One of my clients, Pat, confessed that they knew what they needed to work on, even how to approach it, but was stuck reflecting on why they were not able to commit to action steps. They also wondered what it would take to sustain any changes.

Most of us are not operating at full capacity or fully developing our capability. Many of us have been excited by and engaged in several motivating and inspiring challenges, frameworks, tools and techniques to get us to the “next level”. Here are three things on which to focus in order to raise the probability that you will actually reach that next level of effectiveness you genuinely want to achieve.


Of course, feedback is important. The challenge is we tend to seek feedback that reinforces our self-image. Even when we look literally in a mirror, we find ourselves adjusting and repositioning it so that we can find “or best side”. It is important to realize that this self-perception bias interferes with you getting and receiving accurate and development-oriented feedback.

One helpful way to gather accurate feedback is to map out a picture of where you were five years ago. What were you doing? What factors contributed to you being successful? What factors interfered with, stalled, limited your effectiveness?

When you compare the picture of you five years ago with where you are now, are you still doing the same things? Did you exceed where you thought you would be by now? Why not? Did you fall short? What contributed to that?

Crystal Balls

Yes, setting goals is important to driving success. The challenge is to set effective goals, goals that are both realistic and challenging. It is important to realize that where we are likely to be five years in the future is often a straight trajectory from where we have been. Usually our goals feed into that steady line of performance and development. That is unless we intentionally stretch out further. If we keep doing what we have been doing we are most likely to keep getting what we have been getting. Would that please you? Would it satisfy you? Where are you committed to being in your near to long term future?

One helpful way to see what lies ahead is to craft your personal mission statement. In a recent presentation with 40 participants, only 5 admitted they had a personal mission statement. Only 2 of them acknowledged they had written in down and were intentionally using it.

One other important point about goal setting is that goals that have a 50% probability of achieving them actually have a bigger impact on your development than higher probability goals. We grow from being stretched in realistic ways and we build capability and capacity to do more.


Sharp Edges

Ultimately, we take action. The challenge is that often time we are fighting a fundamental preference for stability and predictability. If it works, why change. Why take the risk of failure or even the risk of success? The sustainable action we take is usually when the benefits of doing so, outweigh the costs of doing so. We move to action also when the benefits of not taking action are less than the costs of not taking action. (e.g. I can be comfortable and safe in this current role, but I will not be challenged in it.)

How do you find the sharp edge to move forward? How do I know what steps will yield the greatest return?  In its simplest form, doing something, with intentional effort, each day begins the process of getting to the next level. Using the feedback from those actions to inform you to “start, stop, or continue” increases the efficiency and effectiveness of what you are doing.

A more compelling and long-lasting focus is to ensure that your actions are fueled by a genuine personal passion in the moves you make and the results you target.

The rest of the story….

What are you going to do next?

  • Keep spending time looking for mirrors. Avoid having “echo chambers” where people only give back what you want to hear. Do your five-year analysis of strengths, weakness, and progress.
  • Write your mission statement to focus your crystal ball. Post it so others can support you and hold you accountable. Set goals that you know will make you sweat to achieve them.
  • Find sharp edges to do something each day guided by efficiency and effectiveness. Be clear about the passion, (costs and benefits), and commitment that drive and sustain your growth.


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