My dad took me to lots of Blue Jay baseball games when I was growing up. I am not a baseball expert, but I do understand an important element of the game: deciding if/when to swing. The pitcher throws and the batter has to decide whether it is a good pitch. It’s coming across the plate and if it’s in the sweet spot and the batter knows he/she can hit it: swing! If it isn’t right or the pitch is poor the batter won’t chance it.
How many times in our lives are we presented with the opportunity to swing at, or step back from, what life sends our way? The pitches are always coming – career opportunities, relationships, professional development, family, education, etc. and your job as batter for your life is to know what to swing at and when. To understand what your sweet spot is, what an ideal pitch is for you. A lot of opportunities come up and of course you want to swing at the right ones, the ones that get you the furthest into the outfield. Sometimes, like in the real game of baseball, you don’t get all the time in the world to decide and timing is everything. If you hesitate, you strike out; if you are too aggressive, same result.
So, how do you know when to swing? Professional ball players spend years honing their instincts to the game and they are pros because of all that practice, commitment, and skill has made what they do so well appear natural. As professionals in our own right, we need to spend time doing the same thing. Instead of swinging bats and throwing balls, we are always re-evaluating our values, visions, and goals. We ask ourselves: What do I value the most? Then we add and delete these values from our “Non-Negotiable” career planning list as our life evolves. Such a list will support you in your decisions, provide you with ready and familiar knowledge for when it is swing or step aside time. You will be ready and know what to do because you have taken the time to put in writing what it is exactly you are looking for based on what matters to you most. A non-negotiables list prepares you to recognize the “perfect pitch.”
Non-negotiables might include: hours you would like to work, work environment, and location of position. People come up with vastly different non-negotiables like: I want to be able to bike to work; I want to make ‘x’ amount of money; I want to be able to travel; I want to have creativity in my work; I want to work for a big company; I want to work for myself. Think in terms of what you want (not what you don’t want) and create your list in the positive. Our time is too important to spend on what we don’t want and neither does this focus help us clarify what we do. It keeps us thinking in the negative which is the last place it serves us to be.
Whether you are searching for a new career, job, professional opportunity, or just want to shake life up a little, start with your non-negotiables. Then get ready to swing.