Some people think of a mission statement as a prose summary of how you want your life and/or career to unfold. I prefer a checklist approach. List 100 goals. If you find this daunting, break it down:
10 professional goals
10 family goals
10 financial goals
10 creative goals
10 places to visit
10 skills to master
10 books to read
10 events to attend
10 subjects to research
10 things you’ve always wanted to do (e.g., bungee jumping).
List everything you want in life, even if you have achieved it already (e.g., college degree). As you check things off, you’ll be reminded at what an interesting life you have already led. As you see the things you haven’t gotten to yet, you’ll have the ultimate to-do list.
Recently, I met with a top commercial casting director. He gave me a choice of commercial copy for an Italian restaurant or for laxatives. Now, as an Asian-American, I have about as much chance at landing an Italian restaurant commercial as I do at landing the lead in a Roots revival, so that choice would be a waste. But I could be the new laxatives girl, so….
Thankfully, I’ve never had to use laxatives, but then I had no inspiration. I needed to convey that these laxatives were the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the thought of them, well, was just not as great as sliced bread. How did I get through it? Whenever the copy called for me to say the product name, I substituted my baby’s name in my mind, and so I cracked a smile, my body relaxed, and I got a twinkle in my eye at just the right moment. Behold the power of substitution.
Substitution is a technique I encourage my clients to use when going into a situation that might make them freeze and not do their best. The idea is to substitute something that gives you the desired effect for the actual thing that makes you freeze. A business application of this would be at an interview. One client was interviewing at a top consulting firm. She was prepared but would completely fall apart at the start of the case interview. Consulting firms give interviews called “cases” which are business problems the interviewee needs to solve. These cases are similar to research projects, which this client was comfortable with after two years of graduate study. Therefore, I coached her to substitute a professor for the interviewee and a proposed research topic for the case. She still needs to know how to do cases, but the substitution gets her relaxed enough so that the preparation she has done has a chance to show.
If you are in an audition, interview, sales call, or other important event for which you are prepared but during which you might get rattled, consider using substitution. You won’t forget where you actually are. You will still be able to harness the adrenaline and the energy of the moment. You will still need to prepare. However, you will have one technique to keep you grounded if you feel the need. At the very least, you’ll now know how to sell those laxatives.
One of my coaching clients, thinking of switching from acting to accounting (that’s right, acting to accounting, NOT the other way around!) recently asked me how to know for certain when a career change is right. For monumental life changes (as career changes often are) most clients are excited during the self-assessment process, pumped up for the research and planning phase, and then petrified to make the actual leap. To get past this, ask yourself one question:
Which will you regret more: trying a new career and failing miserably; or staying at the current career and never knowing what might have been?
The answer changes over time. When you first consider change, the prospect of failure is often scarier than the prospect of regret. You can improve your readiness with smaller changes – e.g., adding new skills, making contacts in your new field. Keep in mind, though, that being scared off by potential (but by no means guaranteed) failure might indicate this change is not really for you. You might not be willing to expend the effort to make this change a reality, and you might need to go back to the self-assessment stage.
However, as dreams of change keep calling you, the fear of failure wanes. You might be scared, but you consider the change anyway. You might be like my client, looking to others for certainty about something only you can know for sure. For this client, and others getting scared out of making a change, I propose you scare yourself INTO the change. Use the fear – but fear of regret, not failure. Move towards change because of fear – because your fear of regret outweighs your fear of failure.
Remember, you can regain your career, your reputation, and your money after almost any setback, but you cannot ever regain the time you let pass by. Yes, change is scary. But, if you think change is scary, try regret.
It’s been said that you can have it all, just not all at the same time. This is true for our dreams. In the April newsletter, you were asked to list 100 dreams. You probably don’t expect to achieve them all at the same time. But, have you actually planned out which ones you want now, rather than later? Revisit your list of 100 dreams and assign a broad timeline for when you want to work on them.
Think in terms of now, soon and into he future. NOW dreams deserve your attention now. For example, if one dream is a fulfilling family life, and you currently have small children, then now is a unique and opportune time to work on that particular dream.
SOON dreams have a two- to five-year time frame, so you might do some planning now, but nothing else day-to-day. For example, if you want to take an Alaskan cruise within the next five years, you might save money now, but you can wait to plan logistics.
IN THE FUTURE dreams have a longer time horizon. These are dreams that are meaningful but not time-critical. You want to have a checklist of these to remember them. But, don’t fritter away your NOW time thinking, “I’ve always wanted to…plant a garden.” If planting a garden is a life dream, but not compelling right now, don’t waste time watching gardening shows and dreaming about the possibilities. Just acknowledge that it’s on the list and that you will get to it when time frees up.
Having a broad timeline for your dreams ensures that you don’t feel so overwhelmed by your interests that you end up squandering your energy in too many directions or feel guilty because you’re not getting enough done. Having a timeline ensures that time-sensitive dreams won’t expire with neglect (as the dream to have children does expire at a certain age!) Having a timeline acknowledges that all dreams have a rightful place in your life, even if not at this very moment.