As I have been diving into my coaching work, I am finding that everyone is at a different stage in their journey to achieve their goals. I wanted to share my thoughts on how one might delineate those stages to assess where they are in the journey.
In this article, I’ll discuss the six stages and what you can expect at each stage as well as some brief thoughts on what you should do to move to the next one.
This is not always a linear path to your goals. Sometimes you will move back and forth. You may be on multiple journeys at once. Often when you achieve Stage 6, you will find a new journey on which you are at Stage 2 or 3.
This is a general framework, not a roadmap. It is a way to think about things to give them some clarity as you assess your current situation and where you might want to be.
Stage 1: Unawareness
Stage 1 is the stage where you say “this is fine.” You know it’s not, but you don’t know what to do, so you convince yourself that there’s nothing to do, nothing needs to be done.
At this stage you may or may not be happy with how things are, but you think that where you are is normal and expected, so you’re not thinking beyond the here and now. You aren’t working towards your goals because you don’t know what your goals are.
Stage 1 can also apply to a person who is in pure survival mode. They are not thinking beyond immediate survival. They recognize that the situation is bad, but they believe that they cannot spare any attention to think beyond immediate needs.
To get to Stage 2: All it takes to move from Stage 1 to Stage 2 is to become aware that something better exists and you can get there.
Stage 2: Awareness
This is not fine. I am not where I want to be. Things can be better. I deserve better. I just don’t know what to do.
Those are the thoughts that characterize Stage 2. You know that there is something better, and you are now looking for a way to get there. You haven’t identified what that way is. You may not have even identified what “better” looks like.
Stage 2 is miles ahead of Stage 1. You cannot solve a problem that you do no know exists. By knowing that there is a solution, you can begin to find it.
To get to Stage 3: You need to expand your knowledge and your networks. Watch videos, attend webinars, join groups, talk to people, have conversations. In expanding your awareness, you will discover what is possible and get a sense of where you want to go.
Stage 3: Action
Things were not what you wanted, so you took action. This could mean that you started researching. It could mean some side hustling.
At this stage, you may or may not have clearly defined long term goals. You definitely lack a clear plan of action. Action is better than inaction. When you act, you have the potential to learn, you have the potential to meet valuable contacts, you have the potential to prove or disprove ideas that you may hold.
To move to Stage 4: You must clarify your goals and plans. You need a clear picture of what you want your life to look like, a specific concept of what that would look like, and a plan of action to get there.
Stage 4: Focus
Stage 4 is characterized by unsustainable progress.
You know what you want. You know what it will look like. You know how to identify how close you are to it. You know how to get there.
Now, you are ramping up your activity to achieve your goals, but you are making unsustainable progress. This is the stage where you are confident you are doing the right thing, and you are happy to make the sacrifices you are for the goal you see, but you know that you couldn’t do this forever.
You might be spending more money than you’re taking in. You may be spending too much time and neglecting other parts of your life. Whether it’s money, health, the goodwill of friends and family, or some other asset, you are burning resources in a way that you will run out if you can’t get to a more sustainable level at some point.
Stage 4 could also be more subtle. Maybe you’re spending time with family, taking care of your health, making money, and otherwise good, but you’re not able to plan for the future. For example, if you’re making money but not enough for retirement, then you are in a long term unsustainable situation.
Important note: if you think you are in Stage 4, but you are not making some measurable progress towards goals, then you are no in Stage 4. You’re in Stage 1. The problem with “unawareness” is that you’re not aware of it.
To move to Stage 5: Achieve a level of success and progress that you could continue there indefinitely. A imaginable investment of time, sufficient income that you can save and plan, low enough stress that you’re not killing yourself.
Stage 5: Engagement
Things are working. You’re in a good place. You could stop pushing here, if you were satisfied. Except you’re not really satisfied, because if you were, you’d be at Stage 6.
The heat is off. The wolf is no longer at the door. At this stage you are comfortable. You are not in imminent danger of disaster. You have time to attend to family and other needs. You can focus on your health.
For some people, they go straight from Stage 4 to 6. Some are never satisfied and stay at 4 forever, always moving the goalposts as they achieve success.
This stage, however, exists in the space where you can meet your survival needs without worrying but you have not achieved the greater goals you strive for.
To move to Stage 6: Achieve the goals that you believe make you successful.
Stage 6: Actualization
Here it is. The top of the mountain.
If you wrote down the definition of success many years ago and stuck it in your wallet, you could pull it out and check off everything on that list today.
For some people, this is a moment to catch your breath, but not for many. For the kind of people who make it this far, they become so accustomed to hard work and striving for excellence that the idea of having no more mountains to climb is depressing.
Arriving at Stage 6 will often lead you to Stage 2 or 3 on your next journey, and the cycle begins again.
As a coach, I work with people at all six stages to help them identify their goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, and plans of action. If you would like help exploring your next step, connect with me.
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