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Stepping Up explains an elegantly simple yet entirely practical approach to making positive choices at work and in life. Timothy Dobbins, a leading executive coach, a Fellow at the Warton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a former Episcopal priest, advocates stepping up, or taking responsibility, even if it means having a difficult conversation with a colleague or experiencing the discomfort of making tough decisions, especially at work. Dobbins' approach to the workplace is based on his experiences ...
Stepping Up explains an elegantly simple yet entirely practical approach to making positive choices at work and in life. Timothy Dobbins, a leading executive coach, a Fellow at the Warton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and a former Episcopal priest, advocates stepping up, or taking responsibility, even if it means having a difficult conversation with a colleague or experiencing the discomfort of making tough decisions, especially at work. Dobbins' approach to the workplace is based on his experiences over the past 16 years helping senior executives and CEOs make the decisions that have made their own companies more humane and more profitable.
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To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
It's not just about the money.
You're good at what you do. You work long hours, and while you'd like to earn more, you may be earning a pretty good living. Perhaps you've acquired a certain amount of power, partly as a result of your skills and partly because you've learned how to climb the ladder and manage up. You care about your colleagues, your customers, and maybe even your business.
Despite all that, there are workdays when you feel you're just going through the motions, and others when you feel you're treading water, struggling just to keep from drowning in the minutiae of work and life. From the moment the alarm woke you in the morning to the minute your head hit the pillow at night, you were busy. You drank your morning coffee on the way to work, had lunch at your desk, and stayed late. Yet, as you close your eyes and try to think back on the day, you may not be able to single out anything you did that mattered. You may ask yourself, "Is this all there is?" String enough days like this together and soon you're feeling hollow. And string enough seemingly purposeless yearstogether and you're convinced your work, and perhaps your life, is insignificant.
Well, you're not insignificant. Your work matters. Every day, in countless ways, you have an impact, not just in your work, but on the lives of your customers, clients, and coworkers. I know it may not seem that way. Being, say, marketing director of a breakfast-cereal company doesn't seem to be as meaningful as being a social worker or a teacher. But it can be. The seeds of making a difference are there all around you.
The emptiness you may be feeling inside is hunger; hunger to make a difference. Deep down you know work isn't just about money or power. Sure, you need to take care of yourself and provide for your family and future--we all do--but there's more to it than that. You need to feel that what you're doing counts; that your work and you matter. And you can feel that.
By stepping up--by making right, just, and loving decisions throughout your day--you'll experience meaning in your work and your life. You'll feel as if you're truly being the person you always thought you could be. You'll wake up in the morning maybe even wanting to go to work.
It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment, or the courage, to pay the price. . . .
One has to abandon altogether the search for security, and reach out to the risk of living with both arms. One has to embrace the world like a lover, and yet demand no easy return of love. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt and darkness as the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict, but apt always to the total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.
--Morris L. West
The Epidemic of Emptiness
You're not alone in feeling this hunger for meaning: emptiness is epidemic. I'm an Episcopal priest. Over the past twenty-five years I've ministered to hundreds of people who were facing death. Every one of them, whether it was the ninety-year-old family matriarch slowly drifting away or the nine-year-old boy losing his short and intense battle with cancer, asked me a similar question: "Did I matter? Have I counted? Did my life make a difference?" Since shifting my mission from parish work to the business world, I've seen how those questions don't just represent end-of-life personal doubts, but daily workplace uncertainties. You may not always frame it so directly or dramatically, but that emptiness you sometimes feel about your work comes from the fear that what you're doing doesn't really matter.
The epidemic of emptiness has even become part of popular culture. In the film About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson plays insurance executive Warren Schmidt, who retires and shortly thereafter loses his wife. The sudden changes force Schmidt to look back on his life, and he's not happy with what he sees: "I know we're all pretty small in the big scheme of things, and I suppose the most you can hope for is to make some kind of difference, but what kind of difference have I made? What in the world is better because of me?"
Perhaps this epidemic was spawned by all the graying baby boomers who are realizing that, despite years of dutifully paying into the corporate Holiday Club, they're unlikely to reach the bureaucratic heights to which they once aspired. Maybe it comes from our transition from an industrial to an information- and service-based economy: the more we're removed from the creation of a tangible product, the less "real," and therefore the less meaningful, our work seems. It could be that, as a society, we're undergoing a values shift away from materialism and consumption to spirituality and community. Maybe cynicism is waning and idealism is waxing. Who knows, it could even be the result of a great historical cycle linked to our entering a new millennium. While a discussion of the causes could be fascinating and is certainly worthy of a book, that's not what I'm writing about.
I entered the priesthood five years after graduating college and spent more than twenty years ministering to the needs of parishioners. I began at St. John's Episcopal Church Lafayette Square, known as the Church of the Presidents, right across from the White House in Washington, D.C. Next I went to St. John's Episcopal Church in the famed fishing town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Finally, I served a well-heeled parish in a Philadelphia suburb.
Excerpted from Stepping Up
by Timothy Dobbins
Copyright © 2006 by Timothy Dobbins.
Excerpted by permission.
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