Self Discovery Brought to You by Microsoft
By: Theresa Perrone
It’s 12:30 in the morning, and I’m delivering a PowerPoint presentation. To myself. Has it come to this? In today’s age of the concept memo, the requirements document, and the sent-from-my-Blackberry teleconference agenda, has our process of self-discovery become hijacked by Microsoft Office?
In 2003 I found myself in the midst of a major career crisis – hell, a life crisis. A relocation, a break-up, and a decision to go back to graduate school (followed by dropping out and transferring to another graduate school) left me feeling a little less than stable. In fact, it felt as if I’d gone from 5th gear to 1st, no clutch, no brake – pretty scary stuff (and a pretty expensive transmission job!).
No stranger to journaling, talk therapy, or the periodic visit to a $10-per-palm psychic, I decided I needed to undertake some process for making sense of my recently-past experiences, my hopes, goals, and desires.
And here’s where Bill Gates came to the rescue. What better way for me to describe the context of my professional samsara and my personal restlessness? Could I generate a PowerPoint about me? A presentation to outline my state of affairs, an itemized list of alternative scenarios, bullets describing my own personal performance measures? You bet I could.
It was brilliant, if I do say so myself. And, it was completely nuts. While the inaugural presentation was helpful, its successors (with titles like “Plan to Make a Plan” and “Plan for a New Plan”) left me feeling behind the proverbial 8-ball. What terrible things would happen when I ran out of slides? (I recall crying to a friend one night, “But my PowerPoint doesn’t go past February!”)
As rational and thoughtful as some “Type A’s” are in our professional lives, even I had to admit that there is a time and a place for strategic planning and “implementation of strategies focused on improved physical health.” What I’ve learned is that the future is full of unknowns, and while we can make certain things go our way (by choosing to date the nice guy, apply for the promotion, etc.), it’s counterproductive to trick ourselves into thinking that we can control everything. Bulleted lists, decision-making frameworks, and stock-taking matrices might look nice on-screen, but it’s those gut instincts, the little voices, and the time we spend letting go, instead of holding on tight to the reins that leads us to real contentment.