For me, strategies are key actions and they have some simple criteria. Strategies are action-oriented, forward moving, and they make effective use of your resources.
- Action Oriented strategies include things you can actually do. They are things that you have control over. For example, paying into the retirement plan so you can retire early, or looking for job, or consulting opportunities that give you time to spend with your children. The idea of putting your entire future into winning the lottery doesn’t seem like a great strategy unless you can count on working the science of numbers and really calculating what numbers, in what frequency, you would have to play in order to actually give you the best odds of winning.
- Forward Moving strategies are actions that get you closer to your vision in very tangible ways. Strategies should allow you to do something everyday that advances you toward your goal. Each day you can decide what are you going to do that moves you closer to your vision now.
- Resource Leveraging strategies use what you have at your disposal in a way that maximizes the power of that resource. How do you leverage your resources? It’s not always as simple as “when you have lemons, make lemonade,” but that is the basic concept. Leveraging your resources is mostly about remembering what you know, what you have and who you know. So often we forget what we have as we pursue the next thing we want. So looking at your current reality can be helpful in discerning what is available to you right now that will move you toward your vision. How many times have I bought a white shirt to wear with a suit only to clean out my drawers the next month and find three other white shirts similar in style. Often, we know people who do the very thing we need to have done, either a business service, home repair, or something that we begin looking to have done when the Universe has already introduced us to that person in preparation for this moment. Networking is a great example of using what you have. We all have people in our lives who have hidden or not-so-hidden talents that could help us in our own goals. People are often quite willing to share their expertise, skills, talents and experience to help others. Use networking to find the information and expertise that you need.
Deciding on a strategy is a combination of factors that begin with your vision. Knowing how you work, your timeline, your resources, your tolerance level, and what you are willing and able to do now are all things to consider. Also, the revenue model for your venture or idea is critical to your strategy. Playing all of this out on paper with real numbers and backing into a real timeline that takes everything you are up to into consideration is critical to making strategic decisions. I find that my clients need to talk it out and then walk it out on paper. Sometimes they need to take baby steps before launching into their big actions. In the beginning, it may be easier to take small steps in line with your strategy, especially if you are venturing into something that is new for you. For example, I’d known for some years that I wanted to publish a book. I knew I was a fairly good writer, but I felt I hadn’t done enough writing for public consumption. First, I recommitted to writing regularly in my journal, just to get used to writing again. Then I began to look for some small, safe opportunities to publish. I started writing small feature articles for my neighborhood paper; then I moved up a notch and wrote an essay that was published in a professional journal. I realized that I was writing all the time for my clients and began to value that writing and publishing of reports to clients as valid writing. I wrote a more formal paper with a colleague who had a track record of being published and we presented it at a conference. I joined a group dedicated to culturally-based work with communities of color, and together we developed a writing project that was eventually published as a book [Cultural Compentency: A Roadmap for Nonprofit Consultants]. Before long, I had a better sense of my writing abilities, my voice, and could better envision myself writing a book and I began writing my book: Life Mapping in earnest and with confidence. The small-steps approach requires patience and dedication, but it’s a good way to keep yourself from being overwhelmed by your own vision.