"If you are not your own agent, you are some one else´s."
-Alice Molloy, In Other Words (1973)
Doesn´t that sound appealing-being your own agent? It´s a little heady to imagine that you actually have some control over your destiny whether you´re deciding to bring work home (or not) or which movie you´re going to see next Friday night. But being your own agent comes with risks, too, and therein lays the problem with becoming your own center of gravity (please see June 1, 2006 blog post).
Yesterday I mentioned that it´s sometimes easier to focus on other people´s accomplishments (and failures, too-human nature and all . . . ) than to examine our own. Consider your own situation. Do you ever find yourself basking in someone else´s success at the expense of your own potential? In some cases, it´s more appealing to inhale someone else´s success than to work toward and breathe in our own. But taking on the role of the spectator has its risks as well. We may be out of the game and safe from injury, but we give up capturing our own hard-won victories.
One of the best wake-up calls for identifying this self-destructive behavior is to admit to ourselves how much energy we waste not only worrying about "what the other guy" is doing but how that power could be applied to our own prospects for success. Of course taking a good hard look inward usually comes with discovering certain truths that may not be that comfortable. Setting goals has to happen in the context of what we´re both good and not so good at. In other words, once you decide to stop worrying about what your colleague is up to and you look at your own life you may be surprised to find some areas where you are lacking. But that´s part of making a change. What´s the point if you´re already perfect?
But first you need become your own center of gravity, your own agent. If you´re a manager trying to teach this concept to your people, you can start out by letting people know that they do, indeed, have some control over their professional lives, but with that comes some risks. Creating and sticking to some tangible goals, however, can minimize those risks. But you need to give them some motivation, too. Motivation theory tells us that goals play a huge role in motivating people. That seems fairly obvious. What´s not so clear, however, is what kind of rewards need to be in place for people to stay motivated.
What reward systems to do you have in place? Remember, it´s a lot easier for people to be their own agents if there´s something waiting on the other side.