Do you have a life strategy?
We all know that time spent on strategy is important. Getting our feet out of the mud and our heads in the clouds from time to time to have a look at our business and see if we’re heading in the right direction, if we’re on track with our goals, if our goals are still relevant.
Organisationally I’ve attended countless strategy meetings and even weekend long ‘hug ins’ all in the name of forward planning. Mostly these are with wonderful outcomes. The opportunity to move away from the business and have a look at it from the helicopter view that always helps us to see where we are, where the market is, where we want to be.
There’s many formats these strategy days can take, and the duration can change, but the main aspect is the deliberate action of getting up from our desk, away from the business of keeping the lights on, and taking stock.
Throughout my career I have seen the benefits and importance of taking time to focus on strategy. It’s bred in to us as leaders, organisations thrive when those in them know the main game, where they’re headed, how what they do today makes a dent in the desired future they are all seeking.
A few weeks ago though something occurred to me and when it did, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t come to this realisation sooner. What occurred to me was that while I was focused on strategy and strategic planning in my career and workplaces, I hadn’t really taken the time with my soul colleague (aka husband) to lift ourselves up out of the mud of our day to day routines, errands, and general activities, to look at our lives strategically. Where did we want to be, by when, where were we now, what has changed in the past few years that we need to consider?
It was an epiphany! Sure, we’d done the work on our finances and looked at the mortgage and reviewed the bills from time to time but, to really take some time to talk about and think about the other sides to our lives and our dreams and plans, in a way that was more than “wouldn’t it be great one day to travel the world, work overseas etc”. It was a whole new ball game.
So I broached the subject with my husband and although a little put off by the idea of the Life Strategy concept I’d just dreamed up for us, was willing to put aside a day to share in this new initiative and see what we could come up with.
It’s probably not for everyone, but I thought it was fantastic. Like in a workplace or your own business, you need to know where you are now and where you want to be in order to work out how to get there.
So it started over a coffee, on the deck with laptops and iPads at the ready. We’d both done some work in preparation, him around the finances, me around the agenda for the day (yes we had an agenda).
We spent the day dreaming and planning and looking at finances and really stepping back from the doing of our days and into the being of our future. What’s changed, what are our dreams, where are we financially? When can we finally pay off this bloody mortgage?
Of course, throughout the day we had our challenges – we didn’t agree on everything and that’s completely ok. Our dreams aren’t the same as they used to be. We’ve both grown and changed and have interests we didn’t have some years ago. I love trekking, he loves climbing big mountains, preferably in snow and ice. We both love travel and we both love where we live. We both want to live and work overseas sometime. I want to walk across entire countries by myself. He’s happy to climb mountains while I do that. Underneath all of this though we have some very common threads. Our values of family and love and freedom and well-being for starters. It’s these common threads that make the different dreams and goals possible.
I must confess here – I don’t look forward to the financials discussion. It’s always been a hard one for me to get my self around. I’m getting better though. Working on plans to reduce and the finally extinguish our mortgage SO we would live the dreams we’d articulated, enables me to be more invested in the financial discussion.
Like in a business, if the employee knows how their actions today lead to the desired and agreed future, that employee is more likely to be invested in the day to day activities that bring them closer to that outcome.
We both listened, and we both talked, and both agreed on what our future together could look like and how we might work together to get there. We understand the goals and what it will take to get there.
It a nice feeling to have our life strategy sorted – to have a clear direction and know what needs to be done to get there. It’s structured but flexible enough to change as we need to. We’ve committed to having a Life Strategy day in January every year to keep up the momentum.
You can have yourself a Life Strategy session whether you’re single, a couple or a family.
If you’re thinking of doing this yourself, here’s some tips I can offer:
* Set the date in advance – you will likely never get around to it otherwise. We set the date and made sure we had no commitments that day. We were going to go away somewhere originally but decided to stay at home where we had access to all of our files and instead shouted ourselves a lovely lunch out in the middle of the day
* Think about and prepare an agenda – It’s easy to get lost in the discussions if you don’t have a plan of what you want to cover in the day. What do you want to achieve ?
* Prepare before-hand – have the financials, your goals, your values, and anything else you think you might need (the quote for that holiday; home valuation etc) ready before the day to make sure you utilise your time effectively
* Treat yourself throughout the day – maybe a nice lunch out to break the day up a bit, or dinner out to celebrate taking the time to look after your life.
If a Life Strategy session interests you, don’t kid yourself that it will happen organically – at least not if you lead relatively busy lives. It won’t happen unless you make it happen. Set a date, do the preparation. Do it alone or do it with your partner. Just do it – they say a dream is a goal without a plan. Let’s make that plan. Let’s see where we are, where we want to be, how we might get there.
It’s time to show our personal lives the love and care we show our businesses. Let’s make time to develop our Life Strategy and see the difference we can make in our own lives. Out of the mud and in to the clouds – just for a little while. After all, if our life is our message, what do we want our message to be?
“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi