Seems like it should be an easy question to answer. But often it isn’t.
In our lives and in our work there are many barriers to uncovering a clear picture of what we want.
Tension and anxiety may have us in their grip. Or, we may be so interwoven with another person or a team it can be hard to detangle and separate out our own wants. We may have a tendency to get focused on what we can’t have — or at least not yet — either because our own saboteurs are in control or because we’re struggling to push through the limiting words and attitudes of others.
But, let’s suppose that you can identify what you want. What if this dream means a radical change? What if it doesn’t sit easily with your colleagues and friends, or causes concern in the people you love the most? What if you don’t feel ready for it, or can’t fully imagine the change? These are all reasons why we push down our wants and carry on with the lives we’re living now.
We’re nearing the end of the year, a point in time that is the perfect motivation to connect with your inner ‘wanter’. Is it time to discover your true purpose for this stage of your life or career? Is now the moment to try again at something that’s meaningful to you but which doesn’t come easily? Is it time to look at a past disappointment and take another run at it? Is this the stage in your life for working less, more, differently or elsewhere? Or, is this finally the moment to be free from a job or relationship that no longer serves you?
Take some time over these next few days to create space, connect with your intuition, your passion and wisdom, and ask yourself what you want. Listen. Be curious. Sense it. See it. When the vision of what you want comes, ask yourself what having it will do for you. Finally, ask how you’ll know when you have it. Then park it. If it comes back to you over the days that follow you’re onto something to be explored more fully!
Today I completed a three session clarity package with a client looking to make changes to her career and life heading into 2017.
The client had quit her career in public policy work nine years ago, early in her career, to take on the family business. It was a decision she felt pressured into making. Recently, she’s been missing the intellectual challenges and the sense of ‘making a difference’ that accompanied her work in human rights. To prepare for an upcoming shift she delegated a number of day-to-day tasks to a management company. But, she’s not looking to leave the family business fully yet, as it will provide her with a good income while she navigates what comes next.
In our initial consultation we did an exercise to provide more context for her desired changes. What surfaced is that her health is a concern and needs to be factored into to her thinking. It’s always useful to get the bigger picture going into any coaching engagement. Sometimes a client may want to make a change in one area but other parts of their life may not be lined up to support them.
In our first full session we uncovered her values. Advocacy, community, learning, connecting, making a difference, and her recent marriage were all important. It turned out that several of her values were being honored in her current work but some scored low in the assessment. Through discovery and scoring we got an honest snapshot of her current situation.
Some of the proposed actions that came out of this session turned out to be premature. At the start of our second session the client indicated that she needed to do more self discovery and research about potential opportunities before moving into action. In short, she needed to slow things down. Her timeframe shifted from being a few months to at least six months, and she now realized that there would be fewer hours in the week to give to a different type of work (5-10 hours rather than 20 hours). Often, our Saboteurs — or inner critic voices — awaken when we’re looking to make changes in our lives, and they can put lead boots on us that slow down progress. However, with this client I sensed a re-frame, that rather than a big shift in her career she was looking to pursue her passions more incrementally.
So, next we shifted to her role and purpose. She came up with the phrase ‘change agent’ in one of the visualizations, and that resonated with her both professionally and personally.
Our final session started with some positive updates. After connecting with friends and relatives she had signed up for an orientation class around learning a new technical skill, specifically a computer programming language. She’d also connected with an online nonprofit matching service where she could offer her professional services for a few hours at a time. These were two ways she could honor her values more fully. She saw potential obstacles around prioritizing her new goals versus family, but she also felt a high level of commitment to fulfilling them.
The focus of the third session was to create a vision for 2017. I asked my client to provide a headline for the year ahead: “Restructuring and reinvention – in that order!” she replied. By putting structures and systems in place within her existing business she would be creating more freedom and space for reinvention. And, by digging into personal finances, estate planning and home improvements she would be honoring her relationship with her new spouse.
Ultimately, she completed the Clarity Package with specific goals for 2017:
“I am clear that I want to get my house in order in 2017. I’m clear that I want to learn something in technology. I’m clear that I want to give back, and that I want to learn more about myself.”
The next step is to follow up with some assessment tools to help her with discovery around her personal strengths and blind spots.
In April and May, we were on retainer to prepare a CEO for an important milestone — giving his first commencement speech. It’s an honor for anyone to be asked to speak on such an important occasion and it’s out of the ordinary for a technology executive who more typically speaks about company products and strategies.
As we reviewed the executive’s on-camera performances at the start of the project — we could see that he was a passable speaker but he had some habits that kept him from being truly entertaining or inspiring. We set out to achieve three goals: a) to identify with the audience of graduates; b) to feel ‘within himself’ as he communicated from the heart; c) to create a vision about the world in front of them and the opportunities and challenges they face.
Up first was to develop a script that would connect with his audience of several thousand graduates. As expected, this took several iterations over many weeks. It needed to be personal, which meant we needed to keep digging and prodding. Finally we landed on the themes of embracing change, taking risks and learning from failure. It’s not easy for a successful executive to speak about their failures, especially when they’ve gone from being a self-made millionaire to being broke, all within 5 years, but as journalists we knew this would connect with his audience, and give him credibility.
Once the script was in good shape we started rehearsals. We first mirrored back what we were hearing — his speech was slow and fairly monotonous. This is always profound work, getting our clients to hear themselves the way we hear them. Once they can hear it, they’re motivated to find a better version of themselves. We also used a technique where we marked up his script, providing direction for emphasizing words, pauses, breaths. He found this very useful and became skilled at hitting his marks.
Finally, as we reached the last week, with graduation day in sight and with the core messaging in place, we took the script to some lighter places. Marilyn is a stand up comedian and she’s worked in Silicon Valley for decades, so that was a useful combination. Not all the jokes made it into the final draft but it helped the executive find his own path to some lighter moments.
As the executive spent time with the script in the final days before delivering the speech, he made it his own. This really helped him gear up for the big day. He had the words, he had the techniques, and he now he’d found the heart of what he wanted to communicate: that success and failure go together, that failure shouldn’t stop you from trying, that taking risks will lead to both success and failure and that we all learn from both.
The audience loved him and he soared in his presentation. We were thrilled to have helped shape it.
I’ve been working with a client for the last 2 months, meeting weekly. He’s very creative, thinks strategically and hired me because he’s been excited about starting a business for a while. But, despite his passion, he hasn’t been moving forward in concrete ways. He’s currently working as a creative consultant, but feeling under-utilized. Ultimately, he wants to turn his hobby, which he spends one day a week pursuing, into his full-time occupation.
What’s been so rewarding is how he has responded to exercises and visualizations around values identification, his personal vision statement, his inner wisdom and naming the Saboteur voices that can hold him back. There have been many moments of breakthrough and deep emotion as he sees himself more fully. From this place he makes light work of moving forward with his action steps each week.
This client is now creating a community for himself, based on his new business idea. This is happening easily, he’s being welcomed warmly and his venture is being taken seriously. Smartly, my client isn’t jumping into anything — he’s taking his time to review what he sees as three options for what his new business and his new life may look like. There’s also an ending at his current workplace to work through; leaving the financial security feels risky and saying goodbye to the daily friendships is not easy.
We’re now heading into business coaching which will shape his vision further and make it more real — establishing pricing structures, creating plans and timelines, identifying his ideal clients and doing inventory around his assets. So, is my client ready to start his own business? Well, for now let’s say he’s firmly embracing the Inception phase.