How do you prevent more activity from becoming a substitute for real growth?

How do you know what you’re working on is leading to what you hope to see in the future?

Growth comes in many forms. In preparing for it or trying to manage it, we can get stuck in patterns that seem productive – but in fact have the opposite effect in the long run.

Perhaps we are working harder so that we can finally get on top of things… one day… but that day never seems to come.

Perhaps we see the change we want to make, but there never seems to be a right time. We keep waiting for the situation to change before we can really make a difference. Or we try to stay on top of everything so that eventually we will get to it.

Perhaps we try to “go big or go home,” setting a “bold vision” – and all the things we know we are “supposed” to do. We end up taking on everything at once and feeling as though we’ll never reach that ideal place. Or those around us are confused by what we describe. They “don’t get it.”

No matter what place you’re in – trying to keep pace with more contracts than you ever thought you’d have, or wondering why things aren’t going as quickly as you’d like – these questions can help you get clearer about your aspirations, contributions, and specific resources you have or need to take next steps.

I encourage you to read these, to spend time with them, and to actually answer them in written form if possible.

Yes, write it down. Carve out some uninterrupted time away and take an hour or so to articulate the answers.

When I’m working with clients and provide sets of questions for whatever challenges they are working on, they often have a high level of resistance to taking the time to write out responses.

I get it. We’re all busy.

And yet they always report back that it’s one of the most valuable exercises. It forces both clarity and coherence about whatever it is they are working on. They get the clarity they need on what matters, and it makes it more coherent (whole, connected, tied together) so that other people can better follow.

In other words, they are more likely to get what they need… internally (for themselves) and externally (with others).

So go ahead. Give it a try.

Try to let yourself write freely and in flow – without editing as you go. Pretend like you’re talking to a friend, not someone you feel like you have to pitch. Someone who really cares about your success.

  • Was I successful in reaching my last major goal (e.g. setting the industry standard, obtaining a specific position, breaking into a new market/field)? What was that goal?
  • If I was successful, how? What did I do? How did I work with others? Where did I make it harder than it needed to be?
  • If I fell short of targets, why? Were there areas that I overestimated? Underestimated? Something I hoped would resolve themselves? Areas I could have sought counsel? Places I could have brought people together differently? Anything else?
  • Assuming I was successful, or that conditions have changed, have I identified a new and distinct target? Can I articulate what needs to be different to reach that goal?
  • Can I articulate what I would like to see change in the world? What are the big shifts that need to happen in my industry or in society? How do I/does my company contribute to that change? Why does it matter?
  • What has contributed most to my/our success so far? What parts of those skills and experiences will be good to leverage going forward?
  • What skills and behaviors do I not necessarily need in this next phase? What do I specifically need to stop doing and let go of to create the space for new growth or new ways of working?
  • When I think about forming a strategy, do I think about what makes me distinct? Do I create scenarios and options and evaluate those based on my new target and the change or impact I’m hoping to make?
  • Do I go beyond the numbers? Do I look at what behaviors, work processes, relationships, structures, decision making patterns, communication patterns, and other more intangible factors are influencing the numbers, the energy expenditure, and the repeated use of resources?  
  • How have I incorporated what others have said (customers, employees, investors, supporters) into the above? Are there perspectives I might be missing that would help me better understand where I can expand my impact and influence? Or where I might be inadvertently limiting my impact and influence?
  • Who has most contributed to my success in the past? Who is most important now? Why? What relationships might I need to cultivate in this next phase?
  • What about the relationship that I have with myself might need to change in this next phase? How do I treat myself? What permissions do I give myself? What do I withhold? How do I reward myself? Where do I dodge accountability to myself?
  • Have I been honest about the way that my own roles, behaviors and patterns contribute to how others show up or participate in my life and goals? Am I actively working to change my own disruptive behaviors?  
  • Am I clear on my top 2-3 priorities? Do I have a way of tracking what I say matters with what I do (time, dollars, and energy)? Are my lived priorities different than my spoken priorities?
  • What’s most important right now? Why?

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How Do You Decide?