The most important question to ask yourself is the one about your future and your dreams. In the world where nothing is out of reach – if you really put your mind into it – what do you dream of doing or becoming? This is also a world where most of us are looking for more meaning: the phenomenon of the XXI century. What is meaning after all? To me it’s to wake up, and go to sleep, feeling excited about the new day – and most of the things I’ll be doing.
Are you happy with yourself, your work, your romantic relationships or do you feel stuck in any of them? What is stopping you from taking small steps to change it? It could be a vision of your life in 3 months, a year or longer. Do you have a specific idea of what – if happened – made you feel really excited?
Think for a moment and be honest with yourself. This is the question that began my transformation and helped me change my life a year ago.
Instead of getting on with everything as before when I was so busy I didn’t have time to reflect, one day I decided to be more strategic.
I think this happens naturally when you are so fed up and tired of living a life you know you don’t really enjoy that you take action. At that time my health was a mess. My doctor recommended, in addition to medication I was taking – that I change my job as clearly it was too much: even though I loved what i was doing I didn’t learn how to deal with constantly raising my own bar. Behind a shiny facade of a glamorous London life I still didn’t enjoy myself on a daily basis – was too stressed and overwhelmed to do so.
One weekend I sat down and created a roadmap for myself that helped me to do both: regain my health, learn how to relax after work and spend more time doing things I really cared about – like this blog – instead of seeing the days pass me by without making any difference. Did you notice that the older you get the faster time goes by?
Asking what is it that you want is not a trick questions: most of us don’t know precisely what we want to achieve within a year, but dream of a different life. We have a vague idea of what we like (and know what we don’t enjoy). It could be a combination of different factors, like your family and relationships, changing your job, being promoted or negotiating a better salary, having more time for yourself, getting in better shape, prioritizing your health, saving money to travel the world. You name it.
Why it is so important?
We are all influenced by people around us, by social media and marketing teams telling us what is best for us. It’s a powerful industry affecting our emotions and creating a vision for us – and we are so exposed to it we don’t realize it. Difficult to say ‘no’ to campaigns convincing us to buy things we don’t need or can’t afford. Then come our friends and families – who also have ideas about how we should lead our lives. They may wish us well, but they don’t know what we want!
There is a great number of people living lives they despise. I’m talking about those in developed countries who have full control over changing them. Yet they don’t – and I know it first hand as it was me for 5 years.
Try the GROW model for yourself. It’s likely to open your eyes and energize you to pursue the future you desire. It will help you to:
- Prioritize your time and your actions accordingly – most of your energy will be focused on getting there instead of getting on with other opportunities aka ‘daily distractions’.
- Regain control and let go of fear – once you see what is at stake and how much you can win, your fear is greatly replaced by excitement. You will stop complaining about things you don’t like.
- Enjoy the process. By having a roadpmap you will see, step by step, what needs to happen to bring you closer to that new job / new relationship / higher salary / travelling / … (you know best!).
Your life and your future is like your DNA – no one else will have the exact same combination to give you the answers you are looking for.
One of my friends was really unsatisfied with her job and it’s been going on for two years. She was unhappy with her salary and she knew she was worth more. She didn’t really enjoy what she was doing and felt she was wasting her time. At the same time she didn’t have time to look for another one as she was busy working late. She got into the vicious circle and couldn’t find a way out. I suggested she used a simple model called GROW to get control over her life again, and become more strategic about how she was using her time.
Plant your seed using GROW model
GROW is a model used extensively in performance coaching, helping you to become aware of your goals and create a roadmap for yourself. I’ve used it many times working with other women, and keep on using myself every 3-6 months to see if I’m still on track. Think of it as planting a seed with your future inside and slowly see it materialize.
There is one thing we can’t argue: we all have the same amount of time on our hands. It’s only by choosing to use your time efficiently that you can get ahead faster. GROW stands for Goals, Reality, Options and Way Forward. It helps you map specific steps to your new career.
Let’s get started!
Part 1: G for Goal setting
The goal should be your north star – something specific, measurable, realistic that will define your actions. The idea is to be as detailed as possible in describing what you want to achieve, including things such as:
- How does success look like?
- How will I feel once I get there?
- What makes you feel excited about this goal?
You can try describing it or drawing, whatever feels more creative. The more details you have – the better. You can try drawing it – and this TED Talk shows you exactly how to do it: Patti Dobrowolski is an expert on visual goal setting.
In my case I created two models – and made sure they align. One was designed specifically for work and where I wanted to get in 6-9 months, the other one for everything else – my relationships, my living situation, how I want to feel. I specified my personal life and work goals as I don’t believe you can separate them and still feel fairly accomplished holistically.
Part 2: R for Reality
The key part of this step is to be objective: reality describes your starting point so by knowing exactly where you are, and why are you still stuck in your current reality instead of getting closer to where you want to get. It’s also very tricky because we rarely are clear about where we stand.
How do you spend your time? Do you manage to work on your priorities every day or at least every weak? Or do you spend time working on other people’s priorities?Ask yourself:
- What is my current situation?
- What resources are available to change it, can someone help you?
- What barriers do you face?
- What is stopping me from going after my dreams?
Having someone you trust and who can be objective will be very helpful. You can ask a friend or a coach – to make sure your understanding of reality aligns with theirs. By the time you move to considering options you need to have a clear picture of your current situation.
A lot of people I work with quickly realize why they still haven’t made as much progress as they could have. I often see a combination of fear, lack of focus and lack of confidence being the main problem, and that’s what is the knowledge-action gap: we know what to do, but are afraid, can’t prioritize or aren’t confident we can do it.
Part 3: O for Options
My favorite part as you get to be creative and explore all the possible scenarios. It’s a bit like brainstorming session where all the ideas should take written down before you reject some of them. Try to stay open without constraining yourself to what feels possible and what doesn’t.
- In your wildest dreams, how would you deal with the challenge?
- How would more money, time or power change your situation?
- What would you do if you could start all over?
- What are the benefits and costs of different options you described?
Part 4: W for Way Forward
Time to be specific – this will put you ahead of 99% of people. Most problems or challenges can be solved quite easily, but what lacks is the commitment to start.
Now that you know how you can go about your plan, do you still feel excited and committed? Make sure you do, or change your plan – otherwise chances of you not following through are much higher. There will always be challenges and set backs, but having true conviction that it’s what you want to do will keep you going.
- What option is your best choice?
- How committed are you to pursuing your plan on a scale 1-10?
- What is the first step you need to take?
- How will you celebrate success?
Try with something small but difficult that you’ve been dreaming of, but fearing or not knowing how to start, for a long time. You will see that even though the model seems so simple it’s also very efficient.
Ask yourself – have others managed to do something similar? Do you have, in theory, what it takes to do the same? I love the baby steps approach – as you see how your dreams turn into reality, you will have more courage to try it out with bigger projects. Have fun!
Sir John Whitmore: Coaching For Performance: Growing People, Performance and Purpose
Patti Dobrowolski: Draw Your Future (TED Talk)