Building a desired life one play at a time

Image credit: © 2008 Marcus Quigmire, from Flickr | used via CC-BY-SA licensing

Building a business designed to create a life I love is a challenging process of continual readjustment.

The continual readjustments I make along the way as the process of trial and error gives me more information makes it easy to get off track and lose sight of the big picture goals while caught up in the details.

On the other hand, I sometimes find it hard to get started because I want to have every detail of the process laid out in clear detail before I do anything, and that level of clarity never emerges.

I don’t think I’m alone in struggling with this. It is true for most people whether they are building a business, building a family, building a career, building a house, or any other process we undertake in building a desired life.

I’m actually not a big fan of football, but I do know enough about the game to find a helpful metaphor in an offensive drive that helps me appropriately focus on the right things in this building process.

Stay oriented toward to the goal

The first thing I know about an offensive drive in football is that the team’s focus is always on the goal posts no matter where they are on the field. There is never any confusion about the ultimate goal for their destination with the ball.

They don’t know when they start the drive whether the ball will end up crossing that goal line in a passing touchdown, a rushing touchdown, or a kicked field goal, but they know without any shadow of a doubt where the goal line is because that never changes, no matter how often the strategy for getting there might change along the way.

This is one place where I often get off-track in building my desired life and business. I get so attached to one potential strategy for getting to my bigger goal that I lose sight of the actual goal.

Life does not come pre-equipped with large, obvious goal posts to help me stay oriented, so I have found it important to create my own and review them often.

Instead of orienting myself toward the method I hope to use to get to my goal (for example, a specific job title), I have learned to keep myself focused on the qualities of the life I want to live, including the values that matter to me, how I want to feel, the skills I want to use, and the conditions I want to be surrounded with.

When I know that bigger picture of where I am headed deep in my bones, it helps me stay on track to build the life (and business) I am trying to build because I know the goal, even when the tactics for getting there shift along the way.

Plan the details play by play

Although a football team has an unshakeable orientation toward the goal line, they plan the details one play at a time.

After each play, they stop, assess the new conditions produced by the last play, choose a plan to move closer to the goal that makes the sense given those conditions, and execute that play to the best of their ability.

The actual execution of each play may involve what appears to be moving away from the goal (as when the quarterback moves back from the line of scrimmage with the ball to get more space to pass the ball to a receiver who is closer to the goal) or moving laterally to the goal (as a running back dodges defensive players) in the process of heading toward the goal posts.

Likewise, when I’m focused on the qualities of the life I am trying to create, I may make short-term choices that seem to take me away from the goal as a means of moving toward the goal.

For example, building a business often means working at that business part-time as it gets started while still working a full-time job. This means being much busier and more overwhelmed in the short term in pursuit of a more balanced life long term.

It also means that each choice along the way doesn’t have to be fully planned out all the way to the goal. As long as it is helping to move me in the right direction, I have the ability to experiment at each stage, assess the results, and choose again for the next step.

Building your desired life

This combination of absolute focus on the qualities of the life I want to live while remaining flexible and open to experimentation with the details has made the process of building a business (and a life) so much easier.

If you haven’t taken the time to get really clear on the qualities of the life you long for, I strongly suggest it as a way to get really clear on the goal.

What values do you hold that must be met in any life you might create? Freedom? Success? Giving to others? Power? Autonomy? Teamwork? Own those values and keep them in focus as you choose along the way.

What skills and talents do you have that need to be expressed for you to feel complete? What conditions do you find fulfilling? Solitude? Crowds? Nature? Cultural activities? Family? Hobbies? Income level? House size? Location? Own these unique preferences and needs as qualities of life that are part of your goal posts.

Once you know those qualities well enough to make them unshakeable goal posts, then you move much more successfully through the process of navigating toward them play by play, with a willingness to stop and reassess the conditions after each play before planning the next one.

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