Teenage girl looking at her own reflection in windowNo matter the source, most places you turn to for career advice point you in the same direction for achieving career success: set realistic short- and long-term goals; make an actionable plan to reach them; and continually work to develop your skill set and improve areas of weakness. And while this advice is solid and forward thinking, a new type of approach may reveal a lack of comprehensiveness in this classic scheme. For some, career advancement has become more about figuring out who you are right now and acting to create the best outcome for the moment instead of placing your goals in the future.

The central tenet of this new development philosophy is self-awareness rather than rote career planning. That is, it’s about who you want to be rather than what you need to do to reach your career goals. The traditional philosophy tells us that as long as we follow the rules, gain skills, and meet expectations, that we will progress in our careers and become successful. But the new philosophy, while recognizing the importance of goals, also says that living in the future can keep us from feeling validated in the now and developing a sense of negativity towards ourselves and our careers.

Instead, the self-awareness approach has us determining our prime values and using them as the foundation and guide for everything we decide. The idea is that, if you make decisions focused on the moment, and base them in your preferred virtues, you will not only more clearly see your progress over time but also feel more satisfaction in the journey. Since you are already on “your path,” you aren’t stuck feeling lost and discouraged trying to find it.

The hardest part of such an approach is first determining what those values are that you want to use to propel you forward. Asking yourself, “What matters to me most?” is never straightforward and requires substantial time and trial-and-error. But in the end, what you want your life to stand for and the values you want reflected in all of your decisions become clearer.

But even after you’ve identified those values, the process of integrating them into your day-to-day life is gradual and ongoing. The art of the new career-development philosophy is in learning to remember your values in the moment instead of after the fact. Once you become self-aware enough to realize when you are acting against your values, the process of remembering becomes easier over time.

The self-awareness approach is all about over-throwing traditional advice. However, it still relies on the immortal truth that no one is going to do your work for you. You have to be your own source of motivation and put forth the time and effort to see your professional development through. You have to make the time you need in order to pursue those things most important to you. And once you get started, making progress becomes addictive and serves as its own source for motivation.


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