Happy Thanksgiving fellow leaders!

This week’s post is going to take a new angle on the sweet-spot exercise. During our year of LEAD, we looked at the diagram below several times asking the same extremely important question: How close are you right now to being in your sweet spot—that great place where you are living out of your beliefs, values, gifts, and passions? There is a narrow area where these four things intersect, and it is a great place to be.

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However, I’ve often found myself wondering about whether this idea of being in your sweet spot is fully understood, partially misunderstood, or applied in unhelpful ways. After all, the grass easily and often looks greener, especially after a tough day or week at work.

When you use the sweet spot construct well, you discover that your sweet spot is really about reality, effectiveness, and other people. Which means it is not first of all about fantasies, money, or you. That’s right, it’s not about you!

Your sweet spot is not about fantasies. I am passionate about climbing mountains and physical fitness. I have values that match those passions. I believe that mountains beckon me to summit them. And I’ve got some natural physical gifts that help me. When I’m summiting a mountain, I’m in my happy place and definitely hit the bullseye of my sweet spot.

But it would be a mistake—a fantasy—to think that I’m supposed to quit my job in order to make a career out of climbing mountains. To attempt to turn this enjoyable activity, which aligns well with my beliefs, values, gifts, and passions, into a career would be chasing a financially irresponsible fantasy. It’s great to have dreams, but to confuse every great dream with a career calling is misguided.

Your sweet spot is not about money. Don’t get me wrong, an important component in a career decision is whether it meets your financial goals and needs. What I mean is that sometimes expecting a passion to provide you a living can lead to unintended, negative consequences—not the least of which is the death of your passion.

In 1883 Mark Twain wrote Life on the Mississippi. He was so passionate about this river, he would write about the beauty of seeing the sunset on the river, the simple grace of a floating log, designs on the surface of the water that tickled the imagination, and the amazing stands of trees large and small that decorated the shoreline. Wow. 

Then he decided to take his passion and make a career out of it. He became a riverboat pilot. Afterward he wrote “the romance and the beauty were all gone from the river.” The sun became an indicator of wind, the floating log became a sign the river was rising, the marks on the surface of the water became warnings of reefs, and the gorgeous shoreline simply became a series of functional navigational markers. 

All because Mark Twain took what he loved and insisted on making a career out of it.

Your sweet spot is not about you. I want to be very clear here: It is wonderfully fulfilling to be functioning out of your beliefs, values, passions, and gifts at work. However, the real benefit is that when you are in your sweet spot, you also bring the most value to your organization and to your world. We make the greatest positive difference in the lives of others when what we do flows out of who we are; or to use the language of the DoKnowBe Tree, when what we do flows out of who we be.

Getting closer to your sweet spot in your work is a journey. But the important and primary motivation in that journey is to bring the greatest value to others. When you are doing that, personal fulfillment is a wonderful by-product of being in your sweet spot.

So, by all means, focus on moving closer to your sweet spot—and make sure that you stay grounded in reality, focused on effectiveness, and determined to bring the greatest benefit to others.

Lead On!
Jeff

Image by mnieuwsma. All rights reserved.