The Dilemma

The Dilemma

In my earlier post Goals and Values, I had written about the importance of knowing the values behind our goals. Not too long ago, I had occasion to use this learning when Alex (name changed) came to me for help.

Alex is a young man of 29, who had a small software business running for the past three years, with 15 people working for him. He had plans to grow his business steadily and increase his wealth. He has a wife and a very young daughter for whom he has big plans. In addition, he also supports his parents who live with him. Alex was a happy man who had big dreams for the future. In a freak fire accident, all of his assets were destroyed and his business came crumbling down and with it, his dreams. What was more painful for Alex was to tell his employees to look for alternate employment as he was not sure of his own future.

When the person who referred Alex to me told me about him, I gathered that he was grappling with indecision and was not sure of whether he wanted to start his business all over again, which seemed daunting or get into a corporate job which might take some time to land but would offer the assurance of a steady income. Getting back into business would mean going through the pain of starting over where his skill levels would far exceed the challenges and he would therefore be bored. Getting a steady job would perhaps take long as he was out of touch with the corporate world for some time now. While his family was outwardly supportive, Alex could sense the tension underneath and therefore chose to stay away from them as much as he could in order not to be sucked into a negative force field.
By the time he came to me, Alex had two alternative goals in mind and believed he would do well in either of these. The dilemma now was which one he should choose. He was passionate about training people and the work of a freelance Corporate Trainer seemed appealing. That would satisfy his entrepreneurial urge as well. His qualifications and experience suited him for a corporate career though, in the role of a Business Analyst or Project Manager. I could calibrate his urge to be on his own.

“Let’s look at the two avenues you have,” I said. “If you believe you will do well as a Corporate Trainer, what would that get for you?

“I like teaching and there is nothing like the satisfaction of supporting students”, he responded.

To this and each of the responses thereafter, I kept asking him “What would that give you?” or “Why is that Important?”

We finally came to “Well, I care about my family and their well being.”

It was clear that he looked to the support of his family in whatever he would venture to do.

I then changed his focus on the other goal and asked him what he would get out of a corporate job. He paused a while before answering, “Recognition. Recognition in terms of position.”

Once again, I persisted with the “What would that give you?” and “Why is that Important?” questions till we landed at “I see where this is going. Yes, ultimately, I care about my family.”

“So, in both the goals, the value is caring for the family”, I said. He nodded in agreement

“If caring for the family is your top most value, what is most important for that?”

He thought for a while. “Financial security?” he asked. I nodded.

“What would you need in order to be financially secure?”

“A regular flow of income and the ability to save and grow wealth.”

“Well put. Good. And what would you need to do to have a regular flow of income?”

He paused long to think and his eyes twinkled. “A steady job”, he answered. “While I am passionate about training, it may take a while to start off and there may be times when I may not have assignments in the initial period.”

“Right,” I said. “Do you now have some clarity on which path to take?”

“Yes”, he said with conviction.

“What about your passion for training? If you take up a job, how can you satisfy that need?”

“I guess that needs to be set aside for now”, he said with a sense of surrender showing in his voice.

“What if there were opportunities for training in the Company you get to work for?” I asked. “Would you take them up?”

His eyes lit up. “Of course. That’s always an option.”

I then went on to ask him for an action plan and sought a commitment to action and got him to list down steps to progress towards his goal.

I heard back from him two weeks later, saying he was offered the job of a Project Manager with an IT major.

Image from Google