Can you see the simplicity and power of using milestones as stepping stones to your anticipated and compelling success?
What was your last milestone in your life’s work? How aware are you of your milestones? Do you recognize and celebrate them? Do you sometimes view them as “millstones”? Are you just “existing” day by day, year by year or are you on a grand mission to fulfill your purpose, planning, using and acknowledging relevant and significant milestones along the way?
Today’s blog is my 100th weekly article I have written over the past 2 years. That is a milestone for me when I look back and acknowledge myself for having stuck to the commitment I made to myself. When I started out I had a vision of sharing from my work each week, without really planning or thinking about any milestones. However having done so now, I thought it was worth discussing as a concept, also given that it has featured (without perhaps being called that) in many of my articles, particularly around planning, goals etc.
The dictionaries speak mainly of a milestone being a road marker of distances covered or still to be covered, mainly between cities. (For those of us poor at reading maps they can also be saviours to confirm whether we are in fact travelling in the right direction, can’t they?)
It is also a term often used in project management, whereby milestones are used as “checkpoints” to help us measure whether and how well we are on track to meeting our expected “deadline” or outcome.
I would like to look at it more broadly today.
When we look back in our life’s work so far, we can recognize many a milestone or achievement chapter, right? How often do you look back and allow an awareness of how far you have already come? Or how often do you actually recognize the deliverable or outcome? You know, to acknowledge and celebrate that achievement? Would you agree with me that the missing of a milestone attracts more attention more often?
In my blog Rhythm I spoke about cycles, like the four seasons always around us and often disregarded. We can be so busy “doing” that we are ignorant of “seeing” what is really occurring with and around us. Do you?
Think back on your life and remind yourself of some of your key milestones. I’m sure there are some very large milestones you remember because of how good their achievement made you feel? Or perhaps there were some you would prefer not to remember in that they may have embarrassed you?
Do you notice however, that all of these are in some way or another tied to an event and to a time?
If we consider the planning and preparation aspects necessary to achieve what matters to us in our life’s work, then using milestones usually features, doesn’t it?
Essentially any worthwhile endeavour or outcome is born as a vision, an idea and then its achievement usually planned. If it is larger in complexity or size or duration it is planned through several stages or phases, each punctuated with a milestone.
Any great outcome is usually made up of smaller deliverables the achievement of which lead to the end game. We speak about “eating an elephant one chew at a time”.
Of course whenever we are responsible for a project at work, particularly if there are significant investments or savings outcomes involved, we would plan it and break it down into manageable components or parts for each of which we allocate owners, durations, deadlines and measurable milestones or invest in tools and even a project manager who would do so. That way we can measure progress against that timeline and be in control of the resources already consumed, the percentage completion and the resourcing required to reach the completed deliverables.
I am known to challenge my clients when they have set a goal to ask them: “what will the outcome look like when it is achieved?” or “how will you know that you have in fact achieved it?” And if that is too difficult to quantify or visualize, that we then choose to break it down into more “bite-size chunks” that they can see each milestone denoting its delivery on the way to the overall achievement.
To me this is a more fine-tuned version of looking forward.
As a coach I often see how people are very good at planning and managing a work project. I have also seen how well people plan their annual holiday. However, I don’t often see many people that have ever planned their life. You know, as in mapping out the chapters we all go through and what they might look like in our preferences?
Think about it. What could be more important (to you) than your life and what you do with it?
Yet we will invest very significant thinking, planning, execution, progress measurement and control and often plenty of “worry” time and effort in numerous work projects; and in doing so we allow ourselves to be completely immersed in these “important” tasks. We allow them to “control” our lives. Would you agree with me that this often occurs at the expense of the very loved ones and personal things that are so important to us? Seems crazy, doesn’t it? But uncanningly true, right?
If I’ve captured your attention with this, let’s not dwell on this in the negative context, OK? Let’s rather see what we can do about it. Right here, right now.
The milestone plan
I believe it doesn’t matter what age or stage or chapter you are in right now; whether you are happy or disappointed with where you are at. I believe what matters is what you want to achieve and what you are willing to do about it. From this day forward…
If you never have, it is never too late to plan the rest of your life. You’re probably sick of hearing the cliché: “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. However, if what we have discussed above makes sense to you, there is quite some truth in the cliché, isn’t there?
We can’t change where we have come from nor how we got there. That’s done, right? We do have a choice on how we view that. If we ignore any judgement as in “good or bad or right or wrong”, and simply accept it exactly where and how it’s at, with all its learnings, we can “draw a line in the sand” and agree to embark on all the future chapters of our life differently – like with a new start.
For example, my wife and I chose to relocate our family to live in another country when we were nearly 40. We set a goal and worked towards achieving it, allowing providence to play its part, because we were committed. (No judgement remember?) There were numerous milestones and also setbacks. They are part of the deal. What mattered was to keep trying until we got our outcome.
So why not figure out what some of the scenarios might look like that you would have liked your life’s work to have achieved in say 10 or 20 or 30 years time?
What might some major chapters or milestones for that look like? If you allowed yourself the same diligence and professional planning and tools as you did or do in your work, don’t you think you could come up with some equally professional and compelling plans and options? You know, mapping out some reasonable career steps, investment plans, timelines, travel destinations, adventures, checkpoints etc? Different chapters that get you enthusiastic? Chapters that give you hope? Chapters that let you visualize the necessary steps? Assessing the upside and downside risks and how they might be mitigated? Plotting the required milestones that will let you measure your progress and fine-tune the journey?
What will it take for you to want to see that and then do something about chasing it?
You know, when I set out on this blogging journey, I didn’t know that I would be here 2 years and 100 articles later. My milestone was simply one a week. I allowed myself to embrace the uncertainty that I might not come up with a topic to write about each week. And you know what, oftentimes I get to the morning my blog is due without any idea what I’m going to write about? However, as I wrote in my blog Trusting oneself, that‘s what I do and inevitably the right ideas start to form and next thing it’s done and published.
What if you chose to map out the rest of your life and set some plans with some milestones that will assist you on your way?
So what if you felt you might not know how to go about that by yourself? So what if you felt embarrassed to admitting that to yourself, let alone admitting it to anyone else, close to you or otherwise?
What if you engaged the services of a coach, who helped you cross those Thresholds and helped you map out a plan just for you? And then hold you accountable at each milestone to keep you on track to your own compelling future? That’s what we do you know? We have helped countless people do just that so that they are able to look back at their next milestone with enthusiasm and confidence, rather than regret.
Just imagine it for a minute…. What if you could?