January is a great time to think about the changes you want to make – not just in your life – but in the world. The first step is to get very clear on the value you provide. Once you’re committed to functioning at the highest level of self and you’re crystal clear about your value proposition, you’re ready to embark on an undertaking without which your personal life would be incomplete and your professional life unfulfilled. You’ve discovered your Emotional Assignment. Let me give you an example of a remarkable woman named Alison De Spong who illustrates this principle of purpose. I met Alison when I had the privilege of presenting at CA Technologies’ first-ever Executive Women’s Forum.
Alison was a mere twenty-three when she discovered her Emotional Assignment. A self-proclaimed Type A, Alison was on a fast track in real estate advertising and marketing during Arizona’s boom years. Not only did she have a dream job, she’d bought and remodeled her own home. Nonetheless, Alison was longing for a deeper sense of purpose when an acquaintance introduced her to Teach for America, or TFA. TFA is the non-profit brainchild of founder Wendy Kopp, who wrote her senior thesis at Princeton on training leaders to teach in low-income rural and urban areas to wipe out educational inequality.
She was thrilled at the prospect of temporarily shifting her life goals so she could contribute in a big way. Despite concerns from friends and family, Alison quit her job and set off on her mission. TFA sent her through an accelerated teaching program at Fordham University and, in just a few months, she was a certified teacher assigned to P.S. 86 in the Bronx, the largest school in the country.
Alison was shocked by what she found waiting for her in her second-grade classroom. Some of the students couldn’t write their own names and most had never been on an escalator or to a museum. Alison lobbied advertising agencies in Manhattan to serve as sponsors for her class, providing much-needed materials, supplies, and equipment. She took her students on field trips to see skyscrapers, department stores, and flower-filled city parks. In short, she showed them a world of possibilities they might not otherwise have discovered.
In her first year teaching, Alison was nominated for Teacher of the Year for the state of New York. More important, she changed the lives of thirty-four students forever. As passionate and purpose-driven today, Alison is now the mother of three young children and an Account Director for CA Technologies in Phoenix. When the next Emotional Assignment comes calling, I have no doubt Alison will answer.
Now it’s your turn. Think about the Emotional Assignment you’re ready to undertake in 2013. I’d love to hear how you’re going to change the world!