I write a lot about productivity, workflow, aligning goals to actions and leadership. That’s because I’m committed to improving my own capability and capacity for bringing value to others. It’s also because I’m very interested in sharing what I’ve learned (both what works and doesn’t!) with other engineers.
All of this information has one purpose in mind: to inspire my fellow engineers to achieve more fulfillment in their engineering career and life.
But all of this effort to accomplish tasks and goals can get easily overshadowed by the belief that it’s all about getting more done. Nothing could be further from the intent! It’s all aimed at helping engineers develop the mindset to do the right things for their career that will generate massive fulfillment now…not in five years, ten years or at the end of their engineering career.
Develop The Right Mindset By Gaining Perspective
From work I’ve done with many engineers I’ve gathered that the best way to develop the right mindset that can decipher the right things from everything is by gaining perspective. I’ve also discovered that it’s really challenging to develop perspective in our lives.
With so much information consumed between our work, social media, and the day-to-day actions of life; one’s perspective can become so out of focus that it’s no wonder that many engineers feel unfilled in their work and life.
I was there once. My perspective was very out of focus and I felt very stressed and unfulfilled. I had lost visibility on what my right things were and was taking a swing at everything instead. No wonder I felt stressed out and like I was a gyroscope.
I’ll save for another article one day why I made the decision to pursue the following five actions you can take to bring balance to your engineering career. Just say that for many engineers, we will one day stand on a burning platform from which we must pivot and take massive action to bring about the life we want, or succumb to leading a life of unfulfilled potential. Heavy stuff, but true.
With that, consider these five actions:
Put Family and Friends First. At the end of your career journey do you want to be surrounded by your engineering skills or your family and friends? Which one will bring you the most lifetime value of fulfillment and meaning. If you have family or dear friends, invest as much time in them as you do in our technical skill development or your actions to advance in your engineering career.
Begin a Practice of Gratefulness. What are you grateful for today? Have you ever considered this question? Regardless your answer, I invite you…OK, challenge you…to answer the question “what are 3 things I am grateful for today?” each day for the next two weeks. Over this period, check in with mood. How do you feel during and after your daily gratefulness session?
Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes. They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
Higher levels of positive emotions;
More joy, optimism, and happiness;
Acting with more generosity and compassion;
Feeling less lonely and isolated
Any one of these elements will bring more fulfillment to your engineering career and life. So why not give this a try? Check out my article on gratitude for more goodness.
Concentrate More on Being Versus Doing. As I mentioned at the start of this article, I write a lot about getting things done, planning and networking to develop relationships. That’s all doing. But we aren’t human doings, we’re human beings. I counter my doing with daily sessions of just being. I do this through mindfulness meditation, which you can read about in this article to gain the basics of what it is.
If meditation is too much a stretch, no worries. You have 15 seconds to spare, right? Begin breathing with purpose periodically throughout your day with the purpose of being present. A great centering breath exercise comes from Jason Selk’s book 10-Minute Toughness, The Mental Training Program for Winning Before The Game. The formula is 6-2-7; breathe in for six seconds, hold for two, and breathe out for 7 seconds. This is called “diaphragm breathing” and when you do this, you slow your heart rate down.
Besides slowing the heart rate down, I personally find that it the act of having to concentrate on my breathing removes my mind from whatever issue was capturing it. In pressure situations, it’s allowed me to slow my mind down as well and gain a quick dose of perspective.
Read for Inspiration. Another way we can practice being and generate perspective is to read for inspiration. Each of us has 5 minutes in a day that can be invested in reading something that is inspiring. Even if you don’t feel you can possibly find time to read books, find blogs (like The Engineering Career Coach!) or quotes pages on the Internet. If you do read books but self development books seem outside your comfort zone, read religious texts. Bottomline: invest 5 minutes of your day in reading inspiring text. The visual stimulation from seeing the words on the screen/page has a different effect on your mind that will reap massive benefits over the months and years.
Write to Define Your Right Things. I’ve found journaling to be one of the most effective forms of introspection I know. After nearly a decade of handwriting in my Moleskine nearly every day, I’ve uncovered a lot insight about how I operate. More importantly, I’ve figured out why I operate. Put another way, I’ve uncovered my purpose in life through the act of writing. I can’t say that you will find your purpose through journaling, but if you are searching for your why or for your “right things” and have been coming up with out good answers, give this a try. Check out an earlier article I wrote on journaling if you want to know more.
Doing versus being. Going slow to go fast. Get it done versus everything in its own time. These contradictions reside within each of us. My challenge to you is to begin working on shifting your mindset from achieving as much as you possibly can to achieving the most meaning-packed, fulfilling activities you possible can. It’s a shift, and perhaps a massive one for you, but it can be done and the result on your engineering career (and your life to boot!) will be massive.
Christian Knutson, P.E., PMP is an international infrastructure development program manager, engineer, and author. He has extensive experience in leadership, management, and engineering earned from a career as a civil engineering officer in the U.S. Air Force. He now coaches engineers enabling them to create an engineering career and life of fulfillment at The Engineering Career Coach.