We spend so much of our lives chasing singular goals that it’s easy for us to forget the power of synergy — that mysterious dynamic whereby a bunch of factors come together to create a result far greater than the sum of their parts.
One place I often witness synergy is in people’s career pursuits. It’s fun to see someone who has gone to engineering school, taken up a career in, say, construction, then discovered a passion for some random hobby and subsequently found a way to combine all of those interests and skill sets into a career for which they are perfectly suited.
In many cases, such synergies also benefit others. Take, for example, a person educated as a lawyer in the United States, but who wound up living for a number of years in Spain. Perhaps he or she developed both a fluency in the language and an interest in international relations during that time. Think about how much additional value this individual could bring to a career in international law, or as a bilingual advocate serving Spanish-speaking populations in the United States.
This sort of synergy is possible whenever individuals bring together a unique mix of intellectual, emotional, creative, social and spiritual resources, and find ways for those resources to enhance and amplify each other.
Unfortunately, this sort of synergy doesn’t always happen. Too often, I’ve seen people floundering around for decades trying to find their niches, or forcing themselves to pursue professions for which they seem ill-suited. I suspect this happens because they’ve failed to “connect the dots” of their own authentic passions, natural strengths and life experiences.
And this is true in many areas of life beyond career choice. A few months ago, Experience Life ran a great article called “Find Your Fitness Passion” (March 2012). It encouraged individuals to consider a whole wealth of interconnected personal factors that could help them determine which fitness pursuits might light them up, and which were more likely to leave them cold.
That article got rave reviews from readers, many of whom said it was the first time they’d given much regard to their own natural fitness inclinations. For weeks, the article remained one of the most viewed and shared pieces at ExperienceLife.com, and is still getting circulated via Facebook and Twitter today.
Discovering synergistic opportunities in any area of our lives — health, career, relationships, finance and more — begins with asking ourselves questions, observing our past and current experience, and looking for patterns. You might start with questions like these:
- What have been the most influential experiences of your life?
- What are your natural skills, talents and fascinations?
- What educational or professional backgrounds can you draw on?
- What instincts or inclinations have you followed, and which have paid off for you in the past?
- What unique or unusual life experiences have you had, and what have you taken away from them?
- What personal relationships, professional connections and social networks are you a part of, and which do you most enjoy?
- In what environments do you feel most alive, energized or at ease?
- What knowledge and perspectives can your draw on from your family heritage and cultural background?
- What moments of your current life bring you the most satisfaction?
- What qualifies as “fun” for you, even if it feels like “work” to others?
As you begin to look at these and other factors, you’ll begin to see a series of “dots” that define who you are, and how you are naturally wired up. You’ll see ways some dots already connect, and you’ll probably also begin to see opportunities to leverage and connect more of them more powerfully.
What these dot-connecting opportunities often reveal is a range of life possibilities that have been quietly developing for years, decades even. We just haven’t bothered to notice them, or allowed ourselves to step far enough back from the demands of our daily lives to fully appreciate their power.
So, if you haven’t considered questions like these in your own life lately, I recommend you take some time to do so. Because the picture that forms when you start drawing lines between your own life dots will soon become a map for a future so compelling and so promising that you’ll want to live it for real, starting now.
Bahram Akradi is the founder and CEO of Life Time Fitness.