Why Your Career Plan Needs Vegetables

If you’re not paying attention, you have no control.

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Do you have a plan for your career? Does it include eating plenty of vegetables? A regular date night with your spouse or partner? How about time spent just for you? Meditation?

Huh? “What the heck are you talking about, Curt? Vegetables in my career plan?” Yup. Vegetables.

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Your life is an energy ecosystem. For the last nine years, the focus of my work has been helping people create careers that energize and inspire them. During that time, one thing I’ve consistently noticed is that, while the main focus of the work is on career, we inevitably take momentary detours into other aspects of their lives.

Why? Because work doesn’t happen in a silo disconnected from everything else in your life. If your question is, “How do I play the office politics to get ahead?” or, “How do I ace that interview?” you may be able to get away with an isolated focus (though even those situations can be affected by how you feel in your life in general). But if, like my clients, your question is, “How do I create a career that lets me feel as energized as possible?” you have to take the rest of your life into account as well.

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Think of your life as an energy ecosystem where the various facets are all intertwined. What happens in one area affects the others, for better or worse. If a big chunk of your diet is junk food, or if you are so committed to doing things for other people that you take no time for yourself, it doesn’t matter how much you love your work. That’s going to adversely affect the energy you have on the job.

Create a 360-degree career support plan. So what is this about vegetables in your career plan? It might be more accurate to think of it as a career support plan. The idea is simple. Anything in your life that gives you energy (healthy food, a positive relationship, time to get grounded and centered, etc.) is going to contribute to a solid foundation. Anything that drains your energy (poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive conflict in your relationships, etc.), chips away at that foundation.

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To start creating that career support plan, take stock of what’s currently happening. Look at your life in 360 degrees and ask yourself, “What is giving me energy? What is draining it?” For starters, look at your diet and exercise, your relationships, your finances, what you do for fun, your beliefs and attitudes, and positive or negative habits (e.g., focusing on what you’re grateful for, or smoking). Then ask, “What changes can I easily make? What changes do I need to make that will take more work?”

Pay attention and take control. Whether or not you pay attention to it, the choices you make or don’t make in your life have an effect on your work. It’s not one of those things that will disappear if your scrunch your eyes tight, stick your fingers in your ears and sing, “La la la la la…I’m not listening to you.”

If you’re not paying attention, you have no control. You become a puppet. But when you consciously shine a light on what’s happening, you can purposefully make decisions that will strengthen that foundation. You start out with more energy to focus on your work.

After years as a professional malcontent, Curt Rosengren discovered the power of passion. As speaker, author, and coach, Rosengren helps people create careers that energize and inspire them. His book, 101 Ways to Get Wild About Work, and his E-book, The Occupational Adventure Guide, offer people tools for turning dreams into reality. Rosengren's blog, The M.A.P. Maker, explores how to craft a life of meaning, abundance, and passion.

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