Posted on: Feb 29, 2016
When making pivotal business decisions like starting or expanding, understanding the reasons for whatever you are thinking about doing is the key, the cornerstone, the Rosetta Stone, the absolute magic bullet to making sound decisions going forward. What do YOU want? The answer to this depends on the unique cocktail of you. AND this understanding of what you want must be completely backed up by your belief in yourself. You must believe that you can have more of what you want out of life than what you have now.
Years ago I attended a one-day time management seminar that made a lasting impression. I went there looking for tips about time management but the presenter didn’t start the day talking about time management, but about choices. The story went like this: "Maybe you need better time management skills, and we'll get to those. But very likely you also need to think more about your choices. Life is like a big candy store. There are lots of enticing jars on the shelf of the store. When you take something off the shelf you think you want, make sure you have the life currency to buy it. Life currency is not just money but energy, time, and ability. Making wrong choices in the candy store will certainly end as a time management problem."
When I started thinking about expanding Maze Runners Consulting, I thought long and hard about my life candy store. How could I figure out what candy jar I really wanted? How would I calculate if I had enough currency to buy what I think I wanted? To avoid the costly mistake of a bad decision, I decided to update my “what do you want” evaluation process and then actually use it. I found it very helpful and hope you do too. This process has two parts. The first is getting in the right frame of mind, and the second is taking the time to uncover answers to help make good "buying" decisions.
Get your mind ready to help you by turning OFF your judgement. You don't get told that very often but, unfortunately, when you are trying to figure out what you want, your brain can get in the way. This problem happens because your brain is a very efficient information filter. As soon as any idea comes in, you are already making judgements about the idea. Judgements like "it’s a stupid idea" or "(Insert spouse name here) would never go for it." You think "I really want to change careers." Your Brain Filter snaps, "Rubbish! That isn't going to happen." This is how your brain is going to be in the way - filtering out ideas and possibilities - before you get a chance to make a holistic decision about what you want. Getting the right mindset to find out what you really want in your work requires turning off your Brain Filter. You will even notice on the worksheet a handy switch for this. Use it with gusto.
The question “what do I want?” is simply too big to consider in one thought. You will find exploring simpler, specific questions much more helpful both in figuring out an answer and in planning what to do next. At one time or another you have probably done this type of exercise, whether it was with a career counselor, therapist, or perhaps over drinks with a sympathetic friend. A good answer depends on asking the right questions. The questions in my evaluation process were inspired primarily by two sources. First, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs provides practical guidance, and Biological Self-Organizing Theory provides the framework for making decisions in complex situations. The question set could be longer, but these will give you a good decision base in a reasonable amount of time.
You can work through these basic questions quickly. And if it helps, think of it as really honest daydreaming. What would you do if you could start over? Use our worksheet to jot down your thoughts and to conduct your own gap analysis – the ‘gap’ being the difference between where you are now and where you want to be.
ACTIVITY: Describe your ideal work day. What are you doing? Drafting plans, looking in a microscope, testing ski equipment? Does this activity have a label? For example, "I want to do organizational psychology stuff" or "I want to be a pilot" are helpful descriptions of your desired identity/work self-actualization goal.
TIME & LOCATION: Describe the ideal environment you enjoy working in as well as when you like to work. Physical and emotional energy is limited, and having an accurate picture of what you have and what you want is key to a successful plan. Would you like to work at home? Do you like to travel? What days do you want to work? Who sets your schedule? Do you like peace and quiet or are you happier in a noisy and busy place? Maybe it is all about where you work – maybe you would be happy flipping burgers if you could just do it in Hollywood. Design what you want your work day to look like.
RELATIONSHIPS: Describe your work relationships. Do you want to be a hermit, sole contributor, team member, supervisor, manager, director, or owner? Do you like people? A few are ok but you hate crowds? What level of responsibility do you want for others at work? Do you like guiding and supporting others or you just want to be responsible for yourself? If you get really annoyed with people quickly and find yourself muttering “idiot” frequently under your breath, maybe leading others isn’t your thing.
INFORMATION: Describe the level of information processing/problem-solving in your day. Do you follow process or create process? Information processing overload or the need to problem solve outside of normal situations is a major source of stress for many people. Do you prefer routine days without much change or would routine fry your brain? Do you like keeping up with the latest knowledge in your field?
REWARD AND RISK: Describe the financial reward and risk that fits you. Salary? Commission? Ownership? Taking on more financial risk than you are comfortable with or not taking on enough may make you miserable. Make sure your brain filter really is “off” when you answer this question. Maybe you would like to make less money and have more time, or maybe you want to take way more risk but feel that you can’t. Be honest about what you do want. If you live for the thrill of commission and would be bored in a 9-5 salaried position, then put that on your worksheet.
SECRET SAUCE OF YOU: Add one other question that is important to you. No single list of questions covers everything for everyone. Your most important goal may be to work with family, or change careers in five years. Ask and answer your own question.
I worked through these questions and my answers led to the expansion of Maze Runners Consulting, LLC. I am taking more risk, forming a team, information processing like crazy, and setting my own schedule so I can continue to be active in working with youth through the Scout program. It has been a little scary but I am very happy with the results. I hope this approach will help you determine your goals and decide what you want to buy in life's candy store. If you don't take the time to figure out what you really want, how will you ever get it?