Last week I met with two clients who are planning to make big changes next year. Glen is going to leave his current firm and Corey is going to sell his company. Both men know that to prepare themselves for the best possible outcomes, the actions they take in the next quarter are critical to set themselves up for the results they’re looking for in the new year.
I met each of them on different days at one of my favorite meeting spots when I’m in town, a historic carousel in the park. I like it because it reminds me of the importance of knowing what we’re reaching for.
As we went round and round on the carousel, we talked about the importance of using time wisely and knowing when to grab for our unique shot at the brass ring.
Here are the steps Glen & Corey are taking to be ready to grab their brass rings. They’re the same ones that can work for you, too.
#1 Fix Your Broken Wanter – Focus on What You REALLY Want
The Spice Girls sang it best “Tell me what you want, what you really REALLY want!” Make sure the brass ring you’re grabbing for is the one you really want.
Here’s how Glen got clear that he needed to leave his firm. He did an exercise I call “Fixing Your Broken Wanter”. This exercise is best done when you have an hour or so of uninterrupted time and can be in a quiet space with a beverage of your choice, but it’s more important to get started, so if time is an issue, just begin and keep adding to it as ideas surface.
Grab a notepad and write “I want …” at the top of the page. This is an exercise in emptying out all of the wants that are built up inside so you can focus on what you really want. Don’t edit yourself, don’t question how on earth you’re going to get what you want or whether what you want is contradictory or unrealistic. Just keep writing on each line … I want … I want … I want … Write as fast as your hand will go and fill another page and another page until you have simply run out of wants.
Remember, this list is for your eyes only. You may be surprised by what you write, it may switch from things to experiences, to feelings and back again. Keep writing until you run out of wants or you run out of time. If ideas come to you later, add them to your list.
Put your list aside for the day and return to it the next day or later in the week. See if you can identify themes among the things you want. Some of them might be material things, some might be experiences, some might be lofty ideals and some you didn’t even realize were lurking inside there.
Notice which things on your list are things you THINK you SHOULD want. Glen told me that he had identified quite a lot of things on his want list that weren’t really his wants, they were things or goals that belonged to others that somewhow had gotten stuck in his own head. Once he saw them on paper he and I could work on how to let them go and focus on the wants that actually fit for him.
Most clients who have done this exercise tell me they are shocked by some of what comes out in this exercise and that it makes it easier to settle the hungry ghost of wanting when they realize that some of what’s coming up aren’t even their own wants. They’ve been chasing things and goals that belong to someone else.
Corey told me this exercise revealed that he wanted to be free to move to different parts of the world periodically. He got clear that owning his business, which required him to be in a location he despised, was keeping him from what he really wants. Relocating the business wasn’t an option, so he got clear it’s time to sell. He discovered that the primary residence and the vacation house in Lake Tahoe were also more burdens than wants. Really, he had purchased them because it seemed the thing to do at the time, but he’d really rather go somewhere different each year. The vacation house is going to be sold, too.
Glen saw that a lot of the wants that had shown up on his list were things that seemed to help him “fit in” with the other executives in his peer group – a sailboat, a fine watch, even the graduate degree he had chosen – they weren’t what HE really wanted. He recognized that continuing to drive after these wants were keeping him in a job with a two hour commute each way and worse yet was keeping him from the things he REALLY wanted, which was to spend more time with his wife and two young sons.
Another client told me that he was surprised to realize that he didn’t really want to be as fit as he THOUGHT he “should” want to be. His list revealed that he wanted to just feel happy with the way he looked. He had been committing hours of every week to the gym combating his sense that women thought he was unattractive unless he looked a particular way. Easing up on his intense workouts and returning to a sport he enjoyed for fun and camaraderie ended up giving him much greater pleasure and ease.
Each of these men realized that they were grabbing for a brass ring that wasn’t theirs and, if they actually got it, wouldn’t have been satisfying after all.
As you see the pattern of your own deeper wants revealed, they will likely form a different sort of dream for your life. What are you doing in the dream? How are you living? Who is in the dream with you? What does a typical day entail?
These questions will help you define what lifestyle you really want, and give ideas about how you can achieve that lifestyle. For example, if you see yourself relaxing by the lake with a good book and a glass of red wine, and you live in an apartment in Manhattan, ask yourself why you aren’t spending more time that way now. What things are in your way and how can you re-arrange your priorities in order to have the lifestyle you really want?
