I relocated to North Norfolk in December 2020 and, as I run for exercise, I’m exploring the countryside around my new home. It occurs to me that I’m ‘making new shapes’ – made visible in the GPS routes recorded on Strava, the running App – and it’s much like any new path you or I may be taking in 2021.
Whether we are doing new things in the same place, starting out afresh in a different location or dealing with circumstances that are changing around us, we need to navigate the emerging landscape – to shape our future.
In this blog, I’m sharing six principles that help me, illustrated through my experience of running new and unfamiliar routes.
1) Have a Clear Vision and Goals
I set out to explore a new area, run a route that’s within my capability, and, of course, to end up back at home within a reasonable time!
If we want to shape our future, it’s important to develop a clear vision of what we want that future to look like and have a shorter-term goals to set the direction. “Goals are marker posts you drive into the future landscape between where you are and where you want to be.” (Ken Blanchard)
2) Build on What You Already Know
I started running short circuits from the village, beginning to build up a mental map of the area and recognising more features of the local environment each time. I’ve branched out further in all directions, gradually adding to the known circuits and weaving familiar sections into new routes.
I find it’s really helpful, to start new ventures from a confident foundation – to utilise an existing skill or area of knowledge, perhaps in a new field or different context – and to push on from there.
3) Push Your Boundaries
Every run takes me a little further into unknown territory. I consciously aim to go beyond the familiar in order to experience and learn more.
We need to push our boundaries and step out of our comfort zones in order to grow; that’s where we find new opportunities, discover new capabilities and begin to shape our future.
4) Use the Knowledge Available From Other People
When I run, I take a map and look out for the waymarks and signposts along the way – it would be foolish not to. I’m grateful to those who have developed and signposted footpaths – like the Weavers’ Way (a 61 mile long-distance footpath that runs from Cromer to Great Yarmouth).
It makes sense to consult people who have gone before you – contacts with experience who can pass on knowledge or give advice, or authors who have written about the topic you want to understand better. I find most people are happy to help; it’s far quicker than trying to learn everything first-hand and increases your chance of success.
5) Hold Fast to Your Values
When I get lost (and I do), I know there are certain things I can rely on: for example, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. If I’m running towards a village, I’ll often see a church across the fields that gives me a fixed point to aim at and confidence that I’m heading the right way.
I believe that our values work like that when we feel lost or uncertain, when there’s a lack of information or no clear indication of what to do next. Having a clear set of values will guide your decision making and, quite literally, keep you on the right path.
6) Be Decisive, Keep Moving, Learn (& Adjust if Necessary)
Sometimes I stop at a junction and I’m not sure which way to go. I might consult the map or follow a hunch but the one thing I can’t do is just stop. I make a choice and carry on and it’s usually not long before I see confirmation that I was right – or realise that I’ve made a mistake and have to double back.
In life and in business, we can find we’re blocked by uncertainty or indecisiveness. Of course, we should get the best information we can to aid decision-making, but there comes a time where we have to make a choice and try something. Whatever happens, we’ll almost certainly have a new experience and learn something useful (this is a key concept in agile management).
There might not be too much at stake when I’m running compared to shaping the future of your business and your life, but I hope these principles are helpful in the wider context.
If you, or people in your organisation, are dealing with change and would appreciate coaching support, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.