I liken the journey we make in life, the choices we make and the direction we take to the everyday journeys we make in our cars or out hiking. We may have familiar repeating experiences in our everyday lives that become routine, but generally our life is full of long distance journeys which, as we grow older, takes us to unfamiliar territory and new discovery. We get married and have children, they age and grow. We follow a career path that progresses or change careers and follow a different path. What is it that helps us choose our directions in life? On all of these journeys we are aided by something similar to a map or GPS, created by those who have already journeyed along the road and can now help us to reach that destination.
The determination and commitment that we need to drive in the direction we want to go is of course important, but if we do not know how to use the map properly, our efforts are less successful and we expend all our energies facing the wrong direction. Here is a four step process to help analyse the map you are using in life and question assumptions that you might be making about it.
1. SELF-AWARENESS Raising your awareness of your current situation is critical to being able to expend your efforts towards your goal. In hiking, if you do not know where you are, it is almost impossible to set a course for your destination as you can’t know what compass bearing you need to set. In life, our current situation is sometimes misunderstood and in order to unlock potential we must review how we understand reality. One way of looking at this is to consider seven potential illusions (George,Kim 2006) that we may be having that blur our sense of attitude and and so affect our behaviour.
1. The Illusion of Not Enough; Which is the root of procrastination because we feel unprepared or inexperienced in taking action. “Stop searching, and start doing.”
2. The Illusion of Comparisons; When we compare ourselves to others, we look at measuring our viewpoint with others. Comparing is not acting and we must “Act intuitively.”
3. The illusion of Struggle; We often see struggle in and of itself as a virtue and let’s be honest it is not worth it. “Work and commitment can be free of struggle.”
4. The Illusion of Control; We take action based on how much we think we can control the outcome. We remain stuck, wondering what life would have been like…. “Control is different from responsibility and decision.”
5. The Illusion of Time; Often our thinking is stuck in the past, regretting or reminiscing over the past or in the future, hoping for better. “What about the present moment, now.”
6. The Illusion of Hope; Beware of hope that does not involve hard work and effort. “Think positively and act accordingly.”
7. The Illusion of Certainty; Often we are afraid to act because we are afraid to let go of the present safety and introduce risk. “We are to change the light from red to green.”
2. START-OVER You now move to a much more empowering position, having accepted your present position. You are now ready to start-over and set your course. Just as my GPS has to re-calculate if I make a wrong turn, so must I re-assess and start-over.
3. KEEP WORKING AT IT Map reading is perfected through trial and error. As we become more familiar with the tools that help us assess our PRESENT SITUATION, we become much much more capable of travelling in the direction that’s right for us. Often the difference between Good an Great is simply more practice.
4. MAKE IT YOURS The best GPS or map is the one you created or personalised as you travelled. It contains information you have acquired along the way only highlights information that is relevant to you. It has to be AUTHENTIC and have meaning to you as you are unique and bring your own experience and personality. You arrive at your destination your own authentic self.
OK so whilst it may be 4 simple steps, I did not say that it was going to be easy. However if you keep practising and developing better self-awareness habits, you are re-programming your own GPS that is going to direct and take you to your own Greatness. To think more about what greatness means to you, for Executives, you may also consider reading ‘How Will You Measure Your Life’ by Clayton Christensen.