There are mornings, here in the Pacific Northwest, when the fog covers the fields in a sheet of gray, and I can only see a few feet ahead as I walk out to feed the horses,

Then there are mornings when a mental fog descends, and the path that seemed so clear the day before is nowhere to be found.

When I’m lost in the fog and can’t find the trail, I need markers placed a few feet ahead of me more than big goals or strategic objectives.

Traditional planning focuses on goals, objectives, and indicators–and these all have their place. But when I’m walking the trail of transformation in uncharted territory, I want signs that reassure me to, “Keep going.” I once meandered onto a goat path while hiking up a mountain and ended up completely lost as the sun was going down.Now, when I’m hiking, I keep my eyes peeled for little orange tapes wrapped around branches to reassure me that I’m on track.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because a mental fog can roll in without notice, I want to be prepared. One day, I’ll be on fire writing my book. The next, I’m ready to throw my hands up and cry, “Uncle.” When I can’t see more than ten feet ahead, I need a marker at nine feet. When I’m lost in a morning funk and finding writing a book too overwhelming, (yes, it is!), identifying one small step to take can be a lifesaver.

Maybe to find that step I’ll choose to sit quietly or have a brief chat with the muse, that compassionate voice I call upon in just these situations. She’s very good at coming up with three to five very specific, small, no-nonsense steps: “Read a little Elizabeth Gilbert to motivate you.” “Write 800 words even if you hate your words.” “Pick up your closet floor.” “Breathe.” When I follow her suggestions and take one or two steps, I will often find my groove and be on my way again.

I reserve long-range planning for clear, blue-sky days, with no fog interference. Then I can stand at my whiteboard and plot my best-guess trail map for my project over the next three to six months.

How markers can help

  • If you’re starting a business: What’s the one small, but necessary thing you could do right now to support your key direction for the week?
  • If you’re designing a course: What small portion of the design could you develop?
  • If you’re painting: What’s the smallest step or gesture you could take that would allow you to feel like you are advancing–as simple as selecting brushes or setting up your easel?
  • If you’re needing exercise: What’s the smallest thing you could do today to move forward on your program?

But when the fog comes in, I say that markers are what’s going to keep you on the trail.