When challenges come at us quicker than we are able to process we can find that we get knocked off course. When working with a team or individual to improve resilience we will explore what we can do in advance of this situation occurring – its almost inevitable that it will happen at some point. One area we explore is the clarity people have about what they want to achieve. Depending on the circumstances, we will have a conversation that can range from the here and now to as far out as people want to go. My experience of this would suggest that this breaks down into one of five conversations. The conversations support and are dependent on each other to bring clarity and calm about where to focus effort and energy.
So what are the conversations:
- Conversation about Values, purpose and meaning
- Conversation about Vision
- Conversation about Goals
- Conversation about Projects
- Conversation about Specific actions
Values, purpose and meaning. Really understanding your values, purpose and meaning will provide direction for the bigger questions you might face. Perhaps a new job opportunity arises, needing to leave an existing job because of its impact on your health or family. Proactively thinking about our values can also help decode situations or help us appreciate why something might impact us. This last point is equally important to the big and small situations that we might face.
Vision. Vision provides the bigger picture context of what you are looking to achieve. A stated ambition to move you from today’s position to a desired future state. The time horizon for your vision is personal and dependent on what you want to achieve. In this context, the vision is typically the bigger things with a three to five-year horizon. Going further out can help shift our thinking away from current constraints and ‘limitations’ you find yourself in.
Goals. This conversation breaks down your vision into aiming points. As a rule of thumb, goals will help with your thinking one to three years out. With this sort of time horizon, they are still relatively high-level yet more tangible in detail than the vision. With goals, you can begin to break things down into chunks to actually organise how you spend your time and resources.
Projects. Some people can be put off by the term ‘project’. Getting in the mindset that projects are something you need specialist skills to deliver. And there are situations where this might be the case. However, what I mean is groups of actions working toward a particular outcome. Don’t get hung up on fancy terminology associated with many of the project management methodologies. Some of the best project managers are working parents who need to get out of the door in the morning. A project will help deliver outcomes which when brought together will help you achieve a goal.
Specific Actions. This conversation is the most tangible in terms of what to do next. Write the report, complete the training session, call a client. This is the stuff of day-to-day activity. For some, this can be overwhelming. Not knowing where to start can hold you in a position of inaction. For others, they can find themselves trapped at the action stage, running around being busy, but not achieving a great deal to progress the bigger things they’d like to achieve. Asking which of the actions we are facing will make the others easier or irrelevant can be a useful first step along the road of what to do next. The simplicity of this can show up some interesting results that give you the bearing you are looking for.
For some people reading this, the concept of this hierarchy of conversations will provide a feeling of comfort. For others, it will make them feel constrained or intimidated – ‘how could I possibly know what I want three years from now’. There will also be others who agonise over the detail of what goes into what conversation – ‘I’m not sure if this is a project or goal?’. My take is that the approach as described is a means to an end. Not an end in itself. The conversations can help us navigate our worlds and bring shape to our thinking which in turn will change our feelings. So experiment, explore and test to see if something like what’s being described can help you achieve a greater sense of calm to your world and as a result ensure you are focusing on the things that matter most.
Which conversation would have the biggest impact for you at this moment in time?
As always, I’m interested in any thoughts you get as a result.