Great athletes start with the finish line in mind. Lance Armstrong doesn’t hop on his bike and wonder where he’ll end up. Michael Phelps doesn’t jump in the pool and paddle around. Why would you take to the open road of your career or business without a destination in mind and expect to wind up in the ideal place?
I know you’ve been told to have an open mind. And, I’m not telling you to close it. I’m just saying: if you had an open wound would you walk around with it uncovered? How soon would it be before bacteria crawled in and changed your status from a person with a cut to a patient in a catastrophe?
Clearly, this is a time for you to have a clear outcome in mind for yourself, your career or business. Part of your brand is who you are, but a more present part of it is: who you are becoming?
What you don’t do on purpose, you leave to accident
In the most volatile times, the person with a clear vision and the plan to achieve it plus the guts to get up every morning and act on it will lead the pack. When you get in your car or take the train, do you take just any route to work or a client call? Serendipity might be a fun strategy on a Sunday if you pack snacks, carry water and wear comfortable shoes, but it’s not the way to make tracks toward a desired destination.
Tweeting from your couch might make you feel smart and safe right now, but that’s not a long-term strategy either. Choosing to move in a specific direction, at a rapid pace when you have momentum – like opportunity – and a slower one when there’s poor visibility, is the only way to know if you’re on the road to success.
A wonderful and terrible thought: the end will come
At the end of the road, there might be a pot of gold under a rainbow. There might also be a landmine. It would be prudent to prepare for either. But before you have a plan B, you have to have a plan A – and even better, a plan A plus.
You may not be able to THINK your way through to the end. You might jumpstart your process by identifying how you’ll want to FEEL when your journey is complete. The point is: do what it takes to set your compass so you travel in the right direction.
Want a more literal way to start with the end in mind? Think about writing your will, not to divvy up your possessions now but think about writing a will when you have amassed your life’s bounty.
Will you have enjoyed a life of adventure? Security? Creativity? Power? Vitality? Will you have chosen to pursue peacefulness? Friendship? Transformation? Unity? Who will be with you at the end, and at the middle? Who should be with you now so you move toward the life you mean to create?
Open a document in your computer, get a notepad or write on a napkin. Identify the milestones along your journey to success. Do you require an advanced degree that you can get a jump on now? Do you need to round out your resume with a skill set you could get by volunteering for a philanthropy or cause? Do you need to know a certain person whom you could reach if you were interviewing experts for your blog or book?
All I’m saying is: you are going to move at some pace toward some place no matter what. It would be better to decide what you and your brand will mean, than have the forces of the market – including your competition – decide it for you.
Big questions for starting on purpose:
1. What is going to be your legacy?
2. What will you and society be celebrating at your 125th birthday?
3. What’s the one thing people will say about you now and always?
Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen.