When Life Takes A Detour ? 4 Signposts That Will Guide You Back On Track

It happens a lot 'round about now. One by one the astonished phrases sound out over the wire: "Oh, my gosh! Is it April already?! I can't believe that much of the year has gone by! I need to get busy! There's so much I still want to do! I haven't even start to get busy on (Project X)! I feel so unfocused." Yes, April is here, and though the calendar may be an arbitrary, senseless pressure imposed by our supposedly thinking minds, the value of some awareness of time passing is a good thing; at least for those with big plans for their futures, and big lives pulling them off track. Because April signals the imminent end to the first quarter of the year, it is a natural mile-marker upon which to measure progress in our one year goals. Indeed, she brings with her an opportunity for evaluation and redesign that is essential for progress and ultimately for success.

Perhaps you are lucky and feel completely focused and energized in each of the important areas of your life. Perhaps,?but I doubt it. It's not that I doubt YOU ? you are brilliant, capable, impressively resourceful and incredibly effective ? I only doubt that you've avoided nature. Balance is an ever-shifting equation in the theatre of business and life. (Pull-out quote here: It is the property of true genius to disturb all settled ideas.)

Maintaining absolute balance while moving forward is as difficult as holding an egg steady whilst running with a blindfold on. So, whether you've spent the first 3 months of 2005 charging determinedly towards your goal(s) or you've found yourself wallowing in despondent confusion, it is likely that some area of your life plan has fallen off-track or at the very least, has been stalled on the track.

The good news is that, like so many things in life, getting back on track can be far simpler than we imagine. In the paragraphs ahead I list four signposts to follow, each of which is a sure-fire fix to a stalled or detoured goal or dream. To jumpstart your life, simply identify where you feel off track and, focusing on that area, answer the questions in each category. You'll be surprised at how easily a stuck wheel can be oiled with the right question! A word to the impatient: although following each signpost may feel like a sidetrip, each will provide fuel for your trip, speeding you to a point further on down the track you'd been stalled on to begin with. Take the risk and the time ? answer the questions!

The Land of Outcome ? What Do I Want?

Often times we lose our way because we weren't precisely sure where we were going in the first place. Entering the Land of Outcome allows you to get specific and clear about what will actually change ? what will either be in your life or absent from it - when you reach your goal. When you leave this area you'll be able to tell others exactly where you are headed and what is waiting for you there.

* What do you want to "hold in your hand" as a result of your efforts?

* How will you know when you've reached your goal?

* What will change in your life as a result of achieving this goal?

* What will be present in your life?

* What will be absent from your life?

* What is the bare minimum you can accept in this area in a year's time? 6 months? 3 months? By next month?

The Land of Motivation ? Why Do I Want It?

Driving into this land is all about visiting or revisiting the reasons why you set up your goal in the first place. Answering the following questions will help you lock into the purpose and value of any efforts you might take towards your goal. Whereas the Land of Outcome focuses on tangible results, this is the domain of feeling and experience.

Answer these questions and reconnect with the initial passion you felt in creating the goal in the first place.

* What was the promise of this project that fulfilled a secret (or not so secret) desire?

* What about this project would make your efforts feel worthwhile?

* What would easy progress look like in this area?

* What do you love about this project?

* What would leadership look like on this project?

* What difference or change are you trying to make in attempting this?

* Where are you being too hard on yourself?

* What if you trusted yourself?

* How will playing in this area enlarge you?

* Who would you need to become in order to achieve this goal?

* What will recharge your batteries?

* What are you resisting?

* What is the one belief that stops you the most from taking the next step? What thought or belief would feel better?

The Land of Evidence ? Do I Believe I Can Have It?

Sometimes getting clear about the value of what we want isn't enough. If the thing we want is far outside of our current experience (ie, a Big Goal), or simply clouded by smoke of some kind (like doubt, fear, or confusion) then even knowing what it is and wanting it really clearly, won't get us there. Clarity and desire are different than belief, and without belief the car won't drive. In sticky spots like these it can be helpful to go out and collect some evidence to strengthen your confidence that you can create what you want. This is the domain of Support, wherein previous experience or stories from the front can act as fuel for an engine that has seized up.

* Who do you know, or know of, who has done what you are trying to do?

* What evidence do you see that your goal is possible?

* What is the progress you've made thus far? What territory have you taken?

* When in your past have you risen to a challenge?

* How has your past prepared you for the future you desire to have?

The Land of Action ? How Will I Get It?

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." Will Rogers

Once you've reconnected with what you want, why you want it and a belief that you can get it, you are probably ready to take action. The question is, "What action(s) should you take?" A plan is in order! Answer the questions below to help you prioritize your efforts for maximum momentum and gain. You'll be speeding towards your goal in no time.

Create a Basic Action Plan

* What is the one action you are avoiding that holds the most potential for progress?

* How are you standing in your own way and what are you willing to do about it today?

* What are the most important actions to take in order to reach your one year goal? 6 month goal? 3 month goal? 1 month goal?

* What are Starting Actions, Maintaining Actions and Completion Actions you must take?

