30 Apr Our Professional Paths: Avoiding Overload in Favor of Clarity and Purpose
(A favorite of mine, from back in 2013)
I am continually amazed by the generosity of the talented writers and thinkers in our profession. What seems to be just a few years ago, our pre-Internet ability to connect with colleagues beyond our immediate reach was limited to snail mail and conference settings. Nowadays, there are countless linguists who share a bit of themselves and their knowledge through blogging, tweeting, informative personal websites… the amount of information out there for us to enjoy is just a click away. Somebody is always publishing and the topics are wonderfully varied and pertinent. Nonetheless, trying to keep up with this incessant barrage of ideas (or ‘the scribble,’ as I like to call it) can be paralyzing. The anxiety and polarization caused by countless clicks to stay informed is often referred to as social media overload.
The easy part: Getting up to speed
Consider the viewpoint of somebody exploring our profession for the first time — having ready access to all these resources must be wonderful! I remember having to call a local interpreting school to ask them to mail me a brochure and having to rearrange my life just to get to a class. Now, of course, if we want facts or to take a class, we can often find it online and within minutes, we’ve paid for and downloaded Lesson One, and the learning begins. Our colleagues all around the world are making it possible to access information that they’re sharing in virtual classrooms and other types of learning modalities every moment of the day.
The hard part: Keeping up
Our access to great web content is always going to be something we should advocate for and contribute to if we can. After all, having our profession continue to be packed with well-informed, enthusiastic and capable individuals is a win-win for all of us. But we have to realize that it is next to impossible to be up-to-date on all the information out there and actually read every entry on the myriad of great blogs we might follow. It would be nice, but it’s simply not realistic.
The more we look at content, the more fascinated we can become by the authors, leading us to read more about their paths to success and best advice to hone our skills. Eventually, instant access to the wisest voices drawing us to listen can become impossible to sort through. When we find ourselves paying attention to too much at once, we can be left feeling like we’re simply not keeping up with the Joneses. It’s a double-edged sword, with inspiration and success being one outcome, and feelings of inadequacy and frustration being another. This makes me think of a scene in a Jim Carrey movie, “Bruce Almighty,” where the main character is put into God’s shoes, and is overwhelmed by hearing millions of believer supplications all at the same time. Likewise, we can get so wrapped up in learning and exploring and finding and reading and imitating and connecting… that we can either lose our own path or become unable to determine what it should look like. We can become unsure of whether we’re doing enough or even doing the right things. We constantly search for the answers others have given, but can forget to sit down and look at the answers that best fit ourselves and our life circumstances.
Stepping back to find clarity and purpose
Let’s take a moment to assess how our social interactions and exploration of the cyberworld are in line with our own paths. Let’s be sure that we’re not getting too overwhelmed by our efforts to learn/comment/blog/tweet/link… Maybe we need to be more selective about who we follow or what we read about. Perhaps limiting our reading and participation to certain times would help. Truly assessing how we are handling all this information and being crystal clear about its purpose and value in our professional lives is an absolute must.
Happily, we are better informed now than we ever have been in the past, but our journeys (and our inner peace!) are hindered when we allow ourselves to try to focus on too much, all at the same time. Defining our own circumstances and setting our goals based on them is a crucial first step, while failing to define where we are and where we want to go can lead to a constant cycle of exploring others’ stories, gathering resources we never fully absorb, and taking little or no action.
Of course, there’s a bunch of web sources that put these thoughts into different scenarios and give excellent solutions. Maybe you’ll find some tips below that will help you keep that scribble to a minimum.