Let Go to Move Forward

Let Go to Move Forward

“Oh, yesterdays are over my shoulder, So I can’t look back for too long. There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me, and I know that I just can’t go wrong”Jimmy Buffett

Recently, one of my readers posed an interesting question, ” …you have to let go of now before you can pickup something new, how do you free yourself to take the leap?” How many times have we hesitated on moving forward because we were afraid to take the next step? How often have we complained about our current situation and even had an idea for the solution or wanted to make a significant change, but sat on the sidelines because it was seemed more secure? I know I certainly have.

As I reflect on my personal hesitations, I often find that I was living with the false belief that my present situation was secure and that it was a risk to move forward. Over the years I have come to discover that security is really an illusion. There is no more certainty that tomorrow will be the same as today as there is likelihood that it will be different. We could be so fortunate as to win the lottery or inherit a great wealth or so unfortunate as to lose our health or employment.

To quote Helen Keller, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

So what do we do? How do we live with that reality and how do we let go of today to get to a better tomorrow? There are a couple of previous Blog posts we can take a look at that may offer us some guidance and structure.

In the Change Formula blog we discussed that our motivation for moving forward (change) was a product of our level of dissatisfaction with the current situation, a strong vision of the future, and practical next steps. The formula theorized that if all of these things were strong we would be motivated to move forward (change).

In the Be Bold blog we discussed that being bold to move forward was not an act of taking a foolish risk, but about putting together a well thought out plan, being confident in our abilities, gaining the knowledge needed and then taking action. In other words moving from careless risk to prudent risk with a high likelihood of success.

So what can we do? Let’s take a look at the issue we are hesitating about and figure out how to move forward.

Here are some practical steps:

Career Advice – Sailing to New Destinations

Sailing to New Destinations

How do you like your job? Is it satisfying? Are you eager to get started each day, or is it a chore that you have to do? Is there something that you would rather do, or are you already doing it? These are challenging questions and require some soul searching. The answers are critical to achieving our goals and to our daily survival.

Career choice and work positions are not always in our control. The bottom line is that most of us need income on a regular basis to meet our basic needs and family obligations. Sometimes that entails finding a job that will provide a paycheck that may not be in alignment with our dreams and expectations, but we do not have to be stuck there.

Life is too short to be stuck in a job that is not fulfilling. If we work from the time we are 21 until the age of 65 we will work over 91,520 hours in our career. That is a long time to be miserable. Interestingly, according to a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2010, the average American will have about 11 jobs in a lifetime. Additionally, according to a survey conducted by the Washington Post, only 13% of employees actually like their jobs. We can conclude that we will work a lot of hours in our career, we do not like our jobs, and that we change jobs with some regularity. It sounds like we are searching, but not finding what we are seeking, so what can we do?

Sometimes our life circumstances place us in jobs of necessity. Let’s not sell ourselves short when we find ourselves in the position of doing what we have to do to survive. It takes character and responsibility to recognize the current necessity and see that our obligations are met. Let’s be sure to recognize that even in these circumstances, we are special people. Not only can we be counted on to meet our responsibilities, we are able to grow where we are planted.

However, just because we are currently engaged in a position of necessity does not mean we should give up on the dreams in our hearts. No matter where we are and what we are currently doing, we are on our way to somewhere else. We are not the type of people to just accept the status quo and concede that this is the best things will ever be. As long as our dream is alive, we are headed to our next destination. That destination can be a position greater satisfaction and reward if we keep moving forward.

Let’s follow our dreams!

If we look across the Internet we will find a vigorous debate raging on the career advice to follow your passion. Some say it is necessary and others say it is reckless. However, if we examine the arguments closely, they seem to align on the idea that we should move our career in the direction of our interest and caution us not to be reckless in our pursuit. Probably good advice.

Given that as long as we have a dream in our hearts and we are moving toward a new destination, we should consider what that direction might be. This requires some honest self-reflection. We need to ask ourselves questions like, what is my perfect job? If I no longer needed to work for money, what would I spend my life doing? What is it that I would like to do that someone would pay me to do?

