Stay the Course

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Here we are.  In the second week of a new year.  For many of you this means that last week was a time of reflection, focused on evaluating 2017 and setting new goals for the new year.  I found my social media feeds flooded with encouragement to start something new and to dream big dreams for the year ahead.  I love that sort of thing.  I thrive on encouraging words and big ideas.  Yet for some reason last week I felt somewhat uneasy and at times a bit discouraged.  I wasn't feeling inspired or ready for the next big thing.  I wondered what was wrong with me.  Had I lost my spark?  Gone flat?  I took a personal inventory and realized that 2018 actually needed something different from me.  I needed to stay the course.  You see, the year before had been full of change...new learning, developing new skills and launching a business. I'm still working on all of that every day and it is good, fulfilling work. It is aligned with my passions and goals.  It needs my focus and energy.  In order for the seeds I've planted to bloom, I've got to keep nurturing and cultivating right where I'm at.  I've got to keep sailing towards that point on the horizon that I've identified as my destination.

My experience in business was somewhat counter to this idea of staying the course, and perhaps that's what caused this struggle for me.  For most, business is driven by the fiscal year.  Annual financial goals, strategic plans, and performance reviews are all part of the rhythm of the way we work.  We hold annual sales meetings, lead our organizations through "a year in review" and evaluate success based on yearly metrics. All of these things are valuable and necessary touch points and sometimes they get in the way of actually reaching our long term goals.  This annual evaluation can open the door to criticism and questioning.  Sometimes from others but definitely from ourselves.  That little voice that whispers to us in the middle of the night, asking if we're doing the right thing, leading well, and making good decisions suddenly gets really loud.  We review the data and the things that aren't yet "perfect" are suddenly glaring issues.  We start believing that we've got to change course...fast!  So maybe we move the target, restructure the team, devise new strategies and roll out new plans.  As one of my colleagues phrased it, we start to "chase the shiny".  

Some backyard landscaping we did a few years ago has taught me a few things about needing time and space to grow.  Like any garden in the midwest, our plants go through yearly cycles. They bloom in the spring, grow larger in the summer, die in the fall and stay dormant for the winter. To be honest, at the end of the first cycle I wasn't so sure if some of the plants were going to make it, and I also wasn't sure about why the landscaper had positioned them where she had.  I had doubts about her skills, my abilities to nurture what had been planted and was considering pulling some things out, moving them around and adding some other plants.  For whatever reason, I never quite got to that and in each of the years that have followed, the garden has looked a bit better than the last.  Plants have filled in, shade trees are finally large enough to provide shade and I see the results of the plan that I was questioning at the time it was implemented.

Maybe that's where you're at the start of this new year.  Questioning the plan, thinking that something new needs to be implemented or inserted. Maybe it does....or perhaps it just needs time.  Time to grow, time to take hold, time to flourish.  This can be hard.  When the questions get asked and the critics get loud, it can be tempting to change course...to find a new person to do the job, a new process to implement, a new consultant to hire or training to roll out...to chase the shiny.  What is often more difficult, is to declare, "I trust my decisions...the team..our strategy...this individual."  It requires a great deal of conviction to weather the storm, to stay the course, to sit in the discomfort and to trust in our plans.

My hope is that you will carve out the time to consider what is right for you.  That you check your coordinates to see if you are on course.  That you make the adjustments you need, or stay steady if that is what's necessary.  You do you.  Shine on.

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson