02/28/2013 04:51 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2013

Shrimp, Fish or Whales: What's Your Mission?

When you put out to the Sea of Life in pursuit of your goals and dreams, are you headed for deep, perhaps uncharted waters, well-known, and possibly over-hunted regions or do you like to play it safe and stay close to shore? Are you after gentle shrimp, powerful marlin or magnificent whales? All three strategies are fine, as long as you know which is right for you, which means you are in-tune with your purpose and your mission.

But if you're a shrimper, dreaming of catching a mighty marlin on the high seas, what's holding you back? And if you're a whale-rider terrified of falling off, why can't you make the leap to safety?

The shrimp strategy has its attractions: cast your net wide and go for the many small and delightful rewards the sea has to offer. The risk is low, the takings are tasty and bountiful, the way is sure, and the waters are known as long as you keep land in sight.

But are you after bigger fish? This involves expending more energy, taking more risks and, if you do indeed hook a marlin, fighting hard to get what you want. The rewards for this investment in time, will power, discipline and energy can be great -- as long as your line holds, you land your prey and you don't become lost in the gray expanses of the roiling sea.

And then there are those who dream of riding on the sleek backs of whales. They may need the shrimp to take care of basic needs -- home and sustenance -- and may have already risen to the challenge of capturing a large and meaty fish, but their target is something grander. They have a higher purpose.

For the whale-rider, the investment is greater, the target harder to reach, the commitment pure, the time and energy more intensive. But when they have caught hold of a whale's fin, and are determined to hang on, they can explore the rich depths of life's seas, sail through uncharted waters and leap skywards towards the sun.

For your own contentment and peace of mind, understand which type you are -- and which type you are not: a shrimper, happy for the small, numerous, secure things which life has to offer; a fisherman, eager for the adventure and thrill of going after bigger rewards, but conscious of the risks involved; or a whale-rider, daring to attain heights of which others merely dream. They dare to become a Lincoln, a Mandela, a Maria Montessori, a Steve Jobs.

The key is self-awareness, knowing and accepting both who and what you are -- and who and what you are not. Are you trapped in the operational need to haul in shrimp, when what you really want is to catch deep-sea marlin? Or are you sick of the endless struggle to land the big fish and long for a slower life of netting shrimp? And if your path is to ride whales, what are you doing chasing fish and shrimp?

In your career, whether in shallow waters or deep, an office worker or a housewife, an educator or a sportsperson, an artist or a soldier, a sales manager or a CEO, determine what you are searching for before putting out to sea. Who are you, and which path is best for you? Have you really considered the costs and the life-transforming opportunities and dislocations of getting that MBA, moving to a foreign country, starting your own business, becoming a CEO?

Shrimper, fisherman, whale-rider: all three strategies are worthy, useful and meaningful. All have their own pleasures and rewards. All you have to do is decide which role will bring you closer to that elusive, noble and yet attainable goal: self-fulfillment.