4 min read

Set your own direction

  • The unhelpful pressure of a master plan
  • Navigation needs a starting point
  • Get perspective on your past
  • Set your future compass
  • Take the next right step
  • Plus: a free worksheet!

The Unhelpful Pressure of A Master Plan

What are you doing with your life? Your career? Do you know what direction you're heading in?

...Do these questions make you feel immediately anxious and overwhelmed?!

You're not alone. In a recent subscriber survey, over a third of you said that your biggest challenge right now is "being unclear on your next step or direction."

That's a big weight to walk around with. I'm here to help.

The pressure to have a master plan is more than most of us can handle - and it's also entirely unnecessary. Odds are, the way your life has unfolded so far hasn't been down to executing a precise 12-point plan. It's more likely you've reached where you are today by taking small steps as you've encountered emerging opportunities and unexpected events, hopefully guided by a broad sense of your goals and values. 

But that doesn't mean you should just throw your hands in the air. If you're a fan of playing the long game, and you want to craft a clearer path, there's a few things you can do to get perspective and maximise your chances of feeling good about your direction.

I've created this jazzy little worksheet to help you out, which you can refer to as you work through the rest of this post.

Navigation Needs a Starting Point

If you want to navigate somewhere new, you need two important pieces of data: your intended destination, and your starting point. The second is the most important.

Unless you already understand where you are, no map can help you.

That means the first step toward understanding what to do next, is to look at your current situation through clear eyes. Use the prompts in your worksheet to help you.

Screenshot 2023-10-17 at 9.44.35 PM

Get Perspective On Your Past

Regardless of your satisfaction (or otherwise) with your current situation, you made the choices that got you here for good reasons. You've always done the best you can with what you've got - the information you had on hand, the skills and tools available to you, and the confidence and experience you had in the bank.

But you've changed a lot, leading up to this moment in time. Maybe current you would make different choices now, if you were faced with the same situations.

That makes sense. Over the last 10 years, you've transformed. I'd wager you're almost a completely different person than you were a decade ago. Maybe your priorities were different, maybe your job was different, or maybe your goals were different. Maybe Past You couldn't even have imagined the life you live today!

Get a sense of perspective on your past by answering the same questions you tackled in your 'Starting Point' questionnaire, but for previous versions of yourself.

How would you have answered those questions 1 year ago? 5 years ago? 10 years ago? Use your worksheet to jot your answers down.

Screenshot 2023-10-17 at 9.45.55 PM

Take a step back and observe just how different you are than those previous versions of yourself, and use that sense of perspective to encourage you that there are plenty of unforeseen inflection points just around the corner for you, if you're open to them.

Set Your Future Compass

Our possibility horizon is astonishingly short. Even when we acknowledge how much we've already changed, it's hard to extrapolate that level of transformation into the future. That's not just because we're shortsighted, (though we certainly are. As Bill Gates is famously quoted as saying: ''Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.")

Often, it's because we can't imagine what we don't know. We don't know how great we can be, or what options are available to us, until we get there.

You might have a crystal clear idea of your future life, or the whole scene might be pretty fuzzy. That's OK. There's plenty of surprises in store for you yet. Your job isn't to predict the future - it's to create the conditions for meaningful serendipity. Your job is to hold your most important goals, values and dreams with quiet reverence, and repeatedly choose situations that expand and enlarge your possibilities.

It's worth making a list of these three things: 

1. Bucket list items

2. Secret dreams

3. Core values.

Bucket List Items

If you knew you were going to die in a year's time, what would be on your bucket list? Where would you want to travel to, who would you want to spend time with, and what would you blow your life savings on? 

Secret Dreams

What did you most want to be when you were a kid? What big, secret dream are you keeping in your back pocket as something you'd love to achieve one day?

Core Values

What matters to you the most? What are you willing to sacrifice for, and what will you not compromise on?

Screenshot 2023-10-17 at 9.46.38 PMFill in the worksheet to list these out, and use these to set your compass for future steps.

Take the Next Right Step

Don't panic about a master plan. You can't design for variables that you don't even know about yet. All you can do is take the next right step, day in, and day out, based on the information you have available, the opportunities that present, and the direction of the compass you've set.

For the final step of your worksheet, you can brainstorm what some of your current opportunities look like.

Screenshot 2023-10-17 at 9.47.29 PMAs you weigh up your options and make decisions, repeatedly refer back to your compass:

  • Bucket list items
  • Secret dreams
  • Core values

Then, whenever you make a decision about your career, relationship, location, or hobbies, pick one that aligns best with one or more of the above. Just take the next right step.

Do that consistently enough, and you'll be a totally different person in ten years time. Good, eh?

Hope you enjoyed this one. If you liked it, share it with your mates.

Til next week,


🎓 This newsletter is brought to you by Not An MBA - eight weeks of transformational strategic leadership education for senior professionals. 2023 is full, but the waitlist for 2024 is filling now.

✔️ This newsletter is also supported by Consultants of Choice - curriculum, coaching and community for self-employed professionals. Learn to how to start, run and grow your own professional consulting practice, from Day 1  to Day $1M



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