I watched my son’s eyes open wide when he saw his new LEGO set. He begged to start immediately building and invited his good friend from across the street to join him. Together, they unloaded all of the packets of LEGO and instruction books. I could hear from down the hall as his friend took control, “This is what we need to do first, sort by color than shape.”
At dinner, our son told us in no uncertain terms, this is how you do LEGO, his friend told him so. Funny to hear because he’s put together countless LEGO sets before this afternoon and did just fine. My response? “So what? It’s one way, not the only way.”
I then asked the $92,000 question:
“What do you think you need to do next?”
He began to assert his friend’s expertise:
“Jono said color first…”
I reframed my question:
“What’s another way? It could be color or something else.”
How often do YOU assume that you know what to do next because someone told you so, or it’s what everyone else did before you? Is their life exactly like yours? Do they think, believe and breathe exactly what you do? Do they have a super secret instruction booklet for success? (if so, please share)
Here are the three things that determine your path and your next step:
That’s it. Forget sorting by color, shape or size – they’re all “a” next step but not necessarily yours. (Don’t worry, in the end, you’ll still get a super cool LEGO starship.)
If you think your next step is what someone else tells you it “must be,” ask yourself, check in with your gut. Most likely, your next step isn’t what you think because you’re not thinking or questioning, you’re following.
Do you want to live and lead on your terms? Own it. I’m not saying that you should ignore advice or a mentor’s experience, but it’s okay to question and adjust. You know more about your next step than you may think.
Why Your Next Step Isn’t What You Think
Whose values are guiding you?
When you lose touch with your values, it’s easy to get caught up in a race for success. Unfortunately, you may not even realize that you’re using someone else’s definition of success as the blueprint for your choices and actions.
You can google “values list” and you’ll come up with just shy of a billion results. A billion. Every list you click on, you’ll see hundreds of things that you should value and probably do. How do you discern what’s most important, your strongest values, when they all sound relevant?
It’s your values that determine your actions. When your values and actions are out of sync, it’s when you start to feel like a zombie instead of human. Even subtle differences in values can lead to a course of action either feeling inspired or like energy zapping effort.
One person values safety, and you may value adventure.
Another person values organization, and you may value inner harmony more.
Yet another values wealth while the concept of freedom speaks louder to you.
Here are some next steps that I hear a lot:
“I have no choice but to work late.”
“I need to buy new clothes for the season.”
“I must get on Twitter today or they’ll forget about me.”
Just like I asked my son, ask yourself…”Really??”
Think about your values as your personal instruction booklet to determine if you sort by color, shape, or wing it. It’s how you move past the “must,” “need to,” and “have to” in order to figure out your “want to.”
TIP: You won’t find your values on a list. Look at your life to discover your values in motion.
Having a goal is not the same as having a vision.
Part of a vision is about the experience of getting to your goal.
You don’t run a marathon without training for it.
You can’t publish a book without writing and editing.
You will never run a successful company without transitioning from idea to reality.
For my son, his vision for building his new LEGO set was to do it with a friend, not only to have a new model in his collection. For one of my clients, her vision was not only to work for a nonprofit, but also stretch her skills in new directions.
You probably know what it’s like to have a gap between your vision and your experience. For example:
Have you ever taken a new job and it’s nothing like you expected?
Have you ever dated someone who seemed perfect, until two months in when perfection became smothering?
Have you ever planned a trip for months only end up running around seeing all of the must see attractions and feeling let down?
When you go after something “at all costs,” it’s too late when you realize that the cost was too high. Is it really worth stomping on your values to tick a box on your to-do list?
The most robust visions encompass the adventure; feeling, seeing, and being are all accounted for and equally important.
TIP: Create a vision not only for your end goal, but also for the journey.
Your next step is less about your circumstances and more about the way you see them.
Call it what you want, your perspective, your attitude, your mindset… If you see roadblocks and limits instead of possibilities and potential, you’re stuck. Even if you know what to do, you’re not going to do it with gusto but instead you’ll be leading the way forward with limitations.
I know far too many people who think that their next step is giving up. I assure you, there is always a way forward, you just have to look for it.
My son believed that his friend had it right, that there was one best way to build a LEGO set despite his personal experience. I’ve seen incredibly smart leaders get stuck in the belief that their boss knows best. (Sorry if I’ve offended you, bosses)
I also know people who get stuck in a rut and don’t even know that they’re there. The next step that seemed so obvious is no longer the right step at all.
The last time I tried to lose weight, I cut out sugar and exercised three days a week. Why isn’t it working?
Top talent is walking out the door. Last time we offered a salary increase and they stayed. Why are they still leaving?
What rut have you fallen into? What are you still doing because that’s the way you’ve always done it?
TIP: When you only see limited options, your perceived next step may not light you up. To multiply your choices, shift your perspective. Your next step will absolutely, positively become clear.
I hear it all the time:
“I have no choice.”
“It always worked for me before.”
“I was just following directions.”
It could be that sorting by color is the way to go and maybe it’s not. It could be that the color sort worked last time, but this time there’s a better way to go. Awaken to possibilities and have the courage to give it a go.
Values, vision and your perspective are three powerful ways to tap into meaningful action. Blindly following orders will inevitably leave you unfulfilled. Now is the time for clarity, confidence, creativity and your next step (the one you’re inspired to take). Lead on!