Goosebumps are a fascinating phenomenon.  Why is it that, in moments of heightened emotion (usually excitement or stress), the hair follicles on our arms go on sentry alert?  This is a physiological remnant from our animal ancestors who, when facing a stressful situation, switched into fight-or-flight mode.  The adrenaline coursing through their veins automatically triggered their hair follicles to expand, thereby creating an extra layer of insulation that could help them retain heat in their bodies. At one stage in our evolution, this was a vital survival mechanism.  Nowadays, goosebumps could be considered a useless legacy of our animal origins.

Or are they useless?  Think of those circumstances where you get goosebumps.  Scary and tense situations might come to mind first.  Expand that thinking.  What about hearing a song from your adolescence?  Witnessing a mesmerizing sunset?  Watching your child take her first step?  Drinking hot tea while wrapped in a cozy quilt as a thunderstorm rages outside?  Having an ‘a-ha’ revelation?  Goosebumps are a potent physical reminder that we’re experiencing a powerful moment–and that we should pay attention to it.

What does this have to do with the leadership job search?

Let’s be honest: sometimes the prospect of putting oneself out there can cause goosebumps of the “threat-detected” kind.  For many of us, we’d rather have a root canal than open ourselves up to the judgment of the job market.  We’d rather stay in our current warm-ish pond, thank you very much, than get out and experience that goosebump-inducing chill before we wade to shore.

If we switch our mindset away from pursuing a position, and shift it to pursuing our purpose, that can give rise to goosebumps of the more positive kind.  What gives you goosebumps in your professional life?  What are those moments when you feel moved to pay attention?  That “this is why you are doing what you’re doing and you’d like to keep doing it for more of these moments” feeling?  You may have a quick answer to that.  If you don’t, there are many resources out there designed to help you uncover your purpose/ why/ ikigai/ element.  I am happy to point you to such resources that I’ve found helpful.

On the leadership search adventure, goosebumps can also be a helpful guide, reinforcing your purpose at critical times. You can feel them when … reviewing a position announcement that really resonates with you, getting that first call from an interested recruiter, “nailing it” in an interview, doing a finalist site visit and truly imagining yourself there, receiving an offer (!!), savvily negotiating your contract and compensation package, celebrating your success!

Considering goosebumps in this light can help shift the leadership search adventure into a goosebump-chase rather than goosebump-escape.  Let’s go chase some geese!

On your side, even on the cliff edge,