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Change Work September 2009

Where is this leading?

There was a telephone answering machine that played this message when you dialled its number:

"This is not an answering machine; it's a questioning machine. There are really only two questions in life: Who are you? and What do you want? Please leave your answer at the tone."

We'll leave "Who are you?" (a much deeper question than it first seems) for another time and focus on the second, also deep, question.

"What do you want?" ought to be easy to answer. "I'll give you a list," would be be most people's first thought!  But when you reflect on what's really important, your heart's desire, you may find it difficult to acknowledge the truth.  If you don't believe you can ever attain it, you might defend yourself by denying (to yourself) that you want it.

In April's Change Work I talked about "impossible goals" and how important it is to recognises what you really want, even if you believe it to be unattainable.  The problem is the belief rather than the desire.

And there's another issue.  I've met numerous people who have real problems even imagining the future.  This tends to go with an "In-Time" perspective, i.e. they usually "see" time as running from behind them (the past), through their body (now) and away in front (the future).  This model leads to a very indistinct impression of the future - as though the nearest events hide the further ones. (See Change Work Mar 09.)

As if that weren't already enough, this can be coupled with an "Away From" motivation style.  As I've explained before (Mar 07), this leads you to focus on the problems you expect to encounter rather than the pay-off at the end.  So, you're only comfortable when you can see the whole route to a goal - which is unlikely if you want to do something you've never done before.

So what can you do to make your dream more believable and more practical?

A really useful tool for clarifying goals and for tackling negative beliefs about them is to construct a "Well-Formed Outcome".  This is a definition of your goal that addresses nine different components:

  1. What do you positively want - as opposed to what you want to get rid of - and what are the benefits to you of the outcome?
  2. How will you know that you have succeeded?  What evidence will tell you that you've succeeded?
  3. Can YOU start and maintain progress?  (Ensure it's not conditional on other people.)
  4. Who needs to know?  Who else is affected?  How does the outcome dovetail with others?
  5. In what context will you implement this?  When?  Where?  With whom?
  6. What will you lose when you achieve this?  What are the benefits of staying as you are?
  7. What resources will you need? - Financial, Emotional, Intellectual
  8. What will be the effect of this achievement on yourself, others, the business?  Is it worthwhile?
  9. What will be your first step in taking action?  When will you take it?

It might take a while to work through these questions, and to write down the answers, but it's well worth the effort.

It's possible that you'll come to realise that your long-suppressed dream isn't so important any more and has been replaced by something else.  Or, you'll emerge with the foundation of a plan and a belief that it can be completed.

Either way you'll move forward.

Enjoy your journey!