountain of Power. Three months after summiting—that is, becoming CEO—he had a heart attack and died. His wife said at his funeral, "Ironically, Dan was happiest when he stepped away from his quest and spent time with his children and friends. He was most miserable the closer he came to power. But he could never shake the habit of seeking power."

Dan was climbing the wrong mountain. He was pursuing his purpose—his ikigai, or reason for being—in an ineffective manner.

To respect confidences, all the names and specific examples in this story are fictional, but they are based on the type of misguided careers that happen with heartbreaking frequency.

Our intention today is pretty simple: to provide you with a touchstone you can use to test your own goals and actions. This is a path to your ikigai.

At heart, Sarah is an artist. She spent ten years climbing the Mountain of Perfection, trying to master the medium of fluid painting. During this period, Sarah was her own toughest critic, never satisfied with her work and always reluctant to A.) offer it for sale, or B.) charge high enough prices to support even her minimal needs.

Over time, she began to support and encourage other artists. When she finally worked up the courage to sell her works at summer art fairs, she always brought a few pieces created by her friends. It was far easier for her to promote and sell these other works, which she did so effectively that friends gave her more and more artworks to display.

Three years ago, Sarah opened an art gallery, then a second location. She has never been happier or more gratified. Now she is climbing the Mountain of Artistic Fellowship, and she paints for her own personal pleasure.

It is so easy to accidentally climb the wrong mountain. Many of us never pause long enough to consider what matters most to us, or to think about the implications of our decisions. "My father was an attorney," a newly-minted lawyer might confess. "I have a mind like his. It never occurred to me that the practice of law could leave me feeling empty and alone, as though I was living someone else's life."

Here's the thing about climbing the wrong mountain: for years and years, it can feel like you are being so productive and effective. You reach milestones that required years of grit and growth to achieve. You get promoted. You make more money. Friends and neighbors are impressed. Hell, you might even be impressed.

But when you get to the top—and when you start to gaze at another peak with a sense of longing—you are further than ever from your true path.

External metrics won't reveal whether you should be climbing the Mountain of Wealth versus the Mountain of Compassion. To find the answer, you must look inside yourself.

Can we give you a simple five-step system for doing this? Nope.

No, our gift to you today is far simpler... and more effective. It is the thought that you can decide which mountain to climb over the course of your career and life. It is the realization that you have far more latitude to make such a decision than you may realize. You are not stuck in the middle between financial and family obligations. You are not too late in your career to make a change. You are not forced to be "practical" or "realistic" instead of focused on what your heart and soul and brain is telling you.

To decide which mountain to climb, join our Who Am I program.