How do you measure success? What are the milestones along the way that let you know that you are–or are not–making progress? In today’s blog I offer some guidance when facing a change that is personally oriented; next week we will look at the same question through the lens of an organizational change.
In What’s Your Story? (Part 2, Guidelines 1-5 for Writing Your Story) I spoke briefly about the distinction between “installation” and “realization.” Let’s briefly revisit those distinctions first. Throughout this post I will use the example of a major career change. You are leaving your financial services career on Wall Street to become an actor; it is a passion that has burned inside you as long as you remember, and you are going to make your dream come true.
Installation is achieved when things are put in place. Installation metrics may include getting accepted to acting school; submitting your resignation; commencing training; completing your training; being selected for your first part; and completing your first acting assignment.
Realization is achieved when the promise of the change is fully delivered. perhaps, for you, realization will be when you feel secure in your ability to support yourself as an actor…no more waiting tables, valet parking cars, or serving hors d’oeuvres at catered parties.
All too often, when we plan a major change for ourselves, we start with the passion that is in our heart as our desired future state, and then we plan as if installation will get us there. Unfortunately, installation only gets us installation; it doesn’t get us realization. Nor can you start thinking about “what else do I need to do” once you have achieved installation. It is important to plan on, and move toward, realization from the outset.
If it is a big change, start by thinking through and listing out all of the major adjustments you are going to have to make not only in what you do, but in how you think. Perhaps while on Wall Street the thinking was “eating out is convenient, and I can afford it.” It may still be just as convenient, but may be much less affordable as you work your way through acting school, auditions, and your early parts as an extra or a member of the chorus. So, not only will you have to change how you spend money, you most likely have to change how you think about money. You will also probably need to make changes in where you live; your wardrobe will most likely be different; how you spend your time–including both working and non-working time–will probably change, as might when you get up and when you go to bed. They call it “major change” for a reason!
What about the people in your life? The colleagues who used to drink martinis with you before dining may be less excited about downing a shot after the final curtain call. The friends who loved getting invited to your beach house may find they have less excitement about a picnic in the park. And the family that worked and sacrificed to help you and your siblings through college so you could have a better life…perhaps they will be less than enamored with your new-found enthusiasm for what they see as a less professional, less lucrative, and less secure career path.
We touched on this briefly in the post Anchors, Aweigh, but it bears repeating here. In planning a major change, you are going to have to consider those around you. What role do they play in your life now? What role do they need to play in the transition? What role will they need to play when you achieve your desired future state? Which ones will be the same, which ones will be different, and which people will you need to end your relationship with in order to succeed?
Once you’ve listed all of the changes in thinking and behavior you can come up with, grab some sticky notes and a pen or pencil. Put each one on a separate piece of paper, and put it up on the wall (or white board, or closet door, or window). You may want to use different colors for mindsets and behaviors, or for different aspects of the change (e.g. leaving the old job; redefining relationships with people).
Now you can begin to group these together. Use your story to help you think this part through.
Let’s go back to your intent. I feel secure in my ability to support myself as an actor!
Begin by defining your realization indicators. What will make you feel secure? Be specific; be sure it is measurable. You may already have some among the sticky notes you have posted; you might need to develop others.
These may be some of your metrics.
- I have $X in the bank, of which $Y has been made as an actor.
- For the past 18 months I have had a positive cash flow, all of it as an actor.
- I have re-framed my lifestyle so that I am comfortable, in fact feel like I belong, in my one bedroom apartment.
- I am entertaining family and/or friends at home at least once a month.
Once you have your realization indicators (on sticky notes on the wall), think through how they might group together. Perhaps you will end up with some that have to do with financial management, others with career development, and others with lifestyle.
Next, position them in a relative sequence. The first two of the bulleted indicators may be targeted for attainment near the end of the change, as you approach full realization. The third one you might decide to position earlier in the process.
Now think through your installation indicators. Again, many of these may come from the sticky notes you have already developed. What do you have to put in place in order to achieve each of the realization indicators? For example, what will it take for you to move out of your three bedroom and feel comfortable in a one bedroom apartment?
- I have identified the characteristics of a living space in which I can be comfortable (a more open plan vs. individual rooms, whether a view is needed, etc.).
- I have pared down my positions so that I have what I can comfortably live with inside the new apartment.
- I have a plan in place for ensuring that I don’t begin to clutter my space.
- I have defined the type of neighborhood in which I will be comfortable.
- I have found, leased, and moved into my new apartment.
Look at the sticky notes that you first put on the wall, and that have not become either realization or installation indicators. Ask yourself two questions.
- Have I identified an indicator that this contributes to achieving?
- If not, am I missing an indicator, or is this unnecessary?
You should end up with a series of “work streams” made up of installation and realization indicators.
Finally, review your work streams. If you achieve all of the indicators in each of the work streams, will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, I feel secure in my ability to support myself as an actor.
Keep a record of what you have on the wall. It will change over time. You don’t have all the answers now; you don’t even know all the questions. Things will change around you. So, your indicators will have to change as well. Nonetheless, you are well on your way to planning, and preparing to launch, a very big, and important, change in your life.
Have you ever planned a big change in your life? Do you use milestones to track your progress? Share your thoughts, experiences, and insights in the comments.