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I am working with a coaching client who is disappointed in not being promoted recently. In digging deeper, she wants to make some changes in things but is not sure where to start. While I prefer a discussion, I took some time to write something up because she has a lot of demands on her time. This advice is widely applicable for anyone wanting to work towards a goal, so I am sharing it here.

I totally understand that it can be hard to know where to start. My advice on this is pretty constant. Pick one or two things that you really want to change. Where do you feel energy about doing something different? Lean into that.

Here are some thoughts to help you start. I give credit to author Simon Sinek (Start With Why) for this. “Martin Luther King said I have a dream, not I have a plan. That is how he was able to inspire people.” That makes a lot of sense. And I say that as someone who loves a good plan and to do list. To motivate anyone, including myself, it’s necessary first to imagine how things will change as I take on hard work. That dream, that goal, needs to be descriptive enough that you (and others) can see it.

Once you are able to clearly state your dream, compare it to how things are now. That will guide you to actions you need to take to make your dream become reality. You need clarity here too. Your dream should encompass the feelings you will have when you achieve it. As much as possible, you also want to focus on those things within your power.

Many of my coaching clients struggle with a feeling that they are not successful in some way. They may want a promotion, a specific job, a better relationship, or just to feel that they are living up to their potential. They want things to be different but can’t always say how. The challenge is often that they are focused on the outcome (like a promotion) which relies on the actions of others.

This is important -- relying on others means sometimes you will be disappointed. As I tell people all of the time -- most years of your career you won’t get promoted. And sometimes you won’t get the job to which you apply. Basing your happiness on a decision by others can be frustrating. To be clear, I am not saying that seeking a promotion or a better relationship is a bad idea, just that you might want to change your focus. Being more effective at your job and becoming someone who makes connections between people and ideas may be what gets you that promotion

In practical terms, here are two things you can do instead. First, figure out the feeling you will have if you achieve your goal. That is a significant part of what you are looking to achieve. How can you start feeling that way now? What steps have you already completed towards this that you can celebrate? If you are feeling that already, it will be more motivating to you now rather than some vague time in the future.

Secondly, what is something you will commit to doing in the next 10 minutes that will get you closer to making your dream become a reality? Can you do 10 pushups, or even one? What about calling or emailing someone who can help? Is there something you need to read, write, or research? Do that thing. Seriously, do it now.

Here is something that works for me and might work for you too. Keep a calendar where you will see it every day. When you do something to make your dream real, put a big X on that day. Tomorrow, do one more thing and make another X. Seeing an unbroken chain is very motivating. If you miss a day, just get right back to it tomorrow. Take action, no matter how small. Those will compound to progress quickly.

On the chalkboard above my desk I have written “Do the HARD things.” What I am finding is that daily progress makes those things less hard, but just as worthwhile. So now the next step is up to you. I am confident you can do it, one step at a time.

Now go make it happen --


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