Should I start out this mid-summer post by saying something to the effect of “Can you believe we’re already halfway through 2019?” Or does it feel like it’s already been exactly 212 days since the start of the year? Some years feel slower and more challenging than others, but the fact of the matter is, time flies, whether we’re having fun or not. 

So instead of time, let’s talk about progress (and if you like progress, you’ll enjoy this post on progress vs. perfection). 

With the exception of leap years, we each get 365 days to make progress on those things that are important to us. Being that we’re halfway through the year, how’s your progress been?

For me, I made the switch a few years back to focus on a word of the year, rather than on a list of goals. It’s been transformational, in that the word tends to infuse itself into every aspect of my life, even though I had originally intended it for improvement in a specific area.

My word for 2019 is enough. It started out as more of a clutter free / minimalist / simple living sort of mantra to start asking the intentional question of do I have enough of x? It’s funny sometimes how a simple question can spark profound change. It quickly morphed from do I have enough plates, shirts, or books to an inquiry around enough of everything. Am I spending enough meaningful time with my family? Do I have enough work? Am I contributing enough to my community?  My word of the year is a lens that I can filter all my decisions through to decide where and how to best focus my energy and time.

So am I making progress this year? Yes. Is it noticeable? Yes. Am I improving in dimensions that are important to me? Yes! Is it a goal tied to a specific metric that has a color on a dashboard? No.

And I’m ok with that. I’ve had enough (see what I did there?) experience hitting specific targets and delivering results. As is often the case in work and in life, numbers don’t tell the whole story. 

When it comes to your career journey, only you can decide how you feel about your current role and when it’s time for a change. Maybe you know where you’re headed, but aren’t there yet, sort of like that hot air balloon picture above. That’s fine, as long as you’re making progress. Today’s a great time to take a look at your progress and see if you need to adjust for the rest of the year. I promise you’ll be reading articles starting with “Can you believe it’s the end of the year already?” before you know it!

Note: There are several folks who advocate for a word of the year (or even a life word if you want take the long view!). Check out Jon Gordon, Evan Carmichael, or this article from Inc if you want to dig a little deeper. 

My “office” (pictured above) is also where we eat meals, play board games, do homework, create artwork, and so many other activities. As a matter of fact, a realtor would probably call this room the dining room or eat-in kitchen. Our house doesn’t actually have a dedicated office space.

Here’s a list (and photo evidence below!) of some of what I had to remove from my office in order to take the first picture: swimsuits and towels dried, but not yet put away from swim lessons; an incomplete to-do list; a quantity of crumbs unparalleled by Cookie Monster; Trolls movie soundtrack CD borrowed from the library (I like my kids to experience older technologies to better appreciate new ones!); and a water bottle with food still caked on the side. I could continue the list, but you get the idea. Plus, it only occurred to me to take a picture after I was about halfway through cleaning it up!

I know what you’re thinking: I should stop trying to do work in such a crazy place! But here’s the thing, although it’s imperfect, it works for now. Would it have been more ideal to start my business when I have a dedicated office space (preferably with several layers of sound proofing and a mini fridge… which, when installed my family will likely never see me again, BTW!)? Sure, but then I probably never would have started, because there would always be something else imperfect holding me back.

The same is often true for people in their careers. We wait for the perfect job description, the perfect timing, or the perfect company. And because none of those things actually exist in the funny little place we call reality, we never take action. 

In order to break out of the perfectionist mindset, here’s a few ideas:

  • If you think a job posting sounds interesting… apply! 
  • Just because the timing is inconvenient in taking on a new opportunity is no reason not to go for it anyway! 
  • Stuck at a company you hate because you figure they’re all the same? You may be surprised to discover that there are lots of great places to work that probably are a better fit for you than your current employer.

So, do I give up the dream of an office of my own someday? Definitely not! But I also don’t let it hold me back from doing what I need to do to be successful today. And you shouldn’t either.

P.S. If you’re feeling especially stuck, you may enjoy reading this.

You’re staring into your full fridge and declare, “There’s nothing to eat!” You dig through your full drawers and lament, “I have nothing to wear.” 

It’s not that there’s really nothing to eat or nothing to wear. It’s that nothing appeals to us in that moment. We were hoping for something different and therefore feel disappointed because expectations don’t match reality.

Interestingly, this happens with intangibles as much as with physical objects. The person who makes sure every I is dotted and T is crossed sees someone with strategic thinking capabilities and says, “They’re so visionary and paint such a vivid picture of the future. I wish I could be more like that.” Or the strategic leader who says, “I’ll bet my top performing, detail-oriented team member never forgets their spouse’s birthday! I wish I could be more like that.” *Note – if you’ve forgotten your spouse’s birthday, stop reading here and take immediate corrective action!

It’s so easy to get caught up in comparison or get lost wishing things were different. In the case of the full fridge, there’s a chance that there’s one or two rotten things in the very back, but for the most part, it’s food waiting to be turned into a nutritious meal. Same goes for the drawers. Maybe a few items don’t fit, but for the most part they do. The same is true of our strengths – we can find ways to use all of them in our careers and lives if we’re willing to try.

I spent the early years in my career overvaluing other people’s strengths while dismissing my own. Wishing I could be better at the things at which I will never be a superstar. It took more years than I’d like to admit before I finally recognized the value in my own unique strengths (thanks in part to a patient mentor!) and started to seek out opportunities that would leverage them.

And I know I’m not alone. These days, I spend time with each of my clients making sure that they can recognize their strengths and are comfortable talking about them with others so they can highlight the value they bring to an organization. It’s always rewarding to work with someone when they have that a-ha moment around their amazing, completely unique-to-them strengths.

Next time you’re staring at your fridge wondering what to eat, appreciate it for what it is. A storage unit filled with life-sustaining nutrients.  Don’t know what to wear? Be glad you have a choice of clothes that fit. Those strengths that sound boring to you? There’s someone out there looking for exactly what you have to offer!

I used to dread making dinner the night before we went grocery shopping. It always felt like there was nothing left in the fridge! Now, I enjoy the fact that there is a unique combination of ingredients waiting to be discovered and turned into dinner. Similarly, no one else approaches work exactly the same way as you, so find a way to leverage your authentic, inimitable strengths to deliver amazing results!

I love the end of the school year. Everything seems imbued with hope, just like the latest class of funny-hat-wearing graduates to cross the stage. They all have big plans and outsized dreams.

Eventually, we wake up when we’re 30… 40… 50… 60 (sidebar: isn’t it funny how we only seem to do major self reflection on round number birthdays? No one freaks out that they’re 43 and 5 months old and haven’t done anything with their life yet! I digress…) So we wake up and suddenly the path we’re on is nothing like the one we hatched as a hope-filled grad. 

We all face disappointments and setbacks in work and life, most of which we wouldn’t choose for ourselves, at least when they’re happening. Being laid off from your dream job. Watching your company go out of business overnight. Losing someone you care about. The details change for each of us, but the challenges are similar.

This quote from writer Sarah Ban Breathnach sums it up nicely. “…success in life is not how well we execute Plan A; it’s how smoothly we cope with Plan B.”

Coping smoothly when life smacks you in the face is tough, especially when you’ve been working on Plan A for a while. But coping is a whole lot more effective than complaining and wishing for the past. Acknowledging and accepting where you’re at is the only thing that allows you to develop a plan to move forward. It’s not the original path you charted, but it’s the path you’re on now.

As the wise and delightfully eccentric Doc Brown says in Back to the Future, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” It’s time to figure out Plan B (or C or D or Z!), with or without roads! 

If you need help figuring out what direction to head, you are welcome to reach out to me.