How often do you find yourself just going through the motions in your life? You’re heading in a direction but you’re not really sure where it’s taking you. You keep heading that way because it’s what you’ve always done, though inside you want to make a change in your life.
You may be hanging out with the same people because you always have. It feels safe, but you’re not feeling supported by them in the way you want.
You may be staying in a job that no longer satisfies you, but you’re afraid to look into other options. It’s safer to stick with the devil you know. There is comfort in that, even though you’re not happy.
You may have just learned that your company is downsizing and you’re about to be laid off. What will you do now?
Is it time to explore a new direction?
Easier said than done, you say? It’s scary to change your direction. What if it doesn’t work out?
We often think about big life changes when we turn over to a new year. We think about starting fresh, making resolutions. And, if you’re anything like me, you want to make those changes mean something. You want to make them count and improve on what is.
Stepping Out in Faith
Think about these questions:
–What if you knew you could not fail? What would you be willing to try?
–What if it was your idea? What would you do then?
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be frightening and a bit nerve-wracking. That fear can keep you stuck in a rut. You’ll never know how uplifting and empowering it can be on the other side of that fear, unless you try something new.
Opening up to new ideas, having faith in yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to, and exploring new options can build confidence and offer new perspectives. Change may not feel so daunting when you approach it with a plan in mind.
Taking Small Steps that Make a Big Difference
You may be one of those who want to make some changes in your life or career, but you just don’t know how or what to do first. Just thinking about those changes feels overwhelming. How can you head in a different direction if you don’t know what the first step could be?
Setting small, realistic and achievable commitments to move in a different direction is a great way to get started. Then breaking down those commitments into smaller ‘baby steps’ is the surest way to make major progress. One step at a time.
A “Life” example of ‘bite-sizing’ a giant goal:
You have too much going on and you want to simplify your life. That’s a big goal and there are many facets to your life which may benefit from simplifying. You might want to simplify your relationships with friends, your finances or your work habits. Often, it helps to start with things that are “closer to home” to get some practice in the art of simplification.
You could start with simplifying, or decluttering your spaces at home. You might make a list like this:
–Sort through clothes & shoes
–Make three piles: Keep, Donate, Discard
–Put spring/summer clothes in storage; leave fall/winter clothes in the closet
2—Organize kitchen cabinets & pantry:
–Remove anything not used in the past year; donate or discard
–Reorganize for more efficiency of space and use
3—Sort linen closets
–Donate or discard
4—Organize office space
–Shred unnecessary personal documents
–File papers; create electronic files where possible
–Remove or toss all unneeded
5-Repeat for all personal spaces to feel more organized and in control.
Creating a list like this helps you to plan smaller tasks that can be done in short chunks of time, over time. Set a time frame in which you want to complete these tasks. Cross each one off your list as you get it done. Celebrate the accomplishment.
Making a list and checking tasks off your list when they have been completed can be very motivating. You can easily see what you’ve accomplished and this can start to create the momentum you need to keep going in that direction. Not only have you simplified and decluttered, you may also have gained space. This can help you to feel more in control of your surroundings, which can lead to feeling more in control of your life. And, you’ve honed a strategy of “bite-sizing” a goal that can now be applied in other areas of your life.
A “Career” example of ‘bite-sizing’ a giant goal:
You’ve been in your job a number of years and you feel like you’re going nowhere fast. The salary and benefits are so good they are keeping you right where you are. You are struggling with the idea of finding something that will make you feel happier and more satisfied or sticking with the status quo.
You decide it’s time to figure out what to do about your career choice. Another big goal. You might break it down like this:
–Talk with peers in other departments to see what might interest you in another area of your company
–Update your resume; include all your skills, accomplishments, awards
–Research and contact career counselors/headhunters who specialize in your fields of interest
–Talk with a career coach who can help you identify other industries or careers that might suit your experience, skills and interests
–When new industries or career paths are identified, research to find people who are doing what you want to do within those fields
–Connect with those people, requesting a 15-minute exploratory chat to learn more about what is required to excel in that field
–Evaluate your findings
–Select one or two top ideas to take to the next phase
–Research all companies/organizations that fit the criteria of your top one or two ideas
–Reach out to your own connections to see who might know people working at those companies; request they make an introduction
–Research those companies to identify key people you may want to contact
–Connect with the people to whom you’re introduced or you have researched; request an exploratory conversation
–Evaluate your findings
–Select the top company that fits your new chosen career path
4—Set Wheels in Motion
–Make your connections work for you with consistent follow up and follow through
–Set your sights on the position(s) that match your new criteria
–Seek out the hiring managers for those positions; let them know who you are and why you want to work for them
–Continually evaluate new information and adjust your strategy accordingly
–Be persistent and resilient in your pursuit of the new career path that will excite and satisfy you
Following a plan like this can take some time. Conducting self-assessments to identify your hidden skills, values and interests can be hugely beneficial and open up new possibilities you never thought about. Putting things in motion on a path like this, taking small steps at a time and giving yourself time to do it thoroughly, can keep your focus on the goal without overwhelming you in the process.
Whether you have a life or career goal to tackle, having a coach or accountability partner by your side through the process can make an enormous difference. You’ll have a sounding board, a cheerleader and a devil’s advocate all rolled into one.
As you work with this strategy of bite-sizing giant goals, you will find that these manageable steps will take you in a new direction that feels right for you. You will be making clear and intentional choices along the way, putting you in control.
This approach will result in you making good progress toward meaningful change. It will likely also take you out of your comfort zone—perhaps a good measure beyond your comfort zone. Stretch with it. When you stretch more than you can comfortably reach, your comfort zone stretches with you. When you do something you’ve never tried before and you succeed, that becomes a new skill you’ve learned. As you practice this new skill and you get more proficient, it becomes a part of your new comfort zone, which is much bigger than before. Do you see how this works? And if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, you will have learned something valuable. That learning will inform your next move.
So, the next time you think about making a change in your life or career direction and it scares you or you feel overwhelmed, think about it differently. What if you couldn’t fail? What if it was your idea? Break the big scary thoughts into small manageable ones, then break them down again. Take small steps and keep moving forward. Soon that change in direction will feel right … and soon you’ll be able to tackle some of the other changes that you’d like to make.
Here’s to making small steps that lead to big meaningful change.