Finding your beacon is a very personal and individual pursuit, but there are some principles that should guide you.
First, you should look for those things you are passionate about and you have the ability to achieve. They should exceed your grasp so that you’re pushed, but they should not be so far beyond your reach that they are unattainable.
In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey talks about our areas of influence and areas of concern. We all have things in our lives where our preferences and choices can and do make a difference. These are our areas of influence. Some are quite simple. For example, what we wear to work, what we eat for breakfast, or even the jobs we choose to apply for are all things that are clearly within our area of influence. Then there are areas that are more complex, but where we certainly do have an influence. If we’re part of a management team, we may not have complete control over decisions that are made, but we do have a say. If we’re a parent, we can’t really force our children to do exactly what we want, but we can certainly influence their behaviors. If we see a compelling social need, we may not be able to solve it single-handedly, but we can make our own unique contribution.
Then there are those things that, no matter what our concerns may be, are not within our area of influence. Because I love being outdoors, I am very concerned about the weather. But, no matter how vocal I may be when I wake up wanting to play golf and find snow on the ground, there is not a darned thing I can do about it. If I work at the lowest staff level of an international conglomerate, I likely will have no real influence on corporate strategies. If I own a small manufacturing business, the price of gas is beyond my control, even though it has a huge impact on my business plan and profits.
Most people spend 80 percent of their time worrying about things they cannot control. In other words, they spend all of their time and energy focusing on their areas of concern rather than their area of influence. The way to identify those things you want to pursue is to focus right on the border of where your area of influence touches your area of concern. If you establish your beacon in the fog right on the edge of your area of influence, you will find that your area of influence becomes much larger and you will find that your goals, though challenging, actually are achievable.