William Shakespeare’s play ‘As You Like It’ used the metaphor of the role you play in life as a stage. The melancholy nobleman, Jaques, says to Duke Senior:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…
If all the world’s a stage and you are merely a player, do you get to choose the role you take on? Can the role you take on change over time?
My answer to that question is a resounding “Yes”.
You can choose the role you want to play. Do you want to be the hero or heroine? The side player or a main character?
It’s your life, and so you get to be the scriptwriter and write the narrative.
The challenge of course is that we all have stories running in our head about who we are and what we can be. Some that may be helpful, and others not so helpful.
The story goes that Napoleon was given a star sapphire stone by his grandmother when he was a young boy growing up in Corsica (Italy).
His grandmother told him that it would bring him good fortune because whoever had the stone would become Emperor of France. Now for a boy from Corsica that would seem like a long way to travel. It’s reported that he kept the stone his whole life.
Apparently on his death the stone was examined and it turned out to be a fake. Fake or otherwise, it didn’t matter. It was a useful talisman for Napoleon because as you know he became the Emperor of France.
These stories you tell yourself, as well as the stories that others tell you, shape your paradigms as to how you view the world and your place in it.
Paradigms are theories or groups of ideas that you hold about things. They are useful as they help you group common elements and frame issues.
They can also hold you back, particularly if the paradigms are out of date. The world moves on – all the time – and therefore it’s often necessary to change how you see yourself.
One of the biggest paradigms we hold onto is the type of career we should have.
It’s often the battle of what we ‘should’ do versus what we ‘could’ do.
- What are the expectations that others have on me (in relation to my career) that are unhelpful?
- What are the expectations I place on myself?
- Are those expectations helpful or unhelpful?
- What might I need to shift in me to reshape those expectations?
Ditching expectations isn’t easy. It starts with being open to new ideas and being willing to step up in a different way. Its leveraging your strengths, and knowing your purpose and the principles which underpin how you live your life.
It’s consistently placing one step in front of the other to move forward with purpose.
As the American writer Joan Didion wrote: “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
So what expectations will you change today?
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate your Career’.