Are You Living Today as an Extension of Yesterday, or as the Beginning of Tomorrow?

This is a question worth pondering from time to time.  Let’s face it, it happens to the best of us, we fall into patterns and live some aspects of our lives as if we were in the movie “Groundhog Day.” No matter how successful we are at dealing with issues, and/or creating new possibilities in some areas of our lives, we all have pesky problems that keep coming up—the ones we just can’t seem to gain any traction on resolving. Recurring thoughts about topics that get us nowhere take over our minds and eventually it feels like we’re running in a pool of molasses.

More often than not, this happens because we use the same mindset and thought process that got us into the problem to get ourselves out of it. If the problem gets bad enough, we get lucky; we are eventually compelled to take a fresh look, and change our approach, or we end up getting exhausted enough, or someone pulls us aside to give us some coaching.

Transformation is not a natural extension of past progression.

If we aren’t so lucky and our old approach actually yields some measure of success and progress, the problem is exacerbated. Those positive results entice us to continue down the path we have been on, expecting breakthroughs that never come. We apply linear thinking, which leads to some change and improvement, but if a transformation is what we are after, as the title of Marshall Goldsmith’s book suggests “What got you here, won’t get you there!”  

Transformation is not a natural extension of past progression. Transformation requires a discontinuous shift in our mindset, strategies, and actions, which are not visible to us when we’re standing in the present and looking through the fog of today’s problems. The only way to create an inflection point and change the trajectory of progress from continuous improvement (change) to step change (transformation) is to step out into the desired future, fully embrace every aspect of it, and identify the next steps that must be taken. 

As easy as it is to intellectually subscribe to this idea, the practice of it is not prevalent. I often see vision statements and strategic plans that are far too focused on solving problems rather than achieving something extraordinary. I hear too many conversations that are aimed at fighting the old, rather than building the new. Far too often we step into our day, trying to figure out how to solve the remnants of yesterday’s problems rather than starting with a clean slate and prioritizing our activities based on the future we want to create. If you’re feeling a bit condemned, don’t be. This can be remedied in an instant by examining where you stand and shifting your mindset. Four steps to get you on the right track below:

Let’s Check Out Where You Stand?

Assess where you stand relative to this topic and chart your path forward. Start by picking a tough challenge you are dealing with, then consider and act on the following:

1.    Can you look beyond the problems that need to be solved and see the outcome you are committed to creating? If not, ponder the desired outcome, independent of today’s challenges.

2.    Standing in that future and looking back, identify the conditions that must change and the actions that you could/should take to cause an inflection in the rate of progress.

3.    Examine your existing plans or list of activities you are engaged in, and prioritize them to make room for what will create the outcome you are committed to.

4.    Make it a habit to revisit your plans regularly and make it a habit to repeat this process.

The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

— Socrates