Finding Your Grand Ambition (When You Have No Grand Ambition)


I was in San Francisco last month (SF fans can click here to find my fascinating travel dispatches!) and shared a delicious Mexican lunch with a good friend and Interprize Community member. He’s approaching the end of his core career and interested in an encore that is both passionate and meaningful, fulfilling in ways beyond endless rounds of golf and vacation travel.

Rocco is the classic budding interpreneur, hovering at 60 and wanting to develop a legacy project of deep personal meaning. He believes in our Interprize model – of approaching the development and implementation of grand ambitions in the vein of an ambitious startup – but has one vexing problem: he has no real idea of what he wants to do.

sextantThis what should I do now? question is a nagging theme through most of our lives. I have 3 kids all considering university possibilities and caught up in that swirling vortex of too many options and too few knowns. It gets no easier post graduation, when we agonize over the choice of our first real job believing it plants an intractable origin point for all remaining career tangents. As we progress across that time plane of occupational possibilities the question continues to resonate, sometimes as low frequency background hum, other times a demanding whine. Offers and layoffs and promotions and burnouts and marriages and divorces and childbirths and life crisis of all possible stripe bubble it back to the surface: what should I do now?

Luckily things get clearer and easier with age. The evidence shows that an inflection point in personal priorities is common around midlife. We begin to stress less about money and materialism, care more about personal realization and happiness. We are juggling fewer chainsaws at 60 than at 35, have fewer concessions and compromises to balance, and best of all stop losing sleep over things that drove us to insomnia years earlier: the mortgage, the marriage, the savings plan, … the small stuff.

So then, how do we divine those grand ambitions of our post core careers? Consider these 4 options for discovery: professional help, self-help, continuing education, and community.

  • Professional help: Life coaches can lead you through steps helpful in aligning talents and priorities with possibilities. Like psychologists, they prefer to structure their guidance in a series of sessions with introspective questions and assignments in between. Specializations abound, including teen coaching, executive coaching, career (and career change) coaching, and retirement coaching to name just 4.

life coachingThe challenge: finding the right coach for you and near you. Start by assuring accreditation. Various certifying bodies exist, but a good start is the International Coach Federation. Another useful resource that outlines accreditation bodies is the Life Coach Directory. A Google search will turn up specific coaches in your area. Ask for an introduction discussion without charge to feel each other out. They need to understand your confusion, and you need to feel comfortable with their competence.

  • Self-help: There is an endless variety of books, magazines, and websites on self discovery, uncovering one’s passions, and exploring career and post career ambitions. A trip to your favorite bookseller or a browse through Amazon can be overwhelming in the selections offered. Be warned that a lot of these resources focus on career success as measured in maximizing income, not meaning, and meaning needs to be the primary basis for encore career guidance. It is impossible to identify which books are the absolute best in this category because everyone’s needs are different. Here are 5 very different approaches that I feel have universal appeal to the interpreneur and are particularly strong given their content and the credibility of the writers. Some are written equally for career as post-career development, but the lessons and suggestions are directly relevant in these books to interpreneurial considerations. In each case they are linked to their Amazon profiles for more information.

If you feel we’re missing a fantastic book, please comment.

  • Continuing education: Taking courses in life and career coaching can be an insightful way to consider your own journey and they are available at many universities and community colleges. These classes are often part of continuing education programs, the fees are reasonable, and it’s not required to pursue full certification. As an example, the San Francisco State University’s Core Career Coaching course offers classes in understanding the life change process, cultivating core strengths, the science of wellbeing, hands-on coaching techniques, and various classes on maximizing happiness and cultivating meaning. One can cherry pick amongst the classes of interest. If you have the time, taking classes provides a much deeper and experiential dive into the content area than reading a book, and exploring these topics with others sharing the same interests compounds the fun and enthusiasm. My experience at SFSU was profoundly positive. Google local colleges and universities to find options near you.

burning-desireOur strong teen interests are often abandoned during the college years to pursue “more sensible” options. Now is a great time to see if the fire still smolders. Art, creative writing, music composition or performance, culinary training, decoration or design: wherever your interests resided during the younger, bolder years and may still lurk, chances are your local college has classes in that domain.

  • Community: Communing with fellow travelers who hold similar ambitions and priorities can be powerfully motivating, no matter what your interest. There is tremendous value in sharing with people who can provide feedback, encourage success, pull you up from setbacks, and hold you accountable for slacking off. With regards to interpreneurial ambitions many social communities are just a click away. Also, finding a college course, mentioned above, is an excellent way to meet friends with similar passions or trying to resolve the same questions. The internet offers an array of community options. Some that I like include:
    • Meetup: Neighbors getting together to learn something, do something, share something.
    • The Transition Network: an inclusive community of professional women, 50 and forward, whose changing life situations lead them to seek new connections, resources, and opportunities.
    • Interprize Group Facebook page: the meeting hall for interpreneurs pursuing grand ambitions of deep personal meaning.

If you feel we’re missing a fantastic community group, please comment.

This set of resources should be helpful to those of you struggling with that big question of and what now?? Once your direction is set the structure and implementation plan that are core to the Interprize process and workshops fall into place much more easily. Happy travels and as always, let us know what we’re missing.


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