Managing Me… Clear Direction

arr_treasureWe just got back from spending Thanksgiving on Emerald Isle, North Carolina. It was a great time!

When we left our home we had a destination and a route already mapped out. Had we not done that, we would have loaded up our vehicle and driven out of the driveway and could have ended up anywhere. While that sounds like it could be a fun adventure, it could also be a disaster. On top of that, we had already paid for the house we were renting by the beach.

Without a clear direction and plan, we would not have ended up where we intended.

People talk about retirement and someday living near a beach or golf course or lake or whatever. They dream of success and achievement, even fortune and fame. Yet, when asked how that is going to happen, they quickly go silent and give the blank stare look. About 21% of Americans actually have winning the lottery as their retirement plan. The number goes up to 40% when you look at those making $35K or less.

There are so many people that are just wandering through life hoping to end up somewhere good. Without a clear vision and planned direction, we are just relying on luck and the odds are never in your favor.

Warren Buffet and Bille Gates, two of the richest and most successful men in the world, were independently asked what one word would they use to define the reason for their success. The incredible thing is, they gave the same answer without knowing what the other one said. The word they both gave is “FOCUS.”

Focus = having a clear goal (vision) and staying determined on the path to get there (direction).

As we walk through life we need clear direction. As we lead others, they need us to provide clear direction. As we learn to manage ourself, we need vision and direction that can be readily and succinctly defined. Otherwise we could end up somewhere we never intended. We for sure won’t end up where we want.

This brings us to the million dollar question: how? How do we obtain the direction? How do we map out the path to get where we want to go?

This process is not one that is accomplished in a few moments or even a day. This process takes time and often involves others. However, we can know our direction almost immediately, once we decide where we wish to go. Here are some steps to work through the process.

  • Pick your destination. [Vision] Define it. Write it out. Refine it. What does it look like? How will you know when you have arrived? Start with a shorter term (3 years, 5 years, etc.) if long term or life goals are too overwhelming to start.
  • Assess where you are now. [Identity] How far off are you? What tools/resources do you currently possess? What tools/resources will you need and how will you get them? What liabilities do you have that are hindering you?
  • Create checkpoints. [Strategy] What are some intermediate goals that can help you gauge whether or not you are on the right path? Create some defined victories to celebrate along the way. Build in rewards for achieving these goals/reaching these points.
  • Establish the plan. [Map] Identify the steps that need to be taken and set priorities. Write everything out in a clear and concise form.
  • Start. No plan works that isn’t put into action.

You’ll notice the first letters of the steps spell out P-A-C-E-S. The classic treasure maps from pirate movies use paces to determine distance. Your plan going forward will need to set the pace and prescribe the paces you, your organization, and those who follow you need to take in order to accomplish the stated goal.

This process can be applied to many areas of life: organizational future, finances, weight loss, vocational achievement, spiritual growth, relational success, family life, etc.

We’ll deal in a later post about adaptation and adjustment. These can’t happen until there is forward motion and progress, so don’t worry about all the variables up front. You can plan for some things, but others can’t be anticipated. If you aren’t careful, the fear of missing a detail or not having it all figured out up front will keep you from ever getting anywhere.

To be a great leader requires management of self. One part of managing self is to have clear direction.

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