* If you could only take one action on this goal this week, what is the most powerful action you could take?

Brainstorm Other Actions

* What is a baby step that would move you forward?

* What would be a radical thing to do?

* Where do you go from here? When will you do that?

* What will you need to say "Yes" to in order to achieve your goals. How will you say "Yes" to these things?

* Where do you need to let go of in order to reach your goal? How will you let go?

* To whom could you delegate work? What must you delegate?

* What is one action you could do daily to move you closer to your goal?

* If you were at your best, what would you do right now?

Falling off course in life, although a bummer, is common and unavoidable. The key to success in regaining the momentum you desire, lies in your response to the detour, idling, or crash you are experiencing. Curiosity is a large part of the cure. The appropriate response to being stuck is not fear, but interest. Asking questions such as, "What do I really want? Why do I want that? Can I get that?" and "How will I get that?" are handy short cuts that will put you back on the main course in your life with very little effort. Powered by an inquiring mind will keep you humming along. Don't worry. Drive happy!

(Look for the Client Session Notes on page ? to read how Melissa coached one stuck client to use the 4 Signposts to get back on track.) (This article is part of a tape series entitled 9 tips for Self Coaching which is scheduled for release in Summer 2005. To order a copy see form on the back page of the newsletter.)

How do You Know You've Fallen Off Track? "Defeat is a thing of weariness, of incoherence, of boredom." Antoine de Saint- Exupery

Yes, the first signs of being off track are frequently found in your feelings. If you feel tired, confused, or uninspired, you've probably fallen off track. Frustration indicates you're on track but a bit stuck. Panic or numbness are indications you've crashed. If you're still not sure, as yourself this question: "Is what I'm doing (thinking or feeling) this week, connected to what I want in my life at the end of this year? How?" If you can't answer that question easily, you are likely stalled or off track completely. Here's why: If you cannot see or at least feel a connection to your future, then you cannot have that future. You are not a match to it.

Recently a client came to me in a funk. As we began to coach, a curios mix of apathy and panic pervaded her responses to my probing about her life. With this telling combination of emotions present, I knew she was off track. She too could sense it, didn't know what to do about it, wanted desperately to be on track, and was afraid. We set to work answering questions from the categories listed above.

"So, Barbara, where are you off track?"

"I've been promising myself I'll leave my current job for so long, and I actually have a way to do that without compromising my financial stability, but the new arrangement will only last for 6 months. I can't see how I might survive after that."

"What would successfully quitting your job look like? What would it get you?" (Outcome question)

"It would look leaving a bad compromise and never looking back. It would get me the time and focus I want to have for my artistic career, which would give me a shot at actually making a living in that way. The ratio of passionate activity to survival activity would flip to 70/30. My whole life would feel more joy-filled! I'm dying to do this,?and I can't quite seem to make the leap."

"So, it would look like faith in your future; a certain kind of trust in your ability to actualize on your dream. And it would give you time and the ability to focus. Barbara, what is the one belief you have that stops you the most from taking this step?" (Motivational question ? it speaks to the thing that's squashing her motivation)

"The belief that I might mess things up if I quit without a clear plan for what happens after the six months. I guess I believe I have to know how I'll provide for myself; otherwise, I may not be able to."

" What belief would feel better? (This is a follow-up motivational question.) What if you didn't need to know how in order to move now? What if you trusted yourself? (motivational question)"

"Oh, that feels so much better! If I could trust my ability to find answers along the way, I'd be waiting a lot less before taking action. I'm not sure I can believe in this though. It's a new thought."

"Who do you know (or know of) who has moved forward on their goals without knowing how they'd complete them?" (Evidence question.)

"My friend, William. He left his day job with a couple grand in savings and a goal to tour his one man show, but he wasn't sure how to do that."

"Can you remember a time when you moved forward without a complete one-year strategy?" (Evidence question.)

"Yeah, I guess I actually did that when I quit my waitressing job to take the freelance work I'm doing now. It wasn't enough to pay the rent, but I believed I could get more work,?and I did. Now it's hard to leave it!"

You get the picture. Once we moved Barbara past her belief blocks, reconnected her with what was available to her if she took the leap, and provided her with the bolstering memory of another who had done what she was wanting to do, deciding actions to take was easy.

Melissa McFarlane, a Certified Co-Active Life Coach and Co-Founder of Electric Kites, Life Coaching for Companies and Individuals, is on a mission to bring extraordinary change to ordinary lives. She has over 15 years experience, as a coach, trainer and professional actress, working extensively in the area of professional development with a diverse spectrum of individuals and groups including companies, business professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, senior citizens, individuals with physical, mental and emotional challenges, and youths at risk.

Melissa's clients include: The Walt Disney Company, CitySearch.com, Korn Ferry International, AT&T, State Farm Insurance, Taco Bell, Mary Kay International, Wishnow & Associates, and the Department of Community Affairs for the City of Chicago, as well as many private individuals including producers, directors, writers, lawyers, salespersons, creative types, CEO's, owners of small businesses, and other life coaches.

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