The principle I used when talking about the difference between the strength of a relationship and what you do in that relationship applies elsewhere in relationships, business, academics… pretty much anywhere else in life.
The key is disassociating goals (or needs) from specific actions.
I know, this sounds like the opposite of every bit of self-help and efficiency advice out there. Stick with me for a second; I’m not advocating some wishy-washy mealymouthed wishful thinking here.
The best example would be the advice I gave my son over Christmas about choosing a career.
Think about the things you like doing. Not the specific things, but the quality of those things that makes them enjoyable. Do you like working with your hands? With numbers? Figuring things out? Seeing lots of people? Seeing few people? Being outside, or being inside?
When you’ve determined what qualities a job would need to be satisfying, then you start looking for jobs that offer those qualities.
Makes sense for someone who’s just starting to look at colleges, right?
But I think this makes sense in pretty much any situation.
Please note that I’m not saying to compromise the need or goal. But consider that there might be multiple ways to meet those needs than whatever first specific action comes to mind.
A practical example (mostly fictional): Two people are deciding where to go to eat.
1: “I don’t like spicy food, so we’re going to Golden Corral.”
2: “But I can’t stand buffets.”
1: “Don’t you care that I don’t want spicy food?”
This example is a little over-the-top, but the exact same principle applies to all the rest of your needs and goals. Is the goal to get a PhD, or to teach? Is the goal to be a neurosurgeon, or to help sick people?
By taking the time to examine your actual goals, needs, and desires – separate from the potential paths to reach them – you will open yourself up to many more possibilities… and a lot less conflict in your life.