Ep. 158 What before how


In this week’s podcast, Anna argues for the importance of putting the what before the how.

What do you actually want? You simply must get clear on that before you get caught up in, and disheartened by, the complexity of how you can make it happen.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

1:1 coaching and mentoring: If you’re looking for support in getting that all-important clarity on what it is that you want from the next stage of your career, let me help you do just that in an individual coaching programme. www.onestepoutside.com/coaching

What before how


Hello there, and welcome back. As we look at redefining success, because of course, we’re nearing the end of the year, 2021, beginning to inch closer to 2022. And I always like to use this time as I think most of us do in our society, we’ve come to see this time as one of reflection, reviewing the past 12 months, looking ahead to the new year. And of course, if you’ve been part of this community, if you found this podcast, you know that the title is Reimagining Success. And I really want to bring it back to basics, really. Basics, I say, but it’s really fundamental and quite complex as we’ll see. The aspect I wanted to talk about today was the importance of putting the ‘what’ of what you want and why you want it before the ‘how.’ The ‘how’ you’re going to make it happen.

I talk about this with my clients all the time, and I’m sure I would have mentioned it on the podcast before. Because let me give you some examples. I’ve been thinking about this business idea, but I can’t see how it would ever make money. So I’ll just, ugh, I just go around thinking about it. I never do anything about it. I’d really like to do this thing, but it’s never going to work because… I’m so passionate about blah, blah, blah, blah. But, but, but. Right? There’s always a but. And again and again, with clients, with people in my group, I see, you know that they have all these exciting ideas, deep down they know what they want. You know what you want. And yet you begin to say, “Oh no, I can’t.” You actually limit yourself before you’ve even worked out what it is you want to do and why that’s important.

You focus on all the reasons why it won’t work before you’ve even done any due diligence exploring it, researching, trying to see if it could work.

And the truth is actually you can’t work out. I can’t tell you, nobody can tell you if it will work or not. Now, of course I could share my perspective and my experience. I can guide you on making it work as best as possible, as well as possible. Is that grammatically correct? We would do that work together. But we can’t sit here behind our phone, behind our laptop wherever you are right now and go, oh no, it’s never going to work. Nobody can. Because, of course, if that were the case, then all these innovative ideas and companies and innovations and inventions and so on would never have come to fruition. I’m not necessary that we are going to change the entire world with our business, although we will do in some small way, at least. But it’s not possible to rule something out just by sitting here right now.

Right? I mean maybe in Dragons Den, Shark Tank, whatever, they’re experts who would choose not to invest, that’s fine. But what I’m saying is don’t… We don’t want to rule something out before we’ve even given it a chance. Here’s what we’re doing here. We’re comparing this vague dream with a reality. We might have had this dream. You could have had this idea for years and years. It could be a recent idea. It’s very vague at this stage. You haven’t looked into it and you’re comparing that kind of theoretical cloud nebulous thing over there with the really tangible reality of what’s in front of you. It could be a new business idea when you’re comparing that, I could maybe start my own business. To, oh, I am a financial director in this company, I’m earning so and so much money and this is what I do, and so on.

It’s impossible to compare that nebulous idea over there with the very comprehensive understanding of what you have in front of you. Maybe at the moment you are freelancing, or if you have a certain type of corporate client or a particular business model. And again, you have this idea of doing something very different. But you haven’t really looked at what would it take to do coaching instead? What would it take to shift and work with this type of client and do more one to one, or do more group work or productize my services or create services out of my product? We just don’t know yet. And it’s a little bit like better the devil than the devil you don’t. You just rule it out before you even give it a chance. It seems too idealistic because of course it is.

It’s just that kind of vague fluffy unicorn dream over there with the land of rainbows. It sounds amazing, but you’re scared to touch it because it’s so far off. It sounds great, but you know, it’s never going to work. First of all, we’re comparing something very vague and idealistic with a harsh reality of what’s in front of you, which is an unfair comparison. In both ways, by the way, as I say, I realised both in terms of the new idea, being very risky and the current reality being very stable. But also actually we might be putting on rose tinted glasses when we’re talking about that dream. So we might be too critical about the idea in front of us because we don’t yet know the disadvantages of this other idea. So I’m making a bit more complex there, but both in terms of the positive and the negative, it’s impossible to compare the two. Secondly, this new idea, these new ideas might not even be the right idea. But you don’t know that yet because you haven’t taken the time to reflect and explore and imagine all the possibilities.

The fact that you’re getting all caught off about, oh, I need funding for this, or how am I going to afford that? Or how can I pay the bills or it will never work. And how will I manage with the kids? And I’m not even entrepreneurial. My goodness, how could I ever do that? Whatever that is. Because you haven’t actually done that work to understand what is really important to me? What does that look like? What are the parameters? And assess different opportunities to see which one is the best one for you? The idea in front of you that you’re potentially ruling out might not even be the right idea. So it might be the right thing to rule it out. But you haven’t yet done that exploration to understand, could it be the right idea for you?

Could there be another idea that’s better? So let’s try to put the ‘how’ to one side.

