We know in our gut when we need to make a change; but we don’t always have the guts to make that change. This post offers words of advice for those who need to embrace change.
A large component of my executive coaching practice is working with highly intelligent, capable professionals on identifying and overcoming the things they do to self-sabotage their careers. But sometimes the problem runs deeper than behaviours and belief systems. Sometimes the challenge is that for whatever reason, the individual needs to re-invent themselves. This can be a devastating realization for a professional. We spend years building our skills and experience to do a certain role and do it well. Shouldn’t the reward be ever-lasting success? Unfortunately, the marketplace can change (in terms of available work, or increased competition); and we can change (age, location, health, responsibilities). This forces a re-align of our world, often with us on the outside of success. .
Or perhaps we wake up one day and realize that we simply want more: greater business success, more confidence and contentment, more challenge, more stability, more fun. We know that we need to make a change, but the moment we make this realization, we start to fight it. We do so by forgetting the realization; not following through consistently with required behaviour changes; living by exceptions to the rule, etc. It reminds me of a video I saw on Facebook the other day of a little girl who was struggling between wanting to eat a Popsicle and falling asleep. Neither action won by the end of the video, and I can only assume that the Popsicle melted and she finally awoke, completely un-rested and cranky.
- Realize you need to change: Like so many of those watershed moments, the first positive step is to realize that we have a problem. Continuing to operate the way we are will not serve you. You need to make a change, and once you realize this, you must not allow yourself to waver. So take the time to be really clear on this fact before you proceed. Here is where you want to get: I am not happy. I need something to change. I can’t force the world around me to change; all I can change is me. This (x) is what I need to change.
- Have a vision: The next step is to develop a vision of what you want to be. Too often, professionals bypass this step and move directly to process: I’m going to work harder; I’m going to write this article or attend that conference. Moving into action before developing a vision is like driving to the airport before you’ve decided where you want to go. You’re travelling, sure, but to where?! Take the time to create a vision of what a great life would look like. What are you doing? For what kind of clients? How much money are you making? What does your lifestyle look like? Often, my clients need help with this step as they either judge themselves out of their own dreams, or they write down a lifestyle that is unrealistic. Let me put it this way: you probably won’t become a movie star at this point in your life; but if you want to make a very comfortable living doing work you love, that should be realistic.
- Build a Pathway: Now you can decide how you will get there. Start by creating a list of sub-headings to be focussed on. Examples might include: finances, marketing, administration, and education. Re-inventing yourself will require a range of changes. By thinking about the elements of change, it helps you to plan holistically yet at the same time, consider each element as a more manageable bite. This will make the plan more palatable, realistic and organized.
- Pursue Your Plan with Absolute Discipline: Our success is defined by our actions as well as our vision. Those actions must occur on a daily basis. Ensure that what you are doing aligns with where you want to go by creating weekly and daily actions that support your vision. Then stick with those tasks. Don’t allow constant excuses to derail you.
- Track and Reward Your Success: Don’t think you are fulfilling your change manifesto: know that you are. Track your activities, and especially the results. Consider rewarding yourself when you hit certain thresholds on the way to your vision. That which gets rewarded gets done.
People re-invent themselves all the time. Tom Clancy was an insurance agent before he became one of the most published authors in North America. Einstein was first a patent agent. Arnold Schwarzenegger started out as a brick layer, moved through body building into acting, then went in to politics. I began as a dancer, moved through marketing and now I’m a business strategist and coach. Some re-inventions result in fundamentally different careers; some are just re-adjustments of the career you have now. Regardless, re-invention is not nearly as difficult as your mind would have you believe it is.
In fact, the biggest challenge to your metamorphosis is you. We limit ourselves. We create plans and then don’t follow them. We lack the determination to see our vision through. As prolific and successful children’s author Denise Brennan-Nelson says: “Someday is not a day of the week”. Be definite. Create a vision. Build a pathway to get there. Be disciplined with your implementation, and reward your success.