Updated: Dec 6, 2019
I hope that you enjoyed the time-travelling journey we shared in last month blog post! Did you manage to set up your vision for the next 3 years? If yes, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to get in touch and for those of you who did not have the chance to read it, you can find the blog post here.
Today we’ve got some exciting things to talk about so let's get started on this second theme for the year! Remember when I said last month: “the art of visioning is useless without the skills to actually review the set vision on a regular basis”? Well, here comes the reality check which is one of the most helpful skill to help you do so! The reality check is the guy that everyone tends to forget about but who does play a critical part in how we are progressing towards our goals and objectives.
So as you might have understood it by now, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to our special guest for today: Mr Reality Check.
Everything there is to know about Mr Reality Check
And before we head straight into it: no, I have not lost my mind by deciding that Reality Check was a proper person who requires some introductions. This guy shares your life, whether you like it or not. He usually tends to sit quietly next to you and is never far behind you wherever you go. Sadly however for most of us, we just tend to forget about him. Probably because he’s so discreet!
Mr Reality Check is the guy who does not lie: he is blunt about things and he exists for one purpose: reminding you of who you are, where you are and what you do, at all times. We all have him in our lives and because our situation does not tend to evolve on a daily basis (i.e. we’ve got the same age for 365 days in a row and usually tend to have the same job for a couple of years) we don’t see the need to sit down and have a proper conversation with him everyday for breakfast. Well, here’s the glitch: his job is to remind you of who you are, where you are and what you do: not the why.
The why, that’s your job. You’re in charge of deciding what's your purpose and why you do what you do (i.e. setting up your vision). Have you ever asked yourself “why on earth am I doing this job?” well, that’s probably when Mr Reality Check has not been invited for breakfast for some time. And that happens to all of us because it is so easy to get caught up with work. Busy period after a busy period, we just don't take the time to breathe for a minute and check-in with ourselves.
So I am going to step away from the analogy of Mr Reality Check (thank you very much for coming!) and be very clear about one thing: the reality check aims at checking in with yourself. Not with anyone else. Because you do not owe this to anyone else, only yourself. And sometimes that’s actually the opposite that happens, especially when things start to become hectic and busy at work: you’re spending your time reporting to your colleagues, your team, your manager on a regular basis and do not have a minute to check-in with yourself.
The good news in all of this? It does not involve having a conversation with yourself every day for breakfast but some simple tools that you can use to help you understand if your current situation aligns with where you're planning to go next.
3 things to know (and to do!) with reality checks
#1 - Make it a habit
The worst thing that can happen is for you to clearly define where you’re heading and what you want to achieve for the next 3 years, to let these years go by and to wake up 3 years down the line thinking “Where am I? Is this what I wanted?”. One of the first subjects I address with my clients is that reality is evolving and as such, making sure that you’re regularly checking in with yourself to see how comfortable and happy you are with your reality is key.
To do so, make sure that you keep an eye on your feelings and for example if every morning you’re demotivated to wake up and go to work, take a minute to think about the why. The first reasons coming to mind might be the “superficial” ones such as “I don’t want to go to that meeting” but if you keep digging you might identify “deeper” reasons such as “I am not happy on this project or on this job”. Another option to integrate this as a habit is to talk regularly to someone who you can trust. It can be anyone from a friend, a colleague, a coach but the idea to express out loud what you feel inside so that you can identify whether it’s temporary or if actually, you might not be aligned with what you're doing anymore.
#2 - Honesty is key
The second worst thing that can happen when you have integrated some couple of habits to keep an eye on your feelings (i.e. point #1 above) is to ignore them. “How can I ignore them if I am actually regularly checking in?” you might think. Well, ignoring in that particular case can take a couple of different forms, it can be anything from understating to actually pretending there is nothing going wrong.
I know, change can be scary. Especially when it comes to realising that the career you started to build in this particular field couple of years ago is no longer what resonates with you. Trust me: you’d rather know and face this truth now that in 10 years down the line. Make sure that you give yourself space not only to check-in but also, to be honest, and to give the answers that you truly need, not the ones that people around you are expecting from you.
#3 - Don’t beat yourself up
Last but not least: make sure that you don’t spend your time checking in inventorying what is not working for you. That’s human nature: we tend to focus on what we don’t have and what is missing rather than what we have and should cherish. I’m putting my hands up on this one because I am a specialist when it comes to reality checks and focussing on what requires improvement and therefore forgetting about what’s working!
Take a minute and ask yourself: What are my strengths? What am I doing fantastically well? I’m betting that some answers to that, especially in the context of work will allow you to identify some transferrable skills, regardless of the field that you’re currently working on and the one that you’re looking to get into. What matters is for you to be aware of your capabilities and how much you can bring to the table. Most of us tend to be very busy comparing ourselves to the next-door colleague or this friend from school who seem to have it all. Well, let me break this to you: you’ve got it too! You just need to take the time to see it, accept it and get on with it.
It's not about the destination
You probably came across the saying before “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. This thinking can be applied to your career, your business and life in general. Reality checks play a critical role in how you’re experiencing your journey by allowing you to take a moment to reflect on where you are and if what you’re doing still resonates with you. If it doesn’t, that is giving you the opportunity to understand what is happening (or not happening maybe) readjust your journey and/or vision in order to align it with who you are.
What is critical to keep in mind here is that readjusting your destination might not be the solution you need. It might be the easiest option that comes to mind when for example you are not happy in your job and therefore you’re thinking “I need to change jobs”. But what if it’s not about the job itself it’s about the people you’re working with? Or what if it’s not about changing jobs it’s about changing industries? Or doing something completely different?
As mentioned in the previous section, make sure that you peel the layers of the onion and truly be honest with yourself and what is happening for you. Something that is not mentioned often is also the other way around: you might have found a job that you wanted to be temporary but that you are actually really enjoying! Do you then want to stick to the original plan and quit this job that you like because you've initially planned for it to happen this way? Or are you ready to readjust the course of things and redefine your plans?
In order for you to be successful professionally, personally and on your own terms, you need to make sure that you’re not only defining how does it look like, you also need to be aware of what you currently have and how it is working for you. Your energy, your skills, your motivation will be ten times more powerful if you are consciously using them on a daily basis with a purpose. Either the purpose that you already defined when you've set up your vision for the next couple of years either the one that you’ve been recently shaping, it doesn't matter, as long as you know your whys.
And just like that, we are wrapping another topic exploration which hopefully was helpful for you! I don’t know about you but I’m probably going to invite Mr Reality Check for breakfast in the next couple of days just to check how things are going especially in light of the shorter and darker days coming!
As always, you know where to find me and I’d love to hear from you so let me know your thoughts!