Your “Life Footprint” And The 4.0 Career

In a previous post I wrote about the rise of the “4.0” career, and how it contrasts with earlier orientations to work.  In brief, the 4.0 version is an emerging shift towards a broader vision of career “success.”  It includes the desire for new learning, growth and personal meaning from work – increasingly visible themes over the last few decades, and what I’ve called the “3.0” career orientation.

What’s different about the emerging 4.0 career is that it’s an expansion beyond looking for greater meaning and sense of “purpose” through one’s work.  It also includes a desire for impact on something larger than oneself, beyond one’s personal benefit.  It’s becoming visible in the pull men and women report towards wanting to contribute to the common good -  whether it’s through the value and usefulness of a product or service.

The 4.0 career is part of the emerging new business model focused on creating “sustainable” enterprises.  It’s part of what’s known as the new “triple bottom line” — financial, social and environmental measures of success.

In this and in future posts l’ll describe some 4.0 career themes and how men and women illustrate them.  This is important because the transformations now underway in global societies, which became more dramatically apparent following the economic nosedive in September 2008, have tremendous implications for career survival and success.  The unstable, unpredictable new world upon us makes the 4.0 career orientation the path towards both outward success and personal well-being in the years ahead.

As a step towards finding the 4.0 career path, consider this little historical nugget: Thomas Jefferson left instructions that his tombstone engraving should make no mention of his having served as President.  Incredible, you say?  Well, if you visit his gravesite at his Charlottesville, Virginia homestead, you’ll see that it’s true:  His tombstone describes him as founder the University of Virginia; the author of the Declaration of Independence; and the sponsor of Virginia’s Act for Religious Freedom.  Jefferson saw those three as his real achievements.  He believed that they had more impact on the world than his “career position” as President.

Observing this is a good starting point for thinking about the kind of impact you want to have on the world through your career – the broad scope of your creative capacities, your talents, your skills, your experience.  That is, think of what you do and it’s consequences upon human lives beyond your own; not just the position or title you acquire (or are trying to hold on to); or the financial/material assets you accrue.

Looking further down the road, what kind of legacy are you creating right now, at each moment?  In short, what do you want to be remembered for?  Thinking about that will also point you to look at how much “space” your career – as it currently exists — occupies in your life, relative to your values and to other potential uses of your energies that are important to you.  These reflections will begin to broaden your perspective about what’s important to contribute through your life, long-term, how to integrate that into your work, and what would help you get from here to there.

As you look at that whole picture from the standpoint of your life impact, factor in everything that affects and is affected by your current work.  For example, does your community or geographic location, including things like your daily commute, really work for you, in relation to the long-term impact you hope to have?

What impact would working more from home have, if you could arrange that?  Or, if you became more accessible to your children’s schools and activities?   What would be the impact of giving more time to cultivating friendships, community connections, or your personal interests? Asking yourself such questions helps shape your definition of what you really want to be living and working for, and how to make it happen

The essence of the 4.0 career orientation is that it’s more integrated.  It grows from being conscious of the reality that your life is an interconnected, integral part of the physical, social and political world we live in.  That helps you realize that you’re steadily creating your “life footprint” all along the way.  Here’s a step you can take to bring that into focus:

Create Your “Life Footprint”

Bring into your awareness the reality that your life is finite.  Imagine that you know how much time you have remaining, and use that to guide you towards identifying the life priorities and actions that you need to alter, or focus more on, in order to create the “footprint” you want to have left upon the world.

Think of your mission as becoming a “good ancestor.”

  • How do you want to use your mental and emotional and creative energies in your remaining time?
  • What legacy will your actions and decisions create?
  • Are you satisfied with that?  If not, what can you alter, beginning now?

Below are a few exercises you can do with your partner and on your own, to help you evolve towards the 4.0 career.

By Yourself:

  • Recall the talents or interests that got your attention when you were young.  List them, and reflect on what happened to them along the way.  What would you like to reclaim, reactivate, or develop now, in order to create greater impact through your work?  What changes or sacrifices would that require?

With Your Partner:

It’s essential that you and your partner/family undertake any shifts you want to make as a team.  If you’re not aligned with each other, it’s not going to work for you as a couple or family.  Set aside a block of time to talk with your partner about your deepest desires and aspirations for your lives, individually and together.  Listen to each other; ask questions, but hold off commenting or judging on what you hear.  Just learn from each other.

Some guides for beginning the dialogue:

  • Why do you think you’re here, on this planet, at this moment in time?
  • How did you come to the career you now have? Why do you continue to do it?
  • What parts of your work have the most impact on the organization’s service or product?
  • Does your organization’s service or product align with your own values?
  • What parts of your work stifle or limit your capacities?
  • What could make your work more meaningful with respect to the larger mission?
  • Did you turn away from any passions or interests that pulled you when you were younger, which you regret not having pursued?
  • If so, how could you try to reclaim them?

Some additional suggestions:

  • Make a list of the talents, experiences, unfulfilled creative needs and challenges that you would like to incorporate into the next phase of your career in order to build the legacy you desire.
  • For each item on your list, write down what changes you would need to make in your career/personal life to make that occur.
  • What are the resources you currently have; what ones would you need to acquire to make those changes (related to education, financial, location, life-style, etc.)?

With your partner, compare and discuss where you are aligned…and how to deal with where you aren’t.