Get Clarity and Get Going with Four Simple Steps
In my last post, I talked about the importance of creating a vision for your life and getting unstuck. But getting going takes more than a vision; it takes a plan. Once you “see” the life you wish to create, you must get busy working to create it. And here is another place where we can get stuck.
Most of us never learn about setting goals and creating action plans. Schools don’t teach you this. Teachers write lesson plans, tell you what you should do, and then you do it. A fortunate minority of the vast majority of public school attendees receive this kind of instruction. No one teaches you how to set your goals or decide what to do. Is it any wonder that many teens who leave high school for college are woefully unprepared to self-manage their goals?
Coaching is also sold as the best way to jump-start your career. Pay a coach to ask you questions and get clarity. I have hired and learned from some great coaches over my career. But I have also had times when coaching myself was the quickest way to get unstuck. Here is how I do it.
I learned about the GROW Coaching Framework while pursuing my MBA. I immediately fell in love with its simplicity. I put it to use coaching staff and found it to be helpful. But only if you want to treat your people like adults who do not need to be “fixed” for some reason or another.
GROW is an acronym that stands for Goals-Reality-Options-Will/Way Forward. It is so wickedly simple that you may be tempted to ignore it. But stepping through this process can help you get clear, make a decision, and develop a set of action steps to move forward.
Goals. The first step is to decide what you want. This is sometimes the most difficult step. One question you can ask yourself is, “What would I like to see happen?” Or “What does success for this look like?” The most common mistake I have seen people make here is stating what they don’t want. Spend some time thinking about what you DO want. Dream big but be realistic. Write the vision in as much detail as you can. Then take a step back and decide what you need to do to get you there. I am a fan of “start small, build deep, be patient.” You don’t do yourself any favors by setting unrealistic goals, which will lead you to frustration and eventually giving up.
Reality. Once you have a clear picture of where you want to go, you need to assess your current situation. Some people would rather skip this step. Your current situation may be something you would rather not think about. You have to be willing to look in the mirror and state the ugly truth of your current circumstances. Without this step, you will not develop a deep enough motivation to move past where you are right now. So look at your current situation in all of its ugliness. Write down why you want to get out of this current reality. Is it uncomfortable? Are you bored? Are you frustrated? Don’t be afraid to attach emotions to it. Those emotions can be powerful motivators.
Options. Now it's time to brainstorm your potential pathways to freedom. People get stuck here often because they can’t “see their way out” of their current reality. You may need to talk to a mentor, coach, or trusted advisor to get some options on the table. I will also say that you may discover an option that scares you. It may require you to step outside of your comfort zone, which may be exactly what you need to break free of. Make a list of your options. Then ruthlessly narrow your options to the top two that resonate the most with you. Resist the temptation to go to the next step with more than two options. If you do, you will find yourself spinning around indecision.
Will/Way-Forward. The last step is to ask yourself, “What WILL I do?” Another way to ask this is, “What am I WILLING to do?” This is where you must make a final decision on the ONE option you plan on pursuing. Once you have decided, you need to write one or more “I will…” statements. The goal here is to solidify some tactical steps you will take to get you from your reality to your goal. This collection of “I will…” statements will serve as your “way forward.” I recommend posting them where you will see them every day. Or better, review them twice per day, morning and night, to keep yourself motivated and on task.
What strategies have you used to take yourself from goals to an action plan?