Reality Check: Back to the Personal Drawing Board

Reality Check: Back to the Personal Drawing Board

The last few years have been rough for many people personally, as economic conditions have caused great upheavals in their lives. Despite these changes, there are those who cling to the fantasy that if they just stay the course, continuing to do the things that worked for them in the past, things will return to “normal.” I’ve got news for them: it’s not going to happen. The truth is that the things that made people successful in the past – in their personal lives as well as in their professional lives - are unlikely to be the key to future achievements. The world has changed, and people have a choice: adjust to the new reality or resign yourself to a life of struggle in an environment in which the rules for success have changed.

For those individuals who are willing to go back to the drawing board and identify realistically what it will take for them to succeed, here are six suggestions to begin that process:

  1. Realize that assumptions have expiration dates.

    Whether we realize it consciously or not, most of what people do is based on assumptions that we have made ourselves and/or internalized from others. At some point, most of those assumptions probably made sense; the question is whether they still do today. For example, childhood assumptions related to what we can or cannot do are especially insidious to our well-being because they can hold us back later in life. Take the time to identify the assumptions under which you operate, and assess whether they still are aligned with where you want to go. If not, replace them with those that will support your success.

  2. Recognize that the things that enabled you to be successful in the past won’t necessarily work now or in the future.

    This is a great time to seize the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate your life. What’s your definition of “success?” What will it take for you to realize it? Formulate a clear picture of what it looks like, then work backwards to identify the things that will enable you to achieve. Most likely you will find yourself discarding some beliefs and practices and adopting new ones.

  3. Get your head out of the sand: ignoring reality will NOT make it go away.

    Living in denial about changes that are occurring all around you does NOT make them disappear. Though change is scary, particularly when the environment is volatile, you have a choice: you can embrace the change proactively, or you can behave as a victim, allowing outside forces to take over and steer your life. The former course of action is much more likely to lead to success.

  4. Develop multiple contingency plans.

    Situational agility is key in this world of permanent “white water” conditions where the only certainty is change. As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.” Develop a Plan B – and Plans C and D – to ensure that you can stay on track to achieve your goals. 

  5. Establish accountability processes in your life.

    It’s human nature to resist change and cling to what we know, even when those things don’t serve us well any more. One effective way to remove obstacles to change is to create forms of accountability that help you examine realistically what works and what doesn’t, and to encourage you to move forward most effectively. For example, you can share your goals with a trusted and honest friend or colleague, and check in periodically to assess your progress. Make changes as necessary.

  6. Have a strategy in place and implement it.

    Create a clear “big picture” that describes what success looks like for you. Work backwards from there to determine what you need to do to achieve it. Identify measures of progress and success, and reward yourself along the way. Having this picture in place lets you know when you’re on track and when you’ve gone astray.

What’s your new reality? Taking the above steps will set you on a path to establish a process that will help you be successful in spite of the vagaries of the environment. 

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.


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