A Coaching Power Tool Created by Evan Wilson
(Transformational Coach, UNITED STATES)
When we practice being deliberate, we can more easily focus, accomplish more of what is meaningful to us, and spend more time enjoying our journey.
Sometimes when we are stuck or unsure where to go next, it feels like we are wandering about looking for a way forward. We might have a goal or destination in mind; we just can’t figure out how to get there from here. There might be something blocking our path. We might be contemplating numerous paths to reach our destination and are overwhelmed. When these situations arise, we often hope something will present itself to get us around or through whatever is blocking our path or lead us in the right direction. Maybe we begin half-hearted activities – or choose a path – only to drop them, adding to the abundance of items on our already lengthy unfinished to-do list.
When we are aimless, we are without a goal or purpose. Often we are waiting for something to show us the way or save us from wandering, depending on external influences to provide our purpose.
What would it look like if you could eliminate doubt, remove hesitation, and feel more empowered, confident, and in control? When we are deliberate in thought and action, we become purposeful and efficient, resulting in feelings of accomplishment, happiness, contentment, and satisfaction.
The word deliberate is defined as “characterized by or resulting from careful and thorough consideration; characterized by awareness of the consequences.”Some translate this to mean “slow and methodical.” This translation may be correct to an extent; however, it also prepares us for change and making decisions with more confidence.
Being Deliberate is a Practice
So is aimlessness. We may have the best intentions for our lives. We may want to change. We may have intended to get a job we love with great pay, form healthy relationships, and attain comfort, happiness, and security. However, unless we are deliberately rooted in our purpose and action, even the slightest breeze or roadblock can throw us off course.
Aimlessness is often a product of past experiences that have formed limiting beliefs about our own ability to reach our destination or fulfill our purpose. It takes time and practice for these beliefs to take root and become so ingrained in our psyche that it becomes second nature.
But it is also a choice. Whether conscious or subconscious, we make choices every day that either empowers us toward our goals or disempower our ability to reach them.
A straightforward example is an email. Some of us check our email often throughout the day or every time a notification pops up. We start responding to every email, even if nothing needs to be done immediately. It pulls our focus and gets in the way of other things we are trying to accomplish. We inadvertently jump down rabbit holes of links and responses. Suppose the person on the other end is responding to emails immediately. In that case, we end up having entire conversations before we can move on. Before we know it, hours have passed, and we haven’t accomplished what we set out to do.
We want to be more intentional. We start setting limits – reviewing and responding to email every couple of hours instead of every five minutes. We set the intention of being more organized and efficient, prioritizing work over email conversations. But then we start to get anxious – especially if we are in an environment where other people respond to every email as it comes in. Our conditioning tells us that we are missing something important. We will be negatively impacted by not checking email, or even that our job is in jeopardy. It is still challenging to get our work done because we keep thinking about email. Before we know it, we have given up on our deliberate intentions and revert to our conditioned behavior. We are still not accomplishing anything, but we have an email to blame for that. Or the perception of other people’s habits requiring us to respond immediately (whether true or not). We continue to attempt aimlessly and randomly to accomplish something, knowing it is a doomed effort.
In another example, Laura feels stuck working long hours in a job that she is not happy with and is far removed from what she thought she would be doing with her life. It is affecting other aspects of her life, and she wonders how she got here. Laura would like to find a new job that aligns more with her values and desires in life. She starts looking around at job descriptions, starts an online course, looks into updating her resume, and reads as many articles as she can on self-improvement and getting what you want. After a few months, Laura is no closer to a new resume or a new job. She feels worn out and disheartened and even more unsure than when she began. She begins to question her skills and her options, and whether it’s even a good idea to try and find something else. She convinces herself to stay with the job she has because at least she has a job, the pay is decent, and there is stability.
Being deliberate is more than merely being intentional. It is taking our intentions and seeing to it they are realized. It is being conscious and mindful of the steps we are taking to accomplish our goals, acknowledging our successes, learning from our mistakes, attaining support and assistance when needed, and permitting ourselves to move forward.