I know it’s hard, but think of this as kind of an action plan, a roadmap. You will get to the ‘how,’ of course, but we need to be a little bit patient and take the time to explore the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ first. So take a step back and explore what you want. What do you want more of? What are you trying to move towards? What do you want less of? What are you trying to move away from? So you can think of this in terms of more freedom, flexibility, fulfilment that I talk about. I talk about the [inaudible 00:06:18] guy, where we have those circles, the purpose of work that you love doing, that you’re really good at, that is meaningful, that’s earning you money. So what’s the priority for you right now?

Is it more money? Is it more passion for the work that you do? Is it a greater sense of meaning? Is it really leveraging your skills? What is it you want more or of? What do you want less of? And that will help you then begin to understand, hang on a second, is this the right idea or not? Secondly, get creative and open your mind to different possibilities. We tend to have a very narrow focus on the ideas and opportunities that happen to be in front of us right now. Because it’s pretty natural. I’m in my comfort zone here, and I’ve always been in this kind of corporate kind of journey. And that’s what I know. And so maybe the only ideas I’m considering are very similar roles in other organisations, maybe with slightly better work/life balance or reduced hours or flexibility, or maybe it’s in a different sector.

So I think that will feel more meaningful. Maybe it’s earning more money, maybe it’s earning less money. They’re just quite similar ideas. Maybe I’m thinking of consulting, using my skills that I have now, because that’s sort of the natural next step. But there are so many ideas out there. Almost too many, right? Too many different possibilities. Not just the ideas and opportunities that happen to be in front of you right now. Taking a step back and it’s for worrying what you actually want. Second, getting creative and opening your mind to different possibilities. And third, of course, thinking beyond the work domain to consider those different areas of your life. So is it just the career right now that needs more attention? It tends to be something we latch onto and think, oh my goodness, I’m not happy. So I’m going to change job.

I’m going to work on this promotion or start this business, do another MBA, whatever. And we think that’s going to change everything for us. Maybe it’s actually your health and wellbeing that needs more attention. Maybe you are lacking a bit of fun and you could do with starting a creative hobby or something. So a side hustle, not for the money’s sake, but for the sake of having that creative expression. Maybe you have been focusing too much on the kids and you need something just for you. Maybe you want to do something like sign up to a half marathon or a marathon or something. Maybe you need to work on your relationship. Maybe if you’re single, you want to focus on dating again and so on. Thinking beyond work and considering that there are other areas that could be more important right now, and at least should be a consideration while you explore that next opportunity.

Now, here’s the thing. Once you are clear on what you want, you’ll have so much more, not just clarity, but also energy and enthusiasm for it. If you spent that time researching, fleshing out the idea, you’re going to have a more practical concept of what it entails. And then you can go out and you can start asking questions. You can get the support you need. You can fill in the gaps and work out how to actually make it happen. But you can do so knowing that you have explored different ideas. You’ve ruled out different thoughts that you had for good reason. You’ve chosen this one or several ideas because really you do feel it has legs. It fits your top criteria of giving you more enjoyable work, giving you more time. You think this would be a really exciting thing right now. Of course, we can never know exactly whether it will work until we try it, but at least now you’ve done enough due diligence, research and exploration in order to try to take it to the next level.

Now we can get to the ‘how.’ So again, key message here. Get clear on the ‘what’ you want and the ‘why’ before you get caught up in the ‘how.’ And I have so many resources on this and we will be talking about this in the coming weeks as well on the podcast. How, of course, you can do that because that’s the next question. And exploring more again about why is this so important and how do you set goals and what are good goals and all those wonderful things that are fun to explore that perhaps we don’t spend enough time thinking about. But again, really putting the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of what you want before you get caught up on how. And now is a really nice time of the year, again, naturally maybe slowing down a bit at work.

We’re sort of taking the foot off the gas. I don’t know why I use that American expression. We’re getting close to hopefully some time off. If you’re down under, as I know some of my clients are, you’re going to have summer off now. Up here in the cold, we’ve got Christmas coming up. Whatever it is for you, this tends to be that time of reflection. Is it the Georgian calendar we have? The new sort of new year, new you kind of themes that’ll be in all the magazines and so on. So it let’s go with the flow. Let’s go with what society is kind of supporting us now, make it easy for ourselves. Take that time off. As we spend time with friends and family and so on, I feel like it’s a natural space for reflection.

Maybe getting out of our usual routines helps shake things up a little bit. Getting away from our day job as well. And slowing things down a little bit so that we can then speed up once we know what it is we want.

So again, what is it you actually want? You may know. It may be really obvious. And you may say, “No, no, no. I know this is what I want. I want to find out how and that’s fine. And then we can get to the how of how to make that business happen. How to make the change. How to improve your work life balance, whatever that goal is for you. But I want you to be really clear on what that is, why it’s important to you, how will your life change when you succeed? In what meaningful way? How does this sit with all your other goals, with your other priorities in life and so on? I hope that is a valuable reminder for you to reflect on what it is you want, why that’s important, before you get caught up, before you start ruling things out, because you think it’s too difficult.

Thanks so much for listening. And I’ll see you next week. And we’ll be talking about how we can enjoy the journey. And yes, I’m using the ‘J’ word as they say on Strictly Come Dancing here in the UK. But really talking about the importance of goals, not just for the sake of getting to that destination, but the process of getting there. I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.

If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall

Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate


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