The Two Questions That Really Matter

Why do we focus on the unimportant and leave the questions that really matter unasked?

In my experience we, men especially, are reluctant to be introspective about our careers. We are focused on the daily grind or the bright shiny future and don't, or won't, take the time to ask ourselves the questions that will guide us to a fulfilling career. Yet these questions are obvious; and once asked, it is clear that they are the questions that really matter, and that other questions you'll ask yourself about your career might be important but not as important as these. But for me, asking these questions is only one part of the equation; you need to use the insight that you gain from your answers to have a fulfilling career.

What Makes You Happy?

The first question is "what makes you happy?" or more appropriately because you'll be asking this question yourself "what makes me happy?" Now, normally, mentors will limit this question to the working environment. However, I'm a bit broader in my thinking than that. When I discuss this question with my clients I remove the boundaries and make the question as broad as possible. Why? Because, wouldn't it be great if you could make money by doing what really makes you happy!

Strangely enough, we have difficulties answering this question. However, if you reflect on the roles you have had in your career you'll find that those tasks that you were better at performing were those that you enjoyed. Once you know what makes you happy the objective is to use this knowledge as a guide to selecting future roles, which preferably will have these elements thereby increasing your probability of both; performing well in future roles; and your happiness.

What's Important To Me?

This question is a bit tougher because it goes to the heart of you and asks "what are my values?" Your values are your principles, or you belief set, and they will cover a wide range of topics, such as; religion, race, culture, language, relationships, and honesty.

We develop our values from our environment and experiences, and therefore, they will evolve over time. And because you value them they are important to you and they will have an impact on your decisions and your relationships so understanding them will help you to realise a fulfilling career.

The way to determine your values is to ask yourself; "what's important to me in a role?" But you don't just stop there. You than have to repeat the question, but this time insert your previous answer into the question. For example:

  1. What's important to me about my role? Teamwork.
  2. What's important to me about teamwork? Collaborative thinking

This process is repeated until you reach a response where there is nothing more important to you than your response. For example, using the teamwork concept for me I get "respect". So that means that one of my personal values is "respect".

According to the psychology literature you are documenting your hierarchy of needs as postulated by Maslow, whereby we all have needs that we want to be met before we address the next level of needs and so on. It's the top level of needs that is most interesting because it's this level of self-actualisation where you have the highest emotional needs. It's these values you need to reveal because you hold them most dear and they underpin your decision-making.

The importance of understanding your values is that they will impact your career vision – what you want to achieve in your career. Knowing your values will lead you down certain paths and will restrict your ability to follow others no matter how attractive these paths might appear. Knowing your values will save you time in your career by avoiding some unfortunate career moves and it will give you some guidance of the types of roles where you will be happy, and therefore perform well.

What's important to me really does matter!


In this Inspirations we've explored the two questions that really matter in your career. One question helps you to understand your values – "what's important to me?" Whilst the other question will help you focus on those activities that you will perform well – "what makes me happy?"

To learn more about yourself and your career, contact Inspirational Leaders (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).