Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

CEO of Your Life
by Elizabeth Kanabe

“You are the CEO of your life,” the career consultants told us at a seminar - and how simple and clear that statement seemed. It puts us in control of our lives, and helps us to plan for it as we do getting to the bus stop in time. With the role of CEO comes responsibility, planning and awareness that would certainly help us at work, at home and throughout life.

Most of us think hard about how we’ll accomplish projects at work. We set goals, necessary steps along the way, benchmarks, and deadlines. Whether we are building an airplane, opening a new restaurant or performing surgery, we desire an outcome and plan how we will accomplish the task at hand. But imagine if we didn’t plan ahead, if we simply knew what we wanted and never thought of the steps to get there. Chances are, the airplane would not fly, the restaurant would not run, and the patient would not survive.

If we apply the idea that we are our own CEO at work and simply “lend” our services to our employers each day, it makes sense to keep up our skills and work for that promotion or raise each year. It’s more than just getting by, it involves taking pride and feeling it’s your work. This is in contrast to feeling that anything is owed to us. If our bosses were in control of our careers, we wouldn’t have to think or plan for ourselves. They would tell us what job to do and what trainings to take, and we’d be guaranteed a job. It’s that thought process that people use before they are let go for someone more experienced and then feel there’s no “loyalty” from the company. It’s the difference between being proactive and reactive in life. The person who is the CEO of his own life looks for new opportunities. He stays aware of the market and what skills he will need. An employee who relinquishes that responsibility will find no one else can do it for him, and will eventually find himself falling further behind the pack.

Becoming CEO of your own life also means keeping track. Many people go through life’s achievements, and even with their life as a whole, waiting for things to fall into place. They may not realize how their daily motions fit into the big picture of where they’d like to see themselves down the line, and if that’s the case it’s possible they’re not heading down the right path. Having a clear idea of what you have accomplished in the past and where you would like to be one year or five years down the road is key. New Year’s can be a celebration of all these accomplishments each year, or it can be seen as another year passed with little to show for it.

Keeping track can simply be making a “check list” of what you’d like to achieve in the coming year: taking a class, writing an article, making a trip. Even just having a few goals makes it easy at the end of the year to recall accomplishments. Often times we focus on getting through the day and forget those milestones in life that are actually the ones we remember most.

I recently spoke/wrote about becoming more active in Objectivism, and how to take those first, small steps. But being the CEO of your life means that every aspect of life requires effort, planning and execution in order to make it successful. That’s not to say that a set life is desirable - the best parts are the spontaneous, exciting, wonderfully unplanned moments. You might, however, realize that you have goals in life, but don’t put deadlines on them. And that can be dangerous, because it'll always provide an excuse to say “I’ll get to that later”.

Teaching children to become their own CEO’s could make a huge difference as well. Initially, schools and parents tell children how to act. When children are younger, they are often separated in school based on ability. You take a test, and they point you in a direction based on your scores. There is little thought or planning involved for the child. However, almost ten years out of high school now, I see little correlation between those who were labeled “smart” in school versus those in the other classes. Those who are successful kept achieving one step at a time, while others left high school and felt as if they stepped into a void; with no one left to guide them, tell them what to do, they learned to survive, rather than plan their lives and continue growing and achieving.

Ask anyone today what they want, whether it be a promotion, new car, kids, money, and they will not have any trouble responding. But if you ask them what they plan to do to get there, they might have a tougher time with the answer. We don’t always correlate our actions to our goals, and that is why you get people who expect a promotion or that they will some day afford that fantastic car. When they don’t, they feel that life has cheated them, that they didn’t get what was owed to them as ‘good citizens.’ In fact, they have just failed to realize that their actions were not going to get them the goals they desired.

There are also those people who in hindsight admit to mistakes, but never change how they live their lives, and never proactively work to reach new goals. These are often people who know what they want, know how to get it, but don’t put the time and effort in that is needed. Being CEO is thinking of what to do before it becomes an emergency. It means keeping up your job skills before you’ve been laid off. It’s spending quality time with your family before you lose them. It lends to not waiting for a reward to come to you, but feeling in control and knowing how to get to it.
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