One great way to practice being deliberate is to create a physical roadmap. A visible, tangible representation of the journey we want to take is invaluable in getting us back on track when we veer off the road, start to wander, or hit a roadblock. With all our emphasis on multi-tasking these days, our brains can only handle so much. It helps to have a visual cue to keep us moving in the right direction. Start with something small to get the hang of it, like a small house project, like organizing a closet, or a personal goal, like losing five pounds. You might even start with something you already do, such as cleaning. This is a great way to take something automatic and make it deliberate, shifting your perspective. You will be amazed at what you find.
To create a roadmap, determine where you want to be and where you are, then plot those points on a piece of paper. Everything between the two points is a stop along the journey, knowledge to acquire, actions to take, decisions to make, or people to assist. If there are multiple paths to get from where you are to where you want to be, choose a path, and commit to it. Too many options will only overwhelm and cause inaction. Once you have the path plotted, determine and gather the resources you will need, the people who can support or help you, and shove off. Deliberately check in regularly to record progress, successes, mistakes, and feelings along the way. All of this input will inform other journeys and projects you take on.
Another invaluable tool in this effort is a timer. When you can set reminders to yourself to accomplish specific goals throughout the day, the sound of the reminder stops your brain in its tracks and forces it to be deliberate. Setting a timer (or scheduling a meeting with ourselves) provides a specific timebox to complete a task or goal. If you know you have 30 minutes to work on something, you will limit the number of rabbit holes you jump down. It resets our brain and programs it to be more deliberate.
Now, let’s consider an alternative option to the email dilemma above. Our intent (destination) is to have a zero inbox and approach it in an organized way, prioritizing action items versus those that can be addressed or read later. To succeed in this effort and return focus to what we were doing, we created a physical roadmap to success. We set aside 30 minutes for email three times per day (for most of us, this is still 15 – 20% of our working hours). To maximize the time spent, we set a timer to respond to the most critical messages, then organize the rest. Knowing that we have limited time, we keep our responses short and recommend a discussion if a longer answer is required. We then take a short break to reset and re-focus on what we want to accomplish. We inform our supervisor and co-workers of our plan and why it is important to us, requesting support and accountability. We check in with ourselves regularly and those who may be affected by our decision and make deliberate adjustments when needed and appropriate. And because we are deliberately checking in, when we begin to feel anxious, we know the triggers and how to cope. When we feel ourselves slipping into old habits, we take a breath, review our intention, and know that we have the support and accountability we need to reach our goals. We are confident in our ability to prioritize what is essential. We are more productive, efficient, and effective.
In Laura’s case, she decides to create a visual roadmap of the job she wants and where she is now. She writes down the knowledge she already has and adds anything she will need along the path to get to that job. Having all of this written down helps narrow down the inputs that she seeks to that which will specifically get her to that job. By seeing it all laid out on paper, she can decide more easily in her learning process when it makes sense to begin sending her resume. She lets some contacts know what she is looking for and updates her resume to reflect her new skills. She deliberately checks in with herself daily, recording her progress and, equally important, her feelings around her journey. She can use these notes to easily recognize triggers in her emotions, especially when fear or anxiety hits, so she can adeptly manage and move forward. If the “perfect” job comes to her, even while she is still mid-journey, she is prepared and confident in her abilities and path. By the time she recaps her journey, she has a challenging new job that she loves.
A Word on Change
It might appear that being deliberate is slow, methodical, and unyielding. Methodical, yes, and at first, it can feel slow. And we all know that change is the only constant. Circumstances arise that make us re-think our approach or even our goal. Being deliberate is precisely what allows us to be more adaptable, accepting what is but also seeing other perspectives. We can use this information to propel us forward toward our goal. Being deliberate manages emotions, feelings, and roadblocks efficiently and effectively to focus on the purpose and enjoy the journey with more depth and joy.
- List some of the things you currently do on autopilot that initially required some deliberate action as you were learning to do it (for example: tying a shoe).
- Write down a time when you felt directionless. What deliberate actions did you take to get on track?
- How do you practice being deliberate every day?
- What are some tools that you use to be more deliberate?