Today was like any other day for me: I wake up, I get ready, pick up coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, go to work, read a few articles while I ease into my morning calmly and then get started with my email. When I start work I make a point to turn on a podcast. I like the background noise (it, paradoxically, helps me focus) and I like having something to keep me grounded while I’m moving through the days tasks.
This morning I did all of that as I usually do, but I choose my morning podcast a bit differently. I usually listen to a news catchup in the morning to keep myself up-to-date on current events, but this morning I choose to continue my year long project of chipping away at the archives of one of my all-time favorite podcasts ‘The Partially Examined Life’. This podcast is a gold mine of great discussion and thought provoking insight. It’s a philosophy podcast that features several regular speakers and a guest discussing a topic. I love it because I never feel like the discussion is over my head and I always come away from the podcast with a different perspective on whatever the chosen topic was.
Todays topic was ‘Intention’, or more pointedly, the language we use to denote intention and what that means. I love this because when you step back for a moment, it’s really easy to see the difference, but it’s also easy to see how we conflate the two. Certainly I intend to be a good person, I actively seek to make myself better and I actively try to keep my frame of mind centered on what it means to be a good person and try to make my actions line up with that desire. Yet, often, I’ve noticed that my intention, while well meaning, goes out the window as soon as it’s inconvenient for me.
I’ve noticed this quite a bit in the corporate world. My job involves working with a lot of different groups of people within our company. Any day can consist of meetings with Sales, Marketing, IT or Client Services; all vastly VASTLY different groups of people. The politics invoked in this kind of environment are always just below the surface of every conversation. Sales has a reputation (as sales departments often do) of being self-serving and egotistical; while a group like Client Services, by nature, has be service-oriented and remain client-focused. I don’t think any group intends to treat the other with an air of superiority (most of the time, although, that happens often), but it happens. As a member of the sales department, I get lumped into that self-serving block easily. It’s only after conversations with me that others recognize that I don’t have that sort of attitude.
As I make moves to up-level my career, I’m seeking advice and mentors regularly. I’ve noticed that when you make this intention to move forward/up public, lots of advice is sure to come your way. A lot of that advice is really wonderful, helpful and positive. But I have noticed that more and more I’m starting to receive advice that is counter to my own personal ethics. As someone who suffers from a crippling sense of empathy, I often get stuck on ethics in the extreme. It’s something that drives P UP THE WALL on a regular basis. Being raised my a Christian family and a set of people who prized self-sacrifice has created a highly tuned sense of ethical adherence in me. I will actively push to stay ethical, even when it’s a detriment to me.
This is becoming more and more evident as I receive advice about how to move forward in the corporate world.
Now, let me be clear, I have NO PROBLEM whatsoever with showing others my work and positive qualities. I don’t mind stepping up to point out that I’ve done well, or that what I bring to the table is valuable and worthy of praise and recognition. To me, this is just a fact of working life. I credit being one of three high achieving kids. If you want attention for yourself, you’ve got to move the spotlight yourself. I’ve been placed in high achieving environments all of my life (military family, private prep school, design school, newspaper editorial staff, technical support and retail, to name a few), learning to navigate the waters and forge your own path was not only needed, but necessary for survival.
Now that I’m in charge of my own movement (oh what a welcome responsibility!), I’m having to be very careful about the choices I make and the image that I project. When I do this, I’m trying to keep my intentions and my ethics in line with what I do and how I accomplish moves that will shift me forward. When I hear things like “Good girls don’t get the corner office” or “Nobody got anywhere without breaking a few rules and stepping on a few toes”, I feel a prickling of ethical confusion. In my career path, I intend to move forward with grace and in step with my own personal ethics. I don’t want to hurt people, I don’t want to bash someone else to move forward and I sure as hell don’t plan on using sinister or shiesty moves to get in front of someone else. I intend to move forward on the excellent work I do, on the personal qualities that make me best suited for the job I want.
The hard part is making sure I keep to those intentions. Making sure that I’m not just using the language of intention to mask my steps forward in an ethical cloud. I want my intentions to come from a deep place in my ethical and personal desires. I want them to not just sound good, but to in fact be good. I want my heart and my hands to line up and as I walk through my life, stay in step.
I’m glad I choose podcast today. I’m glad to be reminded that showing up and making sure my heart is in the right place is what should be the key motivation for me in everything I do. It’s so easy to want to take the path of least resistance and just slide through into the next step. It’s much harder to get there with the work of your own hands and with a pure sense of pride. I choose to work harder, to be better, to prove that I am, indeed, the good person that I intend to be, not just someone who says sweet things to project a false image. I want to be messy and complicated and I want my missteps and follies to be the stepping stones to learningmore and being a more holistic person. In the end, that person that worked hard, that learned from their mistakes and took those blows to the gut is going to be the person that others can depend on, that manages others with care and that gains the respect of his/her colleagues. In the end, I don’t just want envy or admiration. I want respect.
(image by me, taken on a ferry ride from a recent trip to nyc, follow more on instagram)