Figure Out What's Next

Inside Out and Backward

career change dennis blank May 18, 2010

by Dennis Blank

photo via pixabay

Coach Lou and d'blank debate: When it comes to setting goals, is it better to work from the outside in... or the inside out?

Dear Lou,

I’d like to continue the conversation from our last post. I gave you a little agita with my antipathy for the idea of visualizing what my life will be like a year from now, but now I’d like to offer a more serious response as to why I am opposed to this technique for me right now.

In short, that’s how I got to where I was after 35 years in the workplace during Life 2.0. Around 30 years ago I began to see how things could work out pretty well for me in the industry I’d selected. I began to visualize the path success would take, (although at the time I thought I was day-dreaming). I followed that path and things worked out pretty well for me. I have no regrets, but getting to the finish line required me to do some things I really didn’t enjoy, and what was harder, forced me to abandon some things that I did enjoy. Once a goal is established everything else has a way of taking a back seat to it.

I see visualization as a goal-oriented approach. In Life 3.0 I would prefer to work from the inside out, rather than towards a goal. I’d like to try a bunch of activities, visit a lot of places, meet a lot of people, and see which of these feel right. I am by nature a goal-oriented person and I fear if I put a goal out there, or anything that looks or smells like a goal, that I’ll go hell-bent to meet it, regardless of whether I’m really enjoying the process or not. This is why I also resisted the idea of writing a book; I’d prefer to find out if I really enjoy writing enough, first.

Does this make any sense?


Dear d':

First I want to say that because of our long friendship, I find it hard to be just in the role of your coach, where you decide the agenda (goal, challenge, etc.) and I let you make all of the choices about how you want to go about fulfilling that agenda. The successes and mistakes are yours to handle as you wish and I support you in your celebration and learning. So I will make it very obvious to you and everyone right now, that sometimes I will be giving advice, counseling, humoring, arguing and pleading with you, as any good friend would. Woven into all of that will hopefully be some good coaching skills as well. And the driver of it all will be my desire for you to live happily ever after.

Thanks for the clarification on why it is difficult for you about visioning. I think we have a different view on this and it might just be semantics. I think of a strategic plan when I think of visioning and goals. The plan always starts with a mission, vision and values. We have the mission and values nailed but I don’t think that you have clarified a vision for yourself. And yet you are setting goals with no idea if they are leading you to the desired outcome (re-read my post from last week).

Almost 15 years ago, I had a vision that my husband and I would have a corporate coaching business together within 5 years. At the time I was early in my coaching training, still running a PR business, and he was a VP of marketing for a consumer products company. Coaching was the furthest thing from his mind. But without any prodding from me, he did go on to be a coach and within 4 years of my vision, we created our executive coaching/leadership development company. Coincidence? I think not.

I am going to ask you again to envision where you want to be a year from now ideally. There are no parameters. Dream BIG.  This type of visioning IS leading you from the inside out. And unlike goals, you just notice how the things that you are choosing are getting you closer or further from your vision. You can set goals to get closer or you can continue to observe and make choices. No goals involved. At least not yet.

Here are the questions for you to ponder (up to you whether you close your eyes or not) to help take you back to the future:

• Imagine yourself in an ideal place a year from now
• How are you spending your time?
• Who is with you? What type of people are around you?
• What are others saying to you?
• What are others saying about you?
• How do you feel about yourself?
• As you observe what is going on around you, what are you most satisfied about?
• How are you utilizing your mission and values?
• If you were to write a headline about yourself, what would it say?

Don’t forget you said that you want to make a meaningful contribution. I hope that you will include that in your vision.

Coach Lou

Dear Lou –

I have a long drive back to New York this week and was unable to find a good “book on CD” so perhaps I’ll try visualizing the answers to these questions. Thanks for not firing me as your non-paying client.


Coach Lou is a co-founder of Chain Reaction Partners, an executive and leadership training consultancy in Boulder, Colorado.  d’blank is the author of The Daily Blank blog.


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