Posted by: Admin | January 24, 2011

Applying the BIG Questions

Now that we’ve asked the BIG Questions, we need to apply them. To recap, for myself I eventually identified 5 needs that I consider crucial to my happiness. They are:

  1. Connection to other people
  2. Intellectual challenge
  3. Autonomy
  4. Satisfaction from making a difference in some way
  5. Ongoing financial security

As far as I could see, there were 4 courses of action open to me at that time. I wrote each option on a whiteboard :

a) Stay in my current job

b) Find a new job within my current field

c) Take up the place I had been offered to study for my PhD

d) Start a new business

Under each option, I drew up a list of pros and cons. So, for example, the pros of Option C, returning to academia, included my passion for and interest in the subject of my proposed thesis; the opportunity to reach the pinnacle of academic achievement; almost total autonomy; good opportunities for travel; the prospect of teaching. The cons were that there was little prospect of funding; it entailed a 3-6 year commitment; prospects were uncertain; there would be long periods of isolation; I would need to be totally self-motivated 100% of the time.

Once I’d undertaken this exercise for all four options, I was able to score each one according to my “needs”. It panned out like this:

a) Stay in my current job  –  fulfilled 1 , 5 & (partially) 4

b) Find a new job within my current field – scored the same as a)

c) Take up the place I had been offered to study for my PhD – fulfilled 1, 2, & 3

d) Start a new business – fulfilled 2, 3 & 4 and had the potential to fulfill 1 & 5 as well

I also felt my heart sink when I contemplated options 1 & 2, whereas options 3 & 4 felt exciting and interesting. Allowing my “gut” feeling to have a say seemed appropriate now that I had gone through this systematic process.

I hope that this series of posts has helped you to order your thoughts if you are thinking of making a change. You might find that you still have no clear idea of what you want to do, but at least you will have given yourself the time and head space to actually think about what is important to you. So if when you answered the Big question about what makes you happy, your first answer was fishing, or cooking, for example, perhaps it’s time to explore how you can take that interest and experience into the workplace, if finding a job is your end goal.

There’s one last BIG Question to come, then we can look at making it happen.


  1. To everyone reading: this is SUCH a useful exercise whether you are at a crossroads or not. Just as your computer regularly scans your hard drive for glitches and rogue programmes, so you need to scan yourself to see whether you’re on the right track. Are progressing or regressing?
    I would also like to point out that Jo has a real gift for enabling other people and helping them to work out appropriate goals. So have a go at these checklists – you may surprise yourselves.

  2. Why, thank you, WH – that’s very kind of you.

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