Here is a key question, what is it that I would like to do that someone would pay me to do? You see, I am very good at sleeping and eating, but that is not something that I am likely to be able to make a living doing. This goes back to the advice not to be reckless in our career actions, but to execute a well thought out plan.

Interestingly enough, our next career step may not be a direct promotion. It is possible that it could be in another industry or profession. As I look back on my career I have moved into a variety of industries and professions as I pursued various opportunities. At the time it seemed that the next step was doing something very different from what I was doing previously. However, as I look back on those positions I can see that they actually create a straight path to where I am now.

My key learning is that there is no such thing as a career path map. If we are expecting our current employer to provide a career progression map, we will never be satisfied with the destination or timing. That map is based on our employer’s needs, not what we have in our hearts. We have a unique set of skills and talents that can only be satisfied by pursuing our own career path. Furthermore, we cannot map the endless possibilities that are in front of us, we can only manage the next step along a path to our goal.

Here are some practical next steps to help in our journey.

A Simple Formula for Change

The Change Formula

Change Formula

Did you know there is a simple formula for change that we can use to plan and manage our change efforts? The formula is very straight forward, easy to understand and has been tested over many years of use. It can be useful in both our professional and personal lives and used everyday.

We are surrounded by change. Even if we try to stand still and resist the change, it keeps moving forward. Everything about our work and personal lives is in a continual state of change. The way we communicate is changing, every year there are technology changes, the weather changes, there are new breakthroughs in medicine and treatments, the way we work is changing, everything continues to change. “Resistance is futile”, to quote a popular science fiction series.

Sometimes we want to create or manage change as we envision a better way of doing something or in response to changes in our circumstances. There are other times when we are involved in a change of some type that needs a boost or adjustment in direction or energy. These are times we can apply the Change Formula to help to move the change along.

The Change Formula has been through several evolutions since its inception in the 1960s by David Gleicher. It was initially popularized by Richard Beckhard in his widely read book Organizational Transitions and re-popularized in the 1990s by Kathleen Dannemiller who simplified it [1].

(for those of you not mathematically inclined, just humor me on this, I will explain it in the following material)

The formula is this:

C = (ABD) > X
A = Level of dissatisfaction with the status quo (dissatisfied with present state)
B = Desirability of the proposed change or end state (eager to achieve the end state)
C = Change
D = Practicality of the change (minimal risk and disruption)
X = ’Cost’ of changing (perceived cost)

In other terms, it means that the power of the motivation for change is the combination of:
A) not being happy with the way things are,
B) the strength of the vision of the future and,
D) having practical first steps.

These things combined need to be more powerful than the resistance to the change.

So let’s look at these in more details so that we can understand how to apply it in our everyday lives.

Level of Dissatisfaction (A)
The first element is not being happy with the current situation also known as dissatisfaction with the status quo. This represents a measure of the current state of things. Are people unhappy with the way things are? Is there a general sense of dissatisfaction with the current situation?

Vision (B)
Is there a strong vision of the future state? Is there a clear picture of how good things will be when we get to the new place? If not, then this can be a real limiting factor for progress. A strong vision helps people focus on where we are going and the benefits of getting there. Also, if there is not a sufficient level of dissatisfaction with the current state, this can help elevate that component by comparing and contrasting the present with the future.

Practical First Steps (D)
Has anyone identified a few next steps to get us on our way? Without a practical plan we just have high frustration because we are unhappy with the present, see a great future but cannot get started on our journey there.

All of these elements need to be present and represent a lever to help move the change forward. If any of these are missing, the change will not take place. If any of these are weak, they represent an opportunity to add more energy to the process.

Let’s look at a practical example:

Be Bold

Be Bold

Go ahead, you can do it. Be Bold, take the next step. Take a chance and try it or better yet do it. Sometimes these words are easier said than done. It is advice we hear all of the time and yet it is so hard to do. Why is that and what can we do?

Our hesitation to step forward stems from fear, mostly fear of failure and it is called Atychiphobia. Phobia Source defines Atychiphobia as “a persistent, abnormal, and unwarranted worry of failure.” While for some people this could be a serious disorder, for most of us it is just a nagging insecurity (but at least it has a name!).

