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Insights and Inspiration
This time: ‘Start with the end in mind’
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Whenever you start a new job, company or venture, often the biggest hurdle seems to be to get started, move into action and take the first step.
With the all to common risk that you stay where you are. Spending your time doing what you already did - either with even more force or with complacency, while using your energy in thinking - increasingly anxious - about the future.
Your time is limited and your energy is precious. Use it wisely by focusing on the end before you begin.
Journey vs. steps
There is good news and bad news when it comes to moving into action.
The good news is that the first step is insignificant. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Therefore, there is no need for all that brainpower and emotional arousal around it. It is important to act, but what you exactly do will not matter much - because it is too small to matter over time and you can always adjust. However, knowing why you choose to take this action and ‘where to’ is valuable. It is not the why of the step, but the why of the journey that should guide your actions in every step of the way.
The bad news is that the first step you are about to take doesn’t give you the best start. The first step should not be the practical answer to ‘what do I do first?’, the more interesting question to answer is: ‘when will I be done?’. To answer this question, you need dedication, exploration, reflection and clarity.
When you know when you will be done & look back with satisfaction and pride, backtrack your journey from there, all the way to the here and now. Before you make things practical, allow yourself to wander, dream, explore and then…decide, commit and act. Decide on the things that matter to you, commit to the journey you are embarking and act by taking the steps. In short, start with the end in mind.
Where to and why?
Before you embark on something ask yourself: ‘When will I be done and why is that important to me?’. Your answer is your North Star. It guides you on your journey.
It is a mental picture that includes both facts and feelings. It is the visualisation or description of the ‘what’ and ‘how’. It acts as a compass on your journey.
Your achievements are a reflection of ‘what’ you did. Your learnings are the outcome of ‘how’ you did it. Achievements and learnings come together but there are not the same. You will do yourself a big favour if can distinguish between the two and declare learning your biggest achievement.
When will you be more proud? When you reach all of your ‘what’ goals or you learn as much as you can along the way? Luckily, you don’t have to choose. If you make learning a priority you will achieve more. It is a never-ending flywheel.
Learnings can be found in every day, every interaction and every step. If you take the time to reflect and don’t stand in your own way, learning happens naturally.
Actively choose for a growth mindset, don’t settle for a fixed mindset. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your growth. You have more to gain than to lose, no matter your experience, your seniority or your function title.
Your North Star is very personal and will be largely intuitive. Put yourself in the center of these questions. It is not ‘when will it be done?’, but ‘when will I be done?’. This is not about ego. It is about being accountable for your own contribution and personal development, without the unrealistic expectation that you can control everything around you.
Hold yourself accountable to what is important to you, as no one else will do it for you. Don’t dismiss the things that you want to achieve and learn, without connecting to your why and make every step a conscious choice.
Regularly ask yourself the ‘why is that important to me?’ question and don’t be satisfied with the first answer that comes up. Ask yourself a couple of times ‘why’ to go deeper and get to the core of your why. At the core of your why there is a purpose. It is the purpose that is currently driving you. Finding your purpose is not an one-time event, it is a process. It is not about coming up with your purpose, it is about discovery. I can evolve, as you evolve.
With the end in mind you will get where you want to be faster, with less distraction or frustration. You will know when you are on or off track as you can distinguish between what matters more and what matters less.
You will also know what and who does and doesn’t deserve your time and energy. Act accordingly: Be straight, stay clear, communicate directly. Also - and especially - in the relationship with yourself.
Explore your North Star with your head and heart. Define the North Star with fact and figures. Also add meaning with your heart to guide yourself and move others.
Ask yourself more questions. Answers are great, but the real value lies in what other questions they spark. Trust the process that is triggered: reflect and discover.
Chase your dream. You can keep your dream if you do not pursue it. It is safe and it doesn’t take effort. Mind you: Effort you now spend on somebody else’s dream.
Allow yourself to be ambitious. Don’t compare yourself to others; you are only competing with the old you. If it feels ambitious to you, it is ambitious. Go for it!
Move upward, not only forward. Going upward requires the prioritisation of impact and growth. Going forward happens when time passes, and you just don’t screw up.
Don’t get stuck in the present. Don’t mix the exploration of the new with the assessment of the old. It will keep you busy, but it will not help you move upward.
Don’t trick yourself in playing small. If you can’t define your North Star for the timeframe that you want, take a timeframe for which you can. Achieve ….Next one!
Honour your commitment. Commit to move on when you are done. Don’t take prisoners and don’t lock yourself up.
Hope this episode got you thinking and feeling, exploring and questioning. Hope it raised many more questions. Hope you allow yourself to explore the answers to these questions.
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