The school year has a nice energizing rhythm. Each new semester allows students and teachers the opportunity to start fresh. In essence, to have a “do over.” We get to look to the future (near and long-term) and make decisions about what we want to do with the next few months. If the previous semester was not particularly fruitful, the new one provides new opportunities. And if the preceding term had been marked by success, we get to build on that. In either case, we keep our eyes on the future.
Whether you are on campus, at work, raising a family, or overcoming a life trauma, let me suggest a five-step model to help you look to the future. With a bit of poetic license, here is my “ize” on your future list:
- Visualize. Before we can reach a goal, we have to be able to see it—at least some general idea of what we are aiming for. In their book Switch, the Heath brothers suggest we write a “Destination Postcard” that describes in vivid detail where we are headed. In this way, we can touch, smell, see, and/or hear our dream. It gives it reality. There is a story I once read about the founder of IBM. Supposedly, his first step to build the corporation was to visualize what it would look like once it was successful. He then visualized what the IBM workers would look like and what they would be doing when successful. Finally, he started to act that way immediately. So, can you see your goal; can you see what you want to accomplish? If you want to make it to the Dean’s List, do you know exactly what that means? If you want to be the leading sales person for the coming quarter, do you understand the target—specifically? I believe Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees, was credited with saying something like, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll get there every time.” Visualize your purpose as specifically as you can.
- Prioritize. Once you know where you are going, figure out how you are going to get there. What steps will you need to take? Who can help you? What resources will you need? How much time will this dream require of you? When will you act? Let me suggest two strategies. (1) The Two-Minute Drill. Whenever you feel overwhelmed and consider saying, “I don’t have the time to go after my dream” call for the two-minute drill. Ask yourself what you can do in just two minutes that will get you closer to your goal. Just TWO MINUTES. Put everything else aside and concentrate on your goal—and do something concrete for two minutes. Tomorrow do two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening. The next day, stretch it to 3 minutes…and so on. Build a habit of action. (2) Eliminate the words “try” and “but” from your vocabulary. “Try” becomes an easy excuse as in “Well, I tried.” “But” erases everything that comes before it in the sentence. “I know I should go to the gym…but…I am so tired. Maybe tomorrow.” Build habits of priority management.
- Exorcize. Fear can be paralyzing. It can bring up all sorts of images and concerns about the future. Confront your fears. Are you fearful because you lack confidence in your abilities? If so, ask a mentor to give you feedback. Perhaps you have the ability to move forward; you just need a little reassurance. Leadership expert John Maxwell reminds us that 60% of our fears are unwarranted, 20% are based on something that already occurred (so we cannot change that), and 10% have little impact (http://www.successmagazine.com/maxwell-the-big-5-challenges-people-face/PARAMS/article/1148/channel/22). Strategy: Each day do something you fear. Nothing foolish, mind you, just something that stretches you out of your comfort zone.
- Exercise. (OK, I know, exercise ends with “ise”—but it sounds like “ize”. More poetic license.) If we want to reach our goals we have to take care of ourselves. I have written about this in earlier posts on this blog. (For instance, see “When is being selfish not being selfish” and “Balance is not necessarily even.”) Tom Rath’s new book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, summarizes a Gallup study on wellness conducted in 150 countries. Rath states, “Upon completion of the research, five distinct statistical factors emerged. These are the universal elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering.” (p. 5) The fourth element listed is Physical Wellbeing. What do you do to keep you body in shape? Are you engaging in self-sabotaging activities? How big has your “but” become? (See “Prioritize” above.)
- Realize. This is when we get to enjoy the goal. The work, the passion, the failures, the successes lead us to this point. Maybe it is just as we envisioned it in our Destination Postcard; perhaps we have made some adjustments along the way. What we do today, will in great part determine what our future will look like.
Keep your “ize” on your future.
© Steve Piscitelli and Steve Piscitelli’s Blog, 2010.