Sometimes it just feels easier to play it safe or stay in the background and let things happen, even when we know we have a better solution. Interestingly enough, Hellen Keller is quoted as saying “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”

Being Bold is not about being a hero. You may end up being a hero, but that is an outcome not a motivation. Being Bold is about taking a prudent risk and moving forward. In fact we should not risk everything or be foolish, but after due thought and consideration take the next step and move forward.

After all what is the alternative? If we are timid and do not move forward we are going to suffer the consequences of inaction. It is better to move forward and and learn, even if our action does not succeed than to hide in the corner and watch things unfold. It is more likely that our effort will succeed than fail anyway.

For me, I have to occasionally remind myself that If I am going to lose sleep over something it is better to lose sleep over having taken action than worrying about what might happen. Better to take action than be a victim. After all, worrying and complaining does not change anything. Put that energy into change.

Often times what keeps us from Being Bold or taking action is fear of how others will judge us. But in reality, we need to recognize that there will always be skeptics and spectators that have an opinion, but they were not bold enough to take action. Ignore their criticisms, after all they did not risk anything or enact a better solution.

Here is an interesting comparison of terms. Which are likely to produce better results? Being adventurous, audacious, courageous, daring, or being afraid, cautious, cowardly, or fearful?

So how can we go about Being Bold? Here are six steps to help us along the way:

Manage Your Self-talk

Manage Your Self-talk

Who is your biggest critic that never leaves you alone? Who do you spend more time with than any person in your life and is that a person that encourages you or reminds you of all of your past failures (or both)? If you are like me the answer for me is me. From the time I get up to the time I go to bed I have this running commentary going in my head. It is known as self-talk and according to Scientific American everybody does it.

Reference.com says the definition of Self-talk is: “the act of talking to oneself, either aloud or silently and mentally”. It is that little voice that is constantly running in our head that seems to have an opinion on everything and we tend to use it to validate our thoughts and actions throughout the day (and night).

Given that we all have this voice and that it has a large influence on our thoughts and actions, it only makes sense that we discipline that voice to help us rather than diminish us. Just like we control other impulses in our nature, we can control that voice and harness it to help us have a more positive and effective outcome on our decisions, actions and well, about every aspect of our lives.

Since we live in our heads more than any other place, let’s make that a nice place to live. The first thing is to recognize that voice and realize that we can control it, rather than it control us.

Start by listening to that voice and see what it is saying. Is it a positive and reinforcing message or a negative and destructive message? Is it telling us that we are capable and making us stronger or is it placing doubt in our mind and holding us back? If it is providing a positive message of encouragement and support, our self-talk is actively engaged in helping us be more successful. If our self-talk is negative and introducing doubt and/or reminding us of past failures then it is working against us. If it is not a positive conversation, then it is time to learn to manage that conversation and turn it into our greatest supporter.

According to Psychology Today, “the more you talk yourself down and second-guess yourself, and see change as calamitous, the less free your mind is to roam through creative solutions of the problems you face.”

It is not as hard to make the change as we might think. However, like any other habit, it will take effort and practice to turn the corner and make it stick. If our self-talk is not positive then turn the tables on that conversation and make it positive. When we hear something like “I’m not sure I can talk in front of that group. What if I forget what I am saying or stumble getting to the podium, or…or…or…” take the effort to turn the tables and remind yourself that you are most able to deliver this talk, you are knowledgable, rehearsed and ready. If I trip on the way to the podium we will just all have a good laugh. Make that conversation work for you, not against you.

Put those negative thoughts in a box and don’t let them out. When you hear that self-talk going negative, put it aside and remind yourself of the positive and keep repeating it until the negative is gone. It is amazing how well this works. When our self-talk is positive it is as if the crowd is with us and I becomes We and we can do anything.

Make it personal. Speak to yourself by name. According to the Wall Street Journal, research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who spoke to themselves by their own name performed better under stress than referring to themselves as I. As an example saying to myself, “Skip you know you can do this,” produces stronger results than “I know I can do this”. I find that interesting, how about you?

So what can we do? Here are some practical suggestions: