What to do when you have to change direction
At the start of the year, Zoe Whitman knew exactly what business goals she wanted to achieve, and then Covid-19 hit.
One of the tools I particularly enjoyed learning about when I did my NLP training was visualising the completion of a goal before you’ve even started work on it. Once you’ve done that, you can think back to the challenges you’ve overcome along the way, and it makes it so much easier when you come up against problems because in your mind, you’ve already done whatever you set out to do.
In January I wrote about setting New Year’s resolutions. My son had just started nursery and excited to have some child-free work time, I intended to fit a gym routine into my workday. I knew what my stumbling blocks would be; being double-booked, not having my gym kit ready in the morning, not actually signing up with the gym… Building habits which meant I could get myself ready and to the gym on autopilot meant I would do it. I had 11 glorious weeks at the gym before Covid-19 locked us down.
I think it’s reasonable to admit that I didn’t visualise a pandemic, and I suspect none of us planned that into our Q1 business goals either. Being at home full time with two pre-schoolers doesn’t make for a productive work environment and I’ve made some pretty drastic decisions in my business over the last month or so.
In fact, things will probably take quite a different direction for me after this so I’ve had to pivot and set myself new goals based on what’s important going forward.
As I’ve spent the last few weeks drawing ballerinas for my daughter, inventing craft projects and making sure nobody eats too much sand out of the sandpit, I've been picturing my life as one big Venn diagram. There’s family and the idea that potentially the children won’t be in childcare as much, earning a living and keeping up with some personal interests. The happy place is where these different aspects of life can meet without too much conflict. That means working on something I’m passionate about and from which I can earn a living and fit around my family’s needs.
My poor husband tied to his computer all day has suggested selling everything once this is over and travelling around the world for the next year on a yacht à la SV Delos, and that could tick all the boxes - as could going back to work full time once nurseries reopen. The point is that having space to reassess what’s going to happen next has resulted in some interesting ideas we wouldn’t have entertained before.
They call it taking a pause: taking a break and then allowing the creative ideas to surface. Apparently Bill Gates has a week away on his own, every two years in his cabin in the woods. I wouldn’t mind a week on my own in a cabin in the woods right now, but as that’s not an option, I’ve been doing my thinking while I’m running - that’s what I’m doing instead of going to the gym by the way.
Being open to ideas has also resulted in some surprising opportunities. Being able to focus more on the course I’m running for bookkeepers has given me some ideas for a second book I never thought I’d write. Spending more time marketing my podcast has led a training provider to approach me about running some courses. And of course, I have the opportunity to return to my bookkeeping practice with years of insight I didn’t have when I started out, which will mean I can take things in a different direction if I want to do that.
I can’t do everything, and knowing I want to get to the happy middle of my Venn diagram is my barometer of whether something is worth my commitment or not.
So, what can you do if everything changes? If you can, sit back and take a pause. Think about whether your goals are still relevant, and if they are, is there a different way to achieve them? I started the year wanting to exercise, and going to the gym in the morning was a good way to fit that into my routine. That isn’t possible right now, but what I can do is go for a run in the evening when my husband finishes work so I’ll still be getting my running kit ready for that.