If you think that what you want is more money, keep digging at that response. What would you do if you had endless amounts of money? Would you travel, volunteer, or live simply and quietly away from it all?
We often think that money is an end goal, when really we are just stuck in a rut, and we think we can’t do or have what we really want unless we have more money. Challenge that idea and dig to find those things that you really want, and aim to pursue them now.
You want to grab YOUR brass ring, not the one that someone else told you was yours.
#2 Do a Year to Date Review
Take stock of where you’ve been and appreciate the accomplishments you’ve made so far this year. Answer these types of questions:
* What went well for me so far this year?
* What accomplishments did I have? How satisfied am I with these accomplishments?
* How did I improve my life? What else can I do to improve it?
* How did I improve my relationships? What else can I do to improve them?
* What did I remove from my life that is now making me happier? What else should I remove?
* What do I wish I had taken more time for? How can I make that happen?
Glen and Corey have been doing this kind of review with me every quarter, along with exploring their real wants. It’s helped them to recalibrate and they have each kept track of these questions and their responses in a journal they can refer back to. Their answers quarter by quarter and year over year have been very enlightening. As have the changes to their lists from the Fixing Your Broken Wanter exercise. It’s helped them to get and stay on track with their decision making, instead of getting drawn into endlessly chasing results and outcomes that aren’t aligned with their own true wants.
#3 Get Aligned – Either Finish What You Started or Dump It
Which projects, errands and general list of to-do items do you have left over from earlier in the year? Check your energy level for them. Do they still align with what you REALLY want? If so, can you complete any of them in 2 hours or less? If so, do them now to clear your mind of the old items. Or hire it out. Have an office that looks like a paper bomb exploded? Hire an organizer and let him put order in your space you can get on with what needs to be done.
Or dump it, if it no longer aligns with what you really want. Keeping projects around doesn’t do any good, it just weighs down your mind. If it no longer aligns with what you truly want, own up to it, have any difficult conversations you need to have about it and stop grabbing for a tarnished ring that will turn your hands green when you finally grab it.
Cross those things off your list as done or no longer aligned and give yourself a fresh start. If it’s still undone after two consecutive quarters, get an accountability partner or a coach to help you sort out whether it still fits with what you really want and to help you complete it pronto. Incomplete projects weighing on your mind (or worse yet, which no longer align with your true desires) is a set up for distraction from grabbing the brass ring.
#4 Set Priorities & Milestones & Tell Someone What Matters to You
Dreaming is fabulous and highly recommended, but if you really want to accomplish improvements in your life, you need to have a plan. As much as you may want something, is it in conflict with other things you want? Where is your focus? Keep coming back to what you REALLY want.
Let’s get seriously focused on what you want. Get clear about your dream and start breaking it down into milestones: if you want to work from home, what are the steps you need to take? Have you told your buddies for five consecutive years that THIS is the year you’re going to switch jobs or sell your business or retire? If you really mean it, break those steps down further so you can create a game plan and start working towards accomplishing that dream. Recognize that your actions speak louder than your words. If you can’t seem to do something you say you want to, check it out – do you REALLY want it or do you think you SHOULD want it?
If you don’t really want it, but you think you should, then head back to the Fixing Your Broken Wanter exercise and let’s get clear about what you DO want. Call me, call someone, and find a way to let go of chasing the dreams that aren’t yours. Again, get really clear about who will help you stay on point and help guide you toward your real goal – the one you truly want. Who will support your actions and inspire you to say no to the wants that aren’t your own?
#5 Put Yourself at the Top of the List
Using the information you gained above by determining what you really want, put yourself at the top of the list. Think that sounds selfish? The old adage is true: we really can’t help others until we help ourselves. Taking care of yourself and making sure the brass ring you’re grabbing for is actually yours will make you a better leader, spouse, parent.
Our examples have a far greater impact on those around us than anything we might say, and taking care of your own well-being means you’ll be around longer for your loved ones and they’ll enjoy having a less resentful you, too!
Do these things:
* get honest about what you REALLY want
* know how you want to feel when you have what you want
* be rigorous about not pursuing what you DON’T want
* set priorities & milestones
* find a supporter or coach who has your back and will nudge you forward consistently