putting a stake in the ground
The bluebonnet is Texas’ state flower, and every spring, the grasses along the highways and byways of Texas are covered in fields of the wild, blue flowers. (In fact, I've come to believe that you’re not really a Texan unless in your early childhood, your mother risked bee stings and snake bites to plop you in the middle of a field of bluebonnets to take an iconic childhood photograph. It’s like a vaguely perilous rite of passage for all Texan children.) The hike-and-bike trail near my home is no exception, and while there are fields next to the path that are usually kept neatly mowed, right around this time, the trail caretakers stake off large swaths of the open fields, to mark where the mowers should avoid, so that the bluebonnets and other wildflowers will be allowed to grow freely.
This morning, on the hike-and-bike trail, I noticed the little flagged stakes with a bit of shock. Already?! I thought to myself, noting that we’re expecting the temperature to drop to around the freezing mark tonight. But of course, spring comes early in this part of the world, whether we’re prepared for it or not.
About a week ago, as I was leaving Alex’s bedroom after saying goodnight, she called out after me.
“Mom — do you realize that I’m going to be a junior next year?”
“No, that’s not right …” I said. Alex is in her first year of her 4-year high school. So clearly, her third year, her junior year, was 2 years away. I told her so.
“No, Mom,” she insisted. “This May I finish my freshman year, and this fall I start my sophomore year. Which means next fall I start my junior year.”
I was suddenly overcome with … not panic, but … a sudden alertness. Time is flying, I thought. There’s so much to do to get her ready for college. And while I’m not that worried about whether she’ll be ready — Alex has a good head on her shoulders — I realized that our relationship was about to take on a new, exciting dimension. There are all sorts of conversations that we’re going to have over the next 40 months or so, to help get her ready for her to live on her own, to start her own adventures. And 40 months isn’t as far away as I originally thought. Graduation and college will come for her, whether she’s ready or not.
One of the tools that I often use with coaching clients is the creation of a goal map: a literal map outlining the steps that need to happen in order to reach a hoped-for goal.* It has been really powerful to see the goal maps clients create, and even more powerful to see them tick off the steps as they accomplish them. It’s one of my favourite tools.
The first time I created one a goal map for myself, however, was almost a year ago, and this week, I decided to look back and see how I was doing.
The first thing I realized was that I need to look at my goal map more often than once a year to make things happen. Oops.
But the second thing I noticed were the steps I’d failed to take over the past year, largely due to fear: fear of failing, fear that one of the mini-goals was silly, fear that ultimate goals wouldn’t pan out. But at some point, you have to put a stake in the ground and make things happen, yes? Time passes, whether we’re ready or not.
And so, today, I updated my goal map, and made a few of those mini steps that I promised myself I would make. Iput my stake in the ground.
(And maybe it’s time for you to put your stake in the ground, too.)
* I’m actually doing a keynote on the subject of goal maps at ALT Oasis. ALT Oasis is an amazingly inspiring, creative event, one that I’ve attended myself several times over the years, and always seem to come back more energized about my work than ever. If you’d like to join me, click here to register, and use the code HAPPY at checkout to get $50 off the registration fee. And of course, if you’d like to find out more about working with me as a coach, click here to learn more.