Begin with the End in Mind

My day-to-day life looks vastly different than it did a few short months ago.  Business meetings, work deadlines and reports have been replaced with school pick-ups and drop-offs, classroom volunteering and blog writing.  Don’t even get me started on my wardrobe – gone are the business suits, dresses and heels (oh, how I miss my heels!  I recently learned that a bunch of the moms at my son’s school used to refer to me as “the one with the heels”).  Instead, I find myself in jeans (and – shriek! – sometimes yoga pants), sweaters and “comfortable shoes”.  But all of this aside, I am still me.  And so, I have been thinking a lot about the lessons I learned while working in the corporate world and how I might apply them to my current situation.

Most recently, I worked for an executive search firm.  I spent several years helping to fill roles for retail clients across Canada and the US.  I regularly interviewed senior executives – individuals who were seemingly at the top of their game.  I loved this part of my job.  Every day, I got to meet with successful people and gain insight into the paths they had taken.  It was my job to understand their career decisions, their accomplishments and their failures so that I might predict how they would perform in a future role.  One thing that consistently held true with these high-performers was that they could clearly articulate their career goals and aspirations and had made decisions along the way in support of those goals.

I realize that, on the surface, this might seem trivial.  But take a minute to think about it…  The most successful people are able to visualize their future and take concrete actions to make it a reality.  Said another way, these people are able to say “no” when faced with opportunities (as attractive and/or lucrative as they may be) that don’t fit with their ultimate goal.  They aren’t distracted by shiny objects along the way.

This is not to say that goals don’t change over time.  My recruiting work taught me that even the most successful people find themselves at inflection points throughout their careers and can embark on drastically new paths.  But they do so in a purposeful, deliberate manner.  They don’t say “yes” because it was the easy answer, but rather because they have envisioned the end-game.

This week, I was presented with an opportunity to do some contract work for my former company.  My immediate reaction was to say yes.  I like the work and it is familiar to me.  But after talking it over with family members and friends, I was forced to think about my end-game.  What is it that I want to accomplish in this next chapter?  I don’t have all the answers just yet, but I know enough to know that I need a plan.  It is still early days for me, and I want to make sure that I begin with the end in mind.

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