Building a Bridge As You Walk On It

Creating changes in our lives can seem daunting.  We may see where we are and know that we want something different but have no idea of the steps between here are there.  How do we get unstuck?

As I work with clients, some of them have fairly immediate goals.  The change may involve learning and applying a new skill, using their strengths in new ways, or bringing change to small habits they can see.

But what is the process when we want to make big changes in our lives?  Perhaps you’re in a marriage or career that is no longer working.  Perhaps you’re going through a major life transition, and the world as you knew it is changing before your eyes.  You might be a young person looking at the future and the vastness of the world and wondering where you fit in.

When we dare to believe that our lives can be different, when we want to reinvent ourselves, we are in the uncharted territory of our lives when we want to bring dreams into reality.  We can’t just pop out a project plan because there is no map for uncharted territory.  We need to create a map.  But how?

First, I want to congratulate you for seeing there are possibilities for you beyond your current circumstances.  That you can dream or imagine or yearn for a different way of living and being in the world is a huge first step.

Second, you can let yourself off the hook for being stuck.  When we want transformation in our lives, we’re moving towards something that hasn’t existed for us.  Give yourself a break.  Celebrate your courage and openness to possibility.  Put aside the worry about the money, or the time, or how you’ll get there and appreciate what it has taken for you to come to this moment of readiness.

My first Learning & Development Director coached me one day about a project that our company had identified.  We provided 3,000 employees who had never received training – not just in our company, but this population had never received training in our entire industry.  And it was full of constraints.  There was no travel budget.  We couldn’t do workshops.  We couldn’t bring people to the Learning Center.  I had to finish the project in one budget year.  AND it was 1990, and there were no internet or online tools. 

I was up for the challenge and also scared to death.  This position was my first job in L&D.  I was still a rookie!  I had no idea of where, to begin with, something unprecedented.  When I told my Director that this might be outside of my ability to deliver, she said something that has become a compass for innovation and personal transformation since that moment.  She said, “We’re going to build the bridge as we walk across it.”  WOW!  I immediately had a picture in my mind!  These words gave me so much power and freedom!  They