“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” - Seneca
‘Where’ is the present location and the destination; the starting point and the vision. The first of these we will consider is the starting point. This is because when you set off on any journey the first thing you need to know is the place to begin. If you look at a map or want directions, the first thing to identify and confirm is your present location; and the same goes for any new project or venture. This is important as your route can properly be planned only once you know where you are starting. Therefore going through a thorough appreciation of where you are is essential before moving forward.
There are various exercises to get you going in working out the reality of your present situation. You can look at past appraisals, reports and testimonials you might have. All of these things start to build up a picture.
One good idea is to write a short biography. Try and keep it to one page but try to encapsulate your story to date; how you arrived where you are today and what have been the key milestones.
You can also write a new CV. This process helps you to summarise your achievements in a structured way. There are lots of resources online to help you and if you don’t know where to start then click here:
Another simple assessment tool you can do for yourself, your team or your whole organisation is a SWOT analysis. ‘SWOT’ stands for:
- S: What are the biggest strengths of you, your team or your situation?
- W: What are your inherent weaknesses?
- O: What are the opportunities of your situation?
- T: What are the external threats that you are facing?
The great thing about the SWOT analysis is takes a balanced view of your present situation. This is very important because we face a couple of dangers at this stage. Firstly we can paint too rosy a picture of our situation if we choose to overlook or gloss-over certain facts. The second danger is that by looking at all the challenges the situation can seem overwhelming and this can lead to paralysis rather than action – just the opposite of what we are trying to achieve. So we need to have the right perspective.
Keeping the right perspective is not always easy. Jim Collins in his excellent book ‘Good to Great’ talks about the ‘Stockdale paradox’, the idea of confronting the ‘brutal facts’ of the situation while maintaining the belief that you will prevail. Admiral James Stockdale survived as a prisoner of war in Vietnam for over seven years under the most horrific conditions. Stockdale concluded this about the mentality that helped him survive:
“This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Stockdale did not try to fool himself over his present situation and neither should we, especially as what we face is unlikely to be anywhere near as bad as the years of torture he had to confront! When one looks at the hard data it can be daunting at first but as you take things to their natural conclusion it can also be releasing. If we ask ourselves ‘so what?’ of every challenge we face, and think through what could happen, and – more importantly – what you would do if the worst was to happen, then we can confront our fears.