There have been many times in my life when I felt I was just treading water.
Spinning my wheels.
Going through the motions.
I wasn’t being the ‘me’ that I that I wanted to be. Or thought I should be.
So, before I tell you what I did about this, let me quickly share a couple of amazing, inspiring stories.
In 1993, Giles Hartington, a London banker got up unexpectedly from his desk one morning, walked out the door of his mahogany-lined office, took a mini-cab to Heathrow and got on the first available flight to Kathmandu. One week later, still wearing his pinstripe suit, he proudly stood at the summit of Mount Everest.
In 2006, a Sydney teenager, Rebecca Holmes, was walking along Bondi Beach when she noticed a small yacht, drifting just offshore. She swam out, climbed aboard and turned the boat around, sailing out towards the ocean. Twelve months later, she cruised back into Sydney Harbour, having single-handedly circumnavigated the globe.
I’m sure you’ve quickly realised that these two stories are just that – stories.
They never actually happened.
No one in their right mind would simply head out one morning to climb Mount Everest. Or get in a drifting yacht and, just on impulse, sail around the world.
But, most amazingly of all, this is exactly how most of us approach Life. Our greatest, most complicated and most challenging adventure!
You get up each morning and dive in. No particular plan. Possibly a few vague goals. You simply let life happen. Then, when things don’t work out, you say “that’s life!” or “life sucks!”
You would never think of climbing a mountain or sailing the oceans without some very serious strategic forethought, but for some unknown reason, most of us take on life without anything that remotely resembles a strategy.
So, what difference would it make if you had a personal strategy? Here are five key ways I’ve found that a personal strategy can make a tangible difference:
1. Strategy provides balance to uncertainty, anxiety and fear.
Proactively figuring out which actions, people and values you will allow in your life – and which you won’t – takes courage. It forces you to confront what you really want and, in the process, to acknowledge that you’re vulnerable. But…
So if you want to innovate, or create, or change, a personal strategy will bring clarity to your decision-making by growing your self-belief that you can meet any challenge.
2. Being the designer of your life stops you being just a bystander.
Successfully doing any complex activity requires prior thinking. We usually call this thinking ‘design.’
And in your life and work you have a choice – you can operate in line with your own design, or you can fit in with someone else’s. But the main problem living to someone else’s design is: how can you adapt it to meet the inevitable changes that are forced on you?
“That’s human nature: we look to the future and worry that we won’t succeed. We look at the future, and we hope, ‘One day it will all be sorted out.’ No, everything will not be sorted out… Designing your life isn’t about certainty. It’s about incremental change for the better…”
―Vince Frost, Design Your Life (http://designyourlife.com.au/)
3. Owning your story gives you authenticity
Living life to your plan is important. But it will only work if the ‘you’ who’s making the calls on your future is the real ‘you.’ The inner ‘you.’ The ‘you’ you are when nobody’s looking.
Taking ownership of your life, both past and future, can play a big part in keeping you real, in being authentic. And if you’re not authentic, then you’re just not being you.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
―Steve Jobs, 2005 (https://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die)
4. Success requires simplicity and focus
Technology, stress and the sheer number of options that confront you lead to ever-expanding complexity and distractions. Being certain that you’re making the right decisions about your life in this environment is incredibly hard.
So reverting to habit or taking the line of least resistance can feel like the simplest response. But apart from the instant gratification they deliver, these approaches aren’t strategic, and won’t ever bring you closer to your dreams.
Devising a personal strategy that includes simplifying and declutteringimproves your potential for clarity and focus. And these in turn create the environment you need for success.
“Simplifying your life gives you clarity, freedom from unnecessary effort and the ability to be fully present.”
―Shannah Kennedy, The Life Plan (http://shannahkennedy.com/)
5. Knowing why is essential to knowing what and how.
Knowing how to live your life well requires a clear understanding of what it is you’re trying to achieve. And to figure out your ‘what,’ you need to know your ‘why.’ Why are you here? What is your highest potential purpose?
“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.”
―Simon Sinek, (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en)
Think of the answers to the ‘why’ and ‘what’ questions as your personal missionand vision. Sure, you can operate without them. But can you be the best version of you without the focus, clarity and authenticity they bring?
Committing to your own personal strategy will make a real difference in your life. If you’d like some help developing yours, I’d be happy to assist.
Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.