Can a linear career path lead to happiness?
The Linear Life Path
If you're reading this article, you are probably not a linear
I define this path as choosing a career by age eighteen and
planning carefully for success, deferring gratification to
reach long-term goals. My favorite example is an eminent university
professor (call him "Greg").
Greg discovered Freud and Skinner in high school. He majored
in psychology as an undergraduate, entered a prestigious graduate
program, and began publishing important articles with his
mentor. He earned tenure easily and gained promotions early.
Today, fifty-year-old Greg has no regrets and, five minutes
after meeting him, you sense that you are in the presence
of someone who really enjoys his life.
In his book, View from a Monastery, Brother Benet Twedten
tells us he saw his first Benedictine monks as a freshman
at a Benedictine college. He knew at once that he wanted to
join their monastery. By the time he wrote his best-seller,
he had spent forty years in the monastery and had no intention
Helen, one of six children in a lower middle class family,
skipped a grade to enter a prestigious women's college on
scholarship at age sixteen. Entering medical school after
three years of college, she was "Dr. Helen" by age
twenty-three. Thirty years later, Helen is a happy, respected
cardiologist. She has just taken a leave from her busy practice
to write a book.
Can a linear path lead to happiness?
Some career consultants are suspicious of linear careerists.
"They're headed for meltdown," they say. "Midlife
crisis will come."
I don't think so. I think they just knew themselves from
a very early age and they had the self-confidence to demand
what they needed. Their families and friends supported them.
They were drawn to supportive schools, work environments and
mentors. And most survive bouts of adversity. Success becomes
a habit, they acquire a financial cushion, and the same self-confidence
that got them started will carry them a long way.
If you meet someone who's been on the linear path, expect
bewilderment when you share your own winding road or accidental
path. Don't even go there. Invite them to a party and listen
to their "How I Got Here" stories."
If your own path is linear, you may find a great mentor.
If not, you'll be introduced to a whole new world, one you
wish you could offer to the next generation.
Wish your own career path were more or less linear? Check
Get started with the Career
Freedom Worksheet or a teleclass.
Other career paths are the serendipity
path and the winding road career path.
|Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and
speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast
move to career freedom. Visit her site http://www.movinglady.com
or call 505-534-4294.