BY RICK NELSON, TAG CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF LAUNCH CONSULTING
When my son was eight years old, he often found himself in trouble. In trouble for fighting with his sister. In trouble for not doing his homework. In trouble for being too loud or too disruptive. Come to think of it, when you’re eight, it seems like you get in trouble for almost everything.
One afternoon after getting a good tongue-lashing for one thing or another, he looked at me and said, “Dad, can we have a fresh start?” I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. Here was a little boy, teaching an adult a lesson in course correction. I put my arms around him and said, “Great idea!”
That little boy’s lesson still serves me today. When things aren’t going the way I’d like them to go and seem like they’re spinning out of control, I like to push pause and ask for a fresh start.
But sometimes it isn’t easy.
Early this year I set a few personal and professional goals for myself. Out the gate, I was doing the work that promised success. But like New Year’s resolutions and politicians’ promises, my discipline and effort waned over time. Achieving the goals I set looked less and less likely. In fact, I lost sight of why I committed to some things in the first place. Most importantly, I was letting down the people working with me—and I knew it.
Recognizing a Stall
Remember that called-to-the-principal’s-office feeling? That mixture of dread and guilt and shame that only stirs together when you know you’re about to be (deservedly) held accountable for your actions? It makes every little reminder seem bigger, and makes you want to run. That’s how I felt every week as Friday approached, because Friday morning is when I meet with the people helping me achieve my goals.
That meeting block on my calendar didn’t just sit there. It loomed. And as each Friday approached, I managed to find something else pressing to do during that meeting time, texting apologies to my partners. There’s a lot on my plate, after all, and never enough time to do it in—but even as I was rationalizing it to myself, I knew what these justifications were: Excuses.
But I’m lucky. I have two partners who care about me. It didn’t take long for them to call me out and hold me accountable to the things I’d promised. And I realized during that Friday meeting that this was exactly how my son must have felt, quailing under his senses of responsibility and shame but wanting to look toward something better. I needed a Fresh Start!
Getting Back Into Gear
I’m really happy to say that my team gave me just that. (Another benefit of the Power of Three!) Here’s what we did:
1. We revisited the original commitments we had made.
What did this do? It reminded me that people are on my side. They weren’t here to punish me, but to coach, reflect with, challenge, and support me. It reminded me that even though my goals were my own, my partners had a horse in the race, and they planned to see it all the way through.
2. We discussed and reinforced the “why.”
Those of you who run long distances know that there’s a low point in the middle, when you’ve exhausted your initial energy and the finish line is miles away. During the slog, it’s hard to remember why you started this crazy, difficult task in the first place—but once you remember, you’re rewarded with a new burst of energy. After working with my partners to redefine and cement the reasons I had made these goals, I got my second wind.
3. I committed to rededicating my efforts to our collective success.
With a powerful team to support and a “why” to carry me, I was once again able to visualize the outcomes I wanted to achieve. That provided the motivation I needed to make a solid step-by-step plan that would get me back on the right track.
Remember that leaving-the-principal’s-office feeling? That mixture of relief, humility, and energy that comes with releasing the guilty weight from your shoulders and getting the encouragement to go out and do better? That’s how I felt after this reset meeting. I hope it’s how my eight-year-old felt after our talk, long ago. It’s how I want anyone who’s currently discouraged about their goals to feel as they look forward.
With reinvigorated partnership, commitment, vision, and motivation, I’m proud to say that my team is well on the way to hitting the goals we set in January. Now it’s up to me to turn my fresh start into a strong finish.
I’m sure each of you has experience with course correcting. I’d love to hear how you turn the tide. Let’s talk in the comments!