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Focus on the present, while planning for the future: a career coach's tips

Veteran Emmy and AACTA Award-winning producer Ellenor Cox is now a coach and mentor in the creative sector. Here's her advice on using COVID-19 as an opportunity to refocus and refresh.
Focus on the present, while planning for the future: a career coach's tips Image by Designecologist on Unsplash.

Ellenor Cox

Tuesday 21 July, 2020

‘You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending’. C.S. Lewis

Who else loved C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series and the idea of stepping into a wardrobe and coming out the other side into a whole other world? Don’t we all have moments of wishing this could be true of Covid; that returning to life in a pandemic-free world could be as simple as walking through a door?

The reality, however, is that we’re never going to return to normal as we knew it. The challenge now is to focus on defining what our ‘next normal’ looks like and using this current period to strategise and plan for this new world and our place in it.

We all know the mid-March date as the beginning of Covid but ‘the ending’ will be a personal one for each of us depending on how we define this period’s effect on us. Our book's ending is important, because when we reflect back on 2020, we can have clarity around the all-important question of:

‘Was I proud of how I conducted myself during this time of great uncertainty’?

If you’re challenged by the answer to that question, then it’s not too late to ‘start where you are and change the ending’ as Lewis would say. Our behaviours and attitude in times of stress define us because they’re an insight into our core beliefs about ourselves and our ability to withstand change and uncertainty.

The key to this question of being proud of ourselves during this time, is to pause and really consider who you want to be right now, and in being this person what kind of outcomes would this create?

Read more: A career coach's guide to self-care and positivity for the long haul

WHAT DOES YOUR ‘ENOUGH’ LOOK LIKE?

Getting really clear on all the benefits of these outcomes helps shift our psychology from feeling like we have to push ourselves in this direction, to a feeling of wanting to lean into it and embrace the action steps that will get us there.

This Covid ‘refresh and refocus’ opportunity also allows us to review existing goals and set some new ones, and some strategies more aligned with the current climate. There’s never been a better time to treat ourselves with compassion and to temper unrealistic goals that do nothing more than increase anxiety.

A key way to do this is to ask yourself this question around any goal setting that you’re doing in your life whether it’s financial, career, family, health or relationship based.

What does your ‘enough’ look like in this area? Not your ‘amazing’. Not your ‘phenomenal’, but just your ‘enough’.

Start with ‘enough’ as a goal and reach for that. Lean into this possibility with excitement, self-compassion and kindness. Set up daily benchmarks and measurement systems to hold yourself accountable and watch the progress unfold. Most importantly, watch your attitude towards goal setting and achievement change into something more positive and supportive.

Your ‘enough’ rather than your ‘amazing’ is your secret weapon right now so embrace it.

This concept is further expanded in my webinar here on ‘Cope and Create’ which provides practical tips for goal planning within this Covid environment.

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Elle Coaching - Cope or Create from Firelight Productions on Vimeo.

HOW TO CREATE MOMENTUM AND MOTIVATION

Once you’ve created some new clarity around your future, you’ll need motivation to get the momentum started. What’s key to remember about Motivation is that there are two scientifically backed triggers for this state: Ambition and Action.

Remove them and motivation doesn’t last, but amplify them and watch your motivation grow instead.

Why Ambition is so key

Ambition in this context basically means a ‘desire for more’ and it can mean more connection, more joy, more peace, more depth, more abundance, more success, more harmony. It is the attachment to the end result of ambition that can cause suffering, but the desire for greater or better or new, is totally fine. 

  • The key time to connect with your ambition is within the first 30 minutes of your morning routine when your hope and willpower are at their highest.
  • Look at your goals first thing every day and don’t just look at them but rather rewrite them, visualise them, feel them, talk about them and really think about them.
  • Instead of going straight to your phone or computer and obsessing about the news and social media, spend this crucial time first thing in the morning obsessing about your goals, your dreams and your ambitions instead.
  • Get really close to your ambitions and notice the difference that this makes.

Motivation often follows momentum or action

A key factor that separates humans from animals is our drive for a connection to our future. This is innately tied to our sense of motivation.

Many people are obsessing on the inconveniences of COVID and on the threats and the fears. They are giving more time to consuming what’s in front of them than they are to visualising what their future could be.

If you’ve found yourself lacking in motivation right now, then ask yourself how your ratio of ‘now’ versus ‘future’ thinking is going.

A great strategy to creating momentum in your present life is to force yourself daily to do three things that are outside of your current needs for self-care and survival.

If your mind only feels like it’s doing the things necessary to survive then it will lose motivation. That’s a trick of the human brain. If your mind doesn’t feel like its engaging in something that is going to help you thrive then motivation will go down.

Your mind needs to be able to touch the rim of the future and your ideal future state in order for it to remain motivated.

Three acts each day to connect with your future

So what three things could you do daily that would create this stretch towards your future self? Are there emails or calls you could make? An update to your website? A webinar to watch or record?

If you’re feeling demotivated at the moment, you didn’t just lose motivation, but instead lost touch with your future. That’s why you need to do these three daily things that go beyond just survival and self-care.

In doing so, the mind will say ‘I’m touching ambition, I’ve got some action’, ‘I’ve got some momentum’ and no matter how tiny these acts of momentum are, they will spark motivation and everything will change.

A clear sense of enough rather than amazing around your newly formulated goals, together with these three daily non-negotiable actions, could be the key to your wardrobe door.  Whilst it won’t take you through to Narnia, it will certainly take you through to a more optimistic and positive world within your own mind.

Email Ellenor for a complimentary discovery session with complete access to a 90 Day Goal Planning package of templates and an e-book. 

The Wellness and Recovery Resource is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

About the author

Ellenor Cox is a veteran Emmy and AACTA award winning producer now providing the industry with coaching and mentoring services. More information at www.ellenorcox.com.