Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 5, no. 16
The 19th century German physician, Dr Carl Wunderlich did something new. Something that was revolutionary at the time, but now seems obvious. He collected and analyzed body temperature readings from a large group of patients.
In 1868, Dr Wunderlich published his research. It was then that the medical profession recognized 98.4 F or 37 C as the normal human body temperature. Soon measuring body temperature became a routine medical procedure.
What difference did a benchmark make?
Changes in body temperature provide valuable medical information. But the reading is only significant when there is something to compare it with. A normal temperature reading.
In the same way, a benchmark is valuable if you’re considering changes in your career and work life.
How will a benchmark help?
Change can occur slowly. Without a view of where you’re starting from, the outcome of your efforts may be “invisible.”
Of course, it’s very simple to record body temperature. When it comes to your career, there are a lot of different things to consider. But there are tools to help.
One tool that you can use is the Wheel of Life.
Although this is traditionally used to explore work-life balance, you can use it to get a better understanding of your current situation. It’s a simple tool that provides a quick and easy way to look at your life as a whole. Let’s go through the steps.
First, make a list of the different dimensions of your life.
Of course, our lives don’t divide up neatly into separate boxes, but for the purpose of this exercise it helps to consider the dimensions separately.
If you define the categories yourself, they will make more sense for your situation. A manageable number is seven or eight dimensions. Here are some of the categories that people typically find useful.
• Work and career
• Relationships (family, friends, social, professional)
• Learning and development
• Health and well-being
• Meaning, purpose, spiritual
• Environment (e.g. where you live)
Use this list to define the categories that work best for you. For example, for some people there may be a lot of overlap between personal and professional relationships. If this is the case, you can use one category rather than two.
Once you have defined your categories, it’s time for the next step.
It’s time to “take the temperature” of your life.
Consider the dimensions of your life one at at time. Ask yourself this simple question: “how happy am I with this aspect of my life?”
Record your response with a score between 1 and 7.
If you are happy with a particular dimension, give it a higher score. If you are unhappy with that dimension of your life, give it a lower score.
Next look at the total picture of your life. What do your scores mean for you?
• What stands out?
• Which areas of your life are you most happy with?
• Least happy with?
• How will change in one area influence the others?
If you’ve been thinking about making changes in your career, you may be wondering about the relevance of reviewing your life as a whole. What if this activity is just a distraction? Isn’t it enough to just deal with work, and worry about the rest later?
Yes, you may choose to focus on your career first. But taking a few minutes to assess your career in the broader context of your life is important. Why?
Because there is spillover between your personal and professional life.
Sometimes making small changes in your personal life provides the momentum you need to support changes in your professional life.
For example, if you’ve been in a stable work situation for a while, you may realize that you have neglected your network. Or maybe you’ve postponed taking care of your health because of high demands at work. Looking at your life as a whole will raise your awareness and help you to set priorities.
As you review your scores, the chances are that you’re already creating a list of “things I want to change.”
But rather than building an impossible list, focus on one thing.
Choose one tiny change that you can do right away. Over time you will be able to refer back to your benchmark and see your progress.
The value of a benchmark is that it you have something to refer back to. By establishing a benchmark for normal human body temperature, Dr Wunderlich’s research medical practice for ever. In the same way, taking time to create your personal benchmark allows you to make sense of changes.
Use the Wheel of Life tool to quickly create your own benchmark as the foundation for change in your career and work life.
|Jennifer Bradley helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition. If you’re new to the Career & Work Life Matters Blog, and would like to discover more about your personal career management skills, request a Free copy of the Career Scorecard.|