Reflect and Reassess

“This isn’t where I thought I would be at this point in my life...”

Has this ever run through your mind? If so, you aren’t alone. Many people have visions and even goals for their future life when they join the workforce, but 10, 15, 20 years later, their actual life doesn’t reflect the vision. What went wrong?

Broadly, the culprit can be either something unforeseen interrupting your plan such as a health issue or a family crisis; or it can be not creating or executing a plan to achieve your vision in the first place. In either case, it is never too late to take action.

My strategy has centered on four key steps to achieving my goals:

  1. Determine your goals

  2. Determine what has to be true for you to achieve your goals

  3. Put a time defined plan in place to make it true

  4. Execute by making choices consistent with your plan at every step

Reflect and reassess to set your goal. Where do you want to be? What type of life do you want to have? What do you want to learn? How hard are you willing to work? How much risk are you willing to take, etc... Thinking through these questions honestly will help you choose a goal from a personal or professional perspective, which is the first key step.

Step one: Determine your goals. Professionally, I wanted to run a company, become a CEO. I actually decided this in high school. Now I realize this is unusual, and no, you don’t have to decide in HS to be successful, but you need to choose a goal at some point and if you can’t focus that far ahead, then choose one closer in, 10 year or 5 years out even. If you struggle with this, there are people, such as coaches, who can help you frame your goals.

Step two: Determine what has to be true to achieve your goals. That means doing your homework, the research. In high school I decided I wanted to be a CEO. So what had to be true for me to become a CEO? Research showed there weren’t people who looked like me in major CEO roles. Most CEOs ran operations and had P&L management early in their careers. The best opportunities tended to be in growing industries that needed new skills.

Step Three: Put a time defined plan in place. So based on the research, I needed the right credentials, especially as a minority, I needed to pick a growing industry as they have more opportunity, and I needed to set myself up to run a piece of the business early. Easy..Not! But doable and I did all of these.

Step Four: Execute by making choices consistent with your plan at every step. The point here is by thinking through the plan, you have a framework for making choices at every step. For example, I chose Wharton for my undergraduate degree. There were other options for a business undergrad, but Wharton was the only one that could allow me to skip the time and expense of an MBA and still give me strong credibility. I also chose the tech industry which was booming in the early 80s. And ultimately joined IBM in sales, because every IBM CEO started out in sales.

It is never too late to act. A friend of mine went back to school in her early 50’s so she could change careers and is now in her desired field and loving it.