What's the best way to eat an elephant?

Shanghai is often a steppingstone in a larger journey for foreigners living and working here. A challenge many of my clients address is the transition out of Shanghai and determining the best next steps to help achieve long-term success.

One difficulty faced is clearly identifying what the interim steps are to reach the defined goals. Often, individuals know what they want to achieve, but the specific steps needed to bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be are unclear. In coaching, thinking critically about the action items required to reach specific goals is one way that individuals move toward their desired outcomes in an accelerated way.

Looking forward and working backward

Once you have identified specific goals, begin to think backwards and identify specific markers and measures of success that will punctuate the distance between where you are now and where you want to be. If your goal is time sensitive, consider establishing a timeline and listing goals along that line as benchmarks on your journey. If the goal is less constrained by time, consider what specific skills you will need to achieve your goal and how you can go about obtaining those.

What you need and how to get it

When you have identified the missing skills you will need to reach your goal or the small goals that will help you move toward your end goal, you can begin to think about how you will acquire those skills or reach those benchmarks. What do you need to do to develop those skills? Is formal training required or can you learn through self-directed activities such as reading? What support do you need to reach your mini goals on the way to your larger goals? Are there people in your network that can support you or do you need to reach out to people in other areas? It is often helpful to think outside of the box and discuss with others at this stage to have a fresh perspective that you may not have previously considered.

Eating an elephant

Future goals can seem daunting and at times, unattainable. One of the biggest challenges people face when considering what to do ‘next’ is not knowing where to start. At times, the inability to choose a first step can keep individuals from taking any action at all. Most times, there is not one single first step that must be taken before all others, rather many steps can be taken that will create momentum. One helpful way of thinking is to ask what is the smallest first step that can be taken to make progress in the direction of your goal. What one thing can you do that will make a difference? It is not a giant leap, but rather a step that can help you to put one foot in front of the other and begin moving.

The devil is in the details and while having clearly defined goals is a strong first step, take the time to consider the specific ways in which you will make progress toward those goals in order to increase your likelihood of realizing your goals.

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