CREATING PATHWAYS: Your Professional Road Map

Updated: Apr 12

by Robin Stephenson, M.Ed.

Humans by nature and design are dreamers. It is a part of our DNA to hunger and strive for bigger and better, more and greater, higher and longer. This is true in our professional lives as well.

In our younger years, we look for more information that will allow us to achieve the expected outcomes of our current roles. As these tasks become more routine, we begin to hunger for more responsibility which provides greater rewards both intrinsically and financially. Our continued professional growth may eventually lead to leadership positions that have a greater impact and more influence over our colleagues and our field of choice. Eventually, we all find ourselves with the dream and desire of letting go of the day-to-day responsibilities that fill the greater portion of our time and find a way to influence and impact others for the greater good.

Whether you are an emerging leader, looking for your next professional step, or ready to let go and transition from work life to life choice, creating a pathway will help you get there much more quickly, with less stress, and greater rewards. Always remember, the greater joy is to be found in the journey, not only in the destination. For this reason, I highly recommend purchasing a journal to help you remember thoughts, feelings, and ideas as you move through the Pathways process.

Begin with your dream.

You can always tell when your inner self is ready for a seasonal change. Your current roles become routine, less fulfilling, and you begin to think about what else is out there for you. It’s more than just chasing the next shiny object and more about craving greater fulfillment for your life purpose. You may find yourself becoming attracted to new trends and ideas, methodologies, or specialized areas of your field. As your hunger for these things increase, your dissatisfaction with your current role increases. This is the time to embrace and focus on your dreams. Use them in the practice of visualization. Imagine yourself in a role you are dreaming about. What are you actually doing in this role that brings a smile to your face? What contributions are you making that impact others? How are you feeling when you are fulfilling the role? Are there things you find that you don’t like about the role? Record your dreams, thoughts, and feelings in your journal as they will become a valuable resource in future exercises.

Identify the markers.

The more you visualize yourself in future roles, the more a refinement process emerges. You begin to eliminate parts of the new story you are creating that are uncomfortable, they don’t fit in the scenario you are imagining. However, other parts of the emerging story are being reinforced. You continually bring these actions, perspectives, and characteristics into repeated visualizations. Make note of these in your journal. These markers are indicators of your desires, what you are hungry for, and what will motivate you to reach your next seasonal target. The next step is to bring all the pieces of your emerging story into clarity.

This is a very exciting stage but one where your mental safety value may sabotage your efforts.

Clarify the outcomes.

In this process, you will use all of the notes you’ve been collecting to create your new target. You will clarify what you are looking for in your next season. This is kind of a scary process because it requires you to actually paint a picture of an upcoming change in your life. It means you are going to have to make a commitment and do something to achieve this new life goal. This is the time to think about what are the milestones that would need to be achieved to hit the bullseye of your targeted desire.

Research the pathways.

There are always more ways to get from point A to point B than just one road map, and each person must chart their own way. During the research phase, you need to gather information on what is available to help you reach your milestones. What will be required of you during each step of the way? How much time will need to be allocated to achieve the steps? What are the financial obligations that will need to be considered? Gather as much data as you can that will support your journey during each milestone and organize it by priority. Create a timeline where possible that includes beginning, stages, and deadlines.

The research phase and the planting phase are the construction process and thus under construction so use a pencil as changes are to be expected.

Planting the pathway.

Armed with data to achieve milestones along your pathway, it’s now time to plant the seeds to ensure the growth and development of your path to your next season. This is where you now incorporate your desire for a new season into your current season and you use life planning to make this happen. Begin by plugging your annual goals into your calendar. Set your milestones as quarterly goals and monthly expected outcomes, then break those down into weekly, and daily tasks. Your life planner is a key component for the success of your next season.

Executing the Plan

Stage I: The first stage in executing your plan is very exciting. You are motivated to achieve your dream and you keep that excitement until the realities of life interfere.

Stage II: Caution, rough roadways ahead! Each person will experience their execution stages in varying lengths of time. Stage II is crucial as this is where refinement of your pathway may need to be implemented. Discouragement may require an attitude adjustment. Mentoring or a coach may need to be acquired to help you through this phase.

Stage III: Now the end of the path is insight. Warning, roadblocks may happen. An exit strategy is prepared which will allow a smooth transition between your old season and the new one emerging.


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