Choose Fulfillment in Transition

Your work programs your mindset for engagement, improvement and measurement. As you face a transition – different work, part-time work or no work at all – the need for intentionality remains. The question is: how can you work toward fulfillment in the face of many unknowns?

A new bestseller codifies an accountability process called the Life Plan Review that is self-guided, self-measuring and self-fulfilling. The objective of the Life Plan Review (LPR) is to “close the gap between what you plan to do in your life and what you actually get done,” explains Marshall Goldsmith, the world-famous executive coach, in his new bestseller, The Earned Life. In the LPR – an exercise in self-monitoring through a weekly review – “you lay out what the future looks like if everything goes according to plan.”

An Algorithm for Transition?

How might Goldsmith’s LPR structure apply to navigating the way through major life transitions? 

By definition, events such as job loss, retirement, relocation and change in household status, result in significant shifts in schedule, behavior and self-evaluation. Frankly, we expect too much of ourselves in the early going. We may rush to gain clarity, yearn for metrics to track progress and in doing so, conflate even minor actions with decision-making and next steps. 

Purposeful executives can struggle during the period or liminal space; that is, the undefined place between old and new, what we had been doing vs. what we are now doing. During the haze that accompanies transition, could Coach Goldsmith’s LPR provide a framework from which people in transition can navigate unfamiliar waters? 

Accountability During Transition 

The shoe fits as the metrics our mentor Marshall outlines are self-defined and evaluated. He speaks our language when it comes to accountability. In his LPR structure, he applies his trademark daily questions to track progress. Each week you score your answers to six questions of a 1-10 scale, with ten being best: 

Did I do my best to:

  1. Set clear goals. (1-10)
  2. Make progress toward achieving my goals. (1-10)
  3. Find meaning. (1-10)
  4. Be happy. (1-10)
  5. Maintain and build positive relationships. (1-10)
  6. Be fully engaged. (1-10)

You may find Marshall’s 1-10 scale is ideal when in transition, because you can separate your effort from results. And in fact, you can reward the small steps you are taking without knowing your precise destination. Marshall suggests a daily habit of scoring yourself each day and sharing the results with a group. 

Aspiration. Ambition. Action.

What do you plan to DO when you leave full-time work? Once you signal your plans to retire, get ready to address that question frequently in conversation. Many people who stop working are driven by a lengthy list of tasks, from playing more golf, to mentoring small business owners, to planting a vegetable garden, to traveling and spending time with their grandchildren. They can easily define their actions. 

Actions alone cannot ensure a life of fulfillment. 

Marshall names three characteristics that are necessary for a great life: Aspiration, Ambition and Action. You need Aspiration to answer the question, why am I here? Aspiration is about learning something new, without knowing where it will lead. ‘’Aspiration is a continuing act of self-creation and self-validation,” he said. 

Ambition relates to goal achievement. High achievers often put off today’s gratification for a goal they set for the future. Too often, the long-anticipated reward for achievement feels, well, hollow. Marshall reminds his high-achieving clients to enjoy life and not to forgo the gratification that awaits them after achieving their goals. 

Although actions come easiest to people in transition – planting one foot firmly in front of the other – we can struggle with substituting action for ambition. In my own conversations with executives in transition, the larger questions of purpose, legacy and significance, hang in the balance.

An Earned Life with Intention

Marshall’s own life purpose calls for spending the rest of his life giving away his body of work so that others can share and benefit from it. The world’s leading executive coach has amassed a considerable body of work including writing or editing 48 books, including What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There and Triggers. He offers illuminating stories and examples from having coached 200 CEOs of the Fortune 500.  

I will never forget his invitation to Salt Lake in 2018, where I joined 59 other coaches for a complimentary training by this influential leadership thinker, designed to improve our game, spread his work and give it away. Named the LEAD60 Coaches, our cohort bonded over Marshall’s coaching wisdom and stay in touch with him and each other to this day. His invitation and subsequent “over delivery” during our time together were among the most treasured memories of my career. His simple yet elegant management theories had a profound influence on my life and work, most of which I give away today through small business mentoring, group facilitation and writing. 

Perhaps the trilogy of aspiration, ambition and action is a new lens through which to view transition. When you wander into the liminal space after leaving a job, career or relationship, you may return to the familiar structure of Marshall Goldsmith’s LPR and the six questions that set about defining the actions, aspirations and ambition Marshall suggest are essential to living the Earned Life.

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