How to Get Off the Treadmill and Go Somewhere Meaningful

We all know the importance of thinking and acting on a long term basis.  However, reacting to short term challenges consumes our energy.   We tell ourselves “when I get this done - then I’ll work on bigger, longer term goals.”    However,  there is an unlimited supply of short term challenges.  Before we know it - 5, 10 tor 20 years go by and we find nothing changes - we are running on a treadmill - going nowhere.  

To beat the “spreading cancer” of living reactively we need to force time to be proactive about our future.   We need to force ourselves to “do the math” on the impact of various personal or professional projects.  We need to treat our days like an investment portfolio with a percentage  of time focused on short term - and on Long term returns. 

This past week I reviewed the Innovation Pipeline for a half dozen companies.  The companies had started their Innovation Engineering journey on very challenging LEAP projects with major strategic potential.   Then life happened.  Over time they moved 98%+ of their energy towards short term - reactive projects.  All of these projects have value.  They react to customer requests. They protect vulnerable parts of the business.  They save money.  However, even if all of these short term projects were to be successful nothing much will change. The organization is - running on a treadmill - going nowhere. 

The antidote is to stop “managing” our personal and professional life based on just the short term and start “leading" our life into the future.  

Tomorrow is the unofficial start of autumn.  It's the start of a new school year.  It's a time of new hopes and dreams.  It’s also a great time to start leading your personal and professional life into the future that you want to live.   In your personal life this may mean investing in education, in a new hobby, in a new health regime.   In your professional life this may mean focusing on transformative innovations that can get you ahead of the market... ahead of competitors.... ahead of customers

Three tips for getting off the short term - reactive treadmill

  1. Give Words to Your Future State: When your future state you are aiming for is given words it becomes real.  If you don't know where to start - do some free writing.  Take a piece of paper or a keyboard and start writing: Where am I going? and Where do I want to get to?  Don't stress, don't edit just write, write and write.  Then put it away and the next morning - read it from the start and write it again.  Repeat, day after day till you have in your mind and on paper a clear narrative.  Your narrative is the back story on the WHY behind your future state.   After crafting your narrative define your future state with a singular statement of what you need ideas for - in effect where you want to get to.   Finish off with clarity on any strategic or tactical boundaries associated with your future state.  Write down what kind of ideas are you NOT looking for.  Write down any tactical constraints that need to be confronted.  Collectively, with Innovation Engineering we call this collection of writing a BLUE CARD.
  2. FORCE Time Every Day To Make Your Future State Reality:  At a minimum invest 2 hours a day being proactive about your personal and professional future.  If we use an 8 hour day that means 25% of your time.  If you are the CEO of your organization then you should be spending 50% of your work day on where you are leading your organization to - from a project, service and culture perspective. 
  3. RAISE your Future State as your confidence grows..  The future state you first craft is a starting place.  As your pursue it you learn more.  It's common to learn that the future state we set was set low - it's easily achievable.   That's fine at the start.  However, to really grow, to be fully alive, we need a Future State that stretches us beyond our comfort zone.    With Innovation Engineering we challenge leaders to review their Blue Cards quarterly as a minimum.   However, in truth they should be reviewed at least monthly. 

So what are you waiting for?  Tomorrow is a good day to start your journey to a more meaningful personal and professional life.