Are You the Designer or Engineer of Your Life? Or Are You a Cog in the Machine?

Posted on May 4, 2010

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Chris Guillebeau at the wonderful blog The Art of Non-Conformity posed this question: How will your choices change the world today?

His words moved me:

Everyone else is counting on you. We need you. I can’t wait to see how your choices will change the world.

All of us make mistakes, sometimes big ones, so you might as well make your mistakes count for something good.

Sometimes the risky choice is doing the things the way they’ve always been done.

Consider an ant. It knows, somehow, without even thinking, what its job is.  It does that job, day in and day out, without thinking, without questioning, and without much variation.  You don’t see ant conferences or see ants challenging the status quo.  An ant is part of a much larger machine and it does its job.  An ant doesn’t worry about self-fulfillment, seeking a calling or outsourcing and downsizing of its job.  It just does the job.

Consider your own life:

  • Did you choose your current path? Or did someone else choose?  Did you do what others did because it was the normal progression of things?
  • As you get your tasks done, do you operate on auto-pilot? Or do you execute the work in a manner to delight your ‘customer,’ whether that customer is your boss, your business customer, your parents, your children, your spouse, your teacher or yourself?
  • How are you making a difference in your life? Does your answer align with your personal values?
  • Do you spend most of your time on the things you value most?  Do you spend most of your time (and money) in a way that will make your life meaningful?
  • Are you taking risks and making mistakes?  (If not, why not?)
  • Are you the Designer or Engineer of your life – or more like a cog in the machine?

I must admit – in my past life, even as a somewhat senior professional, even as a ‘go to’ person, I often felt like that cog or that ant, doing a lot of work, not questioning the ‘why’ but marching towards completion.  Employees who consistently do what they’re told can make good money.  Until their job becomes irrelevant or is outsourced to someone who can do it cheaper, more efficiently, and faster.

I’m feeling a bit more purposeful now, if a bit poorer, so I can say with authority (at least for me): Being the designer of your own life beats being the cog in the machine.

What do you think?  Go in and do the job and go home, don’t make waves?  Or tackle that job and make mistakes and home runs in equal measure?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

thanks, Ami

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