I want to be a good Mom.
I want to succeed.
I want to be a good boss.
I want to feel like I’ve done enough.
I want to feel like I know what I’m doing.
I want to feel confident.
I just want to be happy, dangit!
I’ve said all of the above, and I’ve heard all of the above in various coaching sessions. These are all noble pursuits, and at the same time, they can be frustrating-as-hell pursuits, too! Why? Because we’re often pursuing what I would call a “fuzzy” destination. Being a good parent, a loving partner, a successful ____________, a good boss, etc. are all awesome things to strive for. The problem is that we rarely take the time to define these things before we start judging our progress (or lack thereof) towards achieving them.
How will you KNOW when you’ve achieved your goal of being a good Mom? What does it look like when you are being that? When will you know you finally feel confident and have shaken off those pesky doubts about your work performance and whether or not you deserve that seat at the table? What does happy even look like for you, anyway?
For me, I find three key aspects of this exploration critical.
First, you have to be intentional in defining some of these words and phrases you’re using to describe either your desired state or the undesired state you may find yourself in currently. What do you actually mean when you say, “I want to succeed” or “I want to be a good boss”? Being very intentional about these definitions and really thinking through what they mean for you is a crucial first step. I love to have coaching clients write out what they really mean when they say some of these. Often, we find that they’re pursuing a definition they really don’t subscribe to in the first place! I know that’s been true for me. I was struggling with feeling like I had done enough to be a “good leader for my team” in one organization, but until I wrote out what I actually meant by that, nothing I was doing would ever help me achieve that goal because I had no idea what I was working towards!
Next, it’s important that as you do this, you really identify and sort out what YOUR definition is (as opposed to someone else’s). This can be more difficult than it sounds! When it comes to what we want our lives and careers to look like, it’s only natural that we usually begin with incorporating a lot of what we have heard elsewhere, seen in the media or online, read in books, or have been advised by mentors or other well-meaning (and maybe some not-so-well meaning) folks. That being said, this is the time to de-fuzz the definition, meaning it’s important to be really intentional about what you want this definition to be and what it means to you. There have been multiple times when I made a move professionally and was told – literally told to my face – “You’re ruining your career. You’re making a mistake. This is the wrong move.” In every situation, it was hard to walk away from their perspectives, but when I tuned into my own definition of what constituted a right move or decision for me, it was easier for me to filter out their voice and move forward.
Lastly, especially when we talk about things like “getting there” or being “successful” – think through how you’re actually measuring that. How are you gauging your progress? Do those measures of success still make sense based on your definition? What are the signs and signals that will help you know whether or not you’re getting closer to however you’ve defined success for yourself? This is a critical step because you’ll want those guideposts to help you identify forward momentum!
De-fuzzing your definitions can help you live more authentically, work more in alignment with your own integrity, and also give you a truer understanding of your own progress. However, it doesn’t mean that it will be necessarily easy to live into each of these definitions. If you need any support along the way, I’m here.