2 years ago I decided that I needed a change. So after twenty-years and a successful professional career I decided to leave the corporate world and write a business book.
The book was about creating 'the adaptive organisation' and drew heavily on many years of experience working across organisational strategy and implementation. Given my familiarity with the topic, I (perhaps, naively) thought I'd be able to 'whip-up' the book in three months and then I could work out what I wanted to do next. I mean 'How hard could it be?'
Well...pretty hard actually, as it turns out. The journey towards a long-term goal can be relentless, rocky and at times, lonely. I wrote full-time for 18 months. There were so many times when I was tempted to give-up and just do something else. Anything to escape the blank page on the computer screen.
The jobs is not done yet, but at least I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel (the book will be launched in March 2016).
So, what have I learned?
Well, if I could go back in time and give myself some friendly-advice, I'd say 'make sure you do the following seven things'.
Know your reasons - be very clear and honest with yourself why you've chosen to pursue this goal, as opposed to the many alternatives. If someone else suggested it and you're just going along with their idea, you're unlikely to have the resilience you'll need when things go slower than expected.
Start - Setting yourself a long-term goal and actually moving towards it are two very different things. Don't wait for it to be 'right' or 'perfect' otherwise you'll never leave the starting line.
Count the things you've achieved, not the things you haven't - It's easy to be critical when you have high expectations of what you should be achieving by when. These expectations are important because they give you drive and energy. However they can also mean that you never notice how far you've come and never celebrate the achievements.
Establish a routine - Guilt is a great motivator! When you've established a routine (in my case I treated writing like a 9-5 job with a break for lunch) it can feel uncomfortable when you're not following it. When establishing the routine, make sure you adopt a no excuses policy.
Surround yourself with 'tyre-pumpers' - Sometimes pursuing a long-term goal can feel like you're trying to drive on flat, buckling tyres. 'Tyre-pumpers' are positive people who you can seek out, have a coffee with and they'll build up your confidence & self-belief and put things back into perspective. Sometimes just a short-conversation can make the difference between just having a set-back and stopping completely.
Take a break from the work, not the goal - Doing anything repetitively becomes tiring so taking breaks is important. However, build breaks into your routine and beware of the unscheduled-open-ended-break, otherwise known as procrastination.
Believe that the down-hill run will come - Achieving a long-term goal is like climbing over a mountain. There is a point at which you go over the top and the downward slope starts to increase your momentum. Things become easier and you realise (perhaps for the first time) that you are actually going to make it. The trick is to trust that this time will come, but accept that you'll never quite know when.