See if this sounds familiar.
Demands are coming at you at lightning speed. You work hard and you are accomplishing a lot. But your email inbox doesn’t seem to get smaller and your calendar is full to the rim. The more you are delegating, the more seems to be coming back at you. You are stuck in the daily rut of your responsibilities. Your team, your boss/board, your spouse, your kids and/or parents, your community — everyone wants something from you. It seems as if whoever is pinging you the most is getting the most attention. All you have time for is to answer other people’s questions. There is no room for strategy in your work week.
How can you be proactive in this environment? You know you need to change something, but what?
Highly accomplished leaders still get sucked into the vortex of reaction. And in my experience it is often what holds them back from making the leap, the next career move to becoming a CEO, or being CEO of a larger enterprise. Being reactive will also hinder them from living a fulfilled life. Often they look back, wondering where the time went, and why they hadn’t done trips with their families or climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
A majority of my clients are very strategic and proactive when it comes to meeting the demands of the business they are responsible for. However, it seems few leaders are strategic about their career moves and their lives, even their relationships and their health. What matters most to them often takes a back seat.
Why do people hesitate to be proactive?
It’s difficult to think about and takes soul searching. It requires deep and challenging, even uncomfortable, conversations with loved ones that seem to lead nowhere.
They don’t take the time to think it through. They are so busy and on the move all the time that they don’t have a chance to be proactive. All they have time for is to go through the motions. They are the hamster in the wheel unable to see the exit that strategic thinking would show them.
It feels safer to just keep going than to revisit assumptions that were made long ago. They might just uncover that in order to change course they would have to get out of their comfort zone. It seems easier to not even start.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” ~ Benjamin Franklin
Why is it important to be proactive and strategic?
There is one simple reason, as was stated eloquently by the poet Mary Oliver:
You only have one wild and precious life!
Not being strategic about how you want your life and career to look is wasting what’s most precious to you. You only have one shot at it. One chance to get it right. Of course you will make mistakes along the way and you will have setbacks. But without a plan, a roadmap, a compass, how could you ever reach your dream? Google maps will give you a way to get from here to New York City. But where is the Google map for your career and life? Where is the Google map for how you envision your career 2.0 (formerly called retirement), your legacy or your end of life choices? Where is the Google map for what’s most important to you?
I thought so. There is none.
What does it take to be proactive instead of reactive?
1) A Shift in Mindset
It takes the realization that you don’t want to continue like you have been. You realize that you are being reactive and understand the need to be proactive, to be strategic. You get that it will take some effort, but you are aware of the benefits. And you are willing to take action.
2) Understanding of What You Want
To become clear on what it is that you want, you need to reflect on what’s most important to you and where you want to be in the future. Reflection is essential, but can also serve as a trap.
Reflection alone can lead to the never-ending mind loop that so often sabotages our best efforts. Self-doubt creeps in and we are back at square one.
There is a word in German that I recently came across: Kopfkino. It’s the movie that is being played in your head. An endless loop of the same limiting beliefs. The only way to stop this is by entering into conversation about your thoughts of what you want. Talk with your spouse, a friend, a colleague, a person you trust, maybe a coach about what you want. Bounce your thoughts off of someone, ideally someone who doesn’t have an agenda, who is not attached to the outcome. Gain clarity on what you want.
3) Exploration of Possibilities
Often we dismiss our dreams and desires because we think they are impossible to attain. But really everything is possible. It just doesn’t seem that way where you are right now, given the resources and connections you have. What ideas can you come up with to make the impossible happen? What are your options? Where are your blind spots? What do you think is true that might in fact be false? What can you invent to create what you want?
4) A Strategic Plan
So far everything you have engaged in is theoretical and in your head or between you and someone else. But nothing has been manifested yet. Nothing has been committed to. It’s time to put pen to paper and commit. It’s time to write out a plan that will get you from where you are to where you want to go. It’s time to write a strategic plan, a living document that needs to be revised at least yearly. A document that will help you stay on track and remind you when distractions get the best of you. A plan that is switching your actions from reactive to proactive. A plan that gives you control of your destiny.
5) Commitment to Take Action
The best plan doesn’t help you if you don’t take action. Directions on Google maps show you where to go, but you won’t get to your destination unless you actually travel. Commit to working your plan and take action on what matters most to you.
There is no time to waste.
Download Template to Create Your Strategic Plan.
Create Your Strategic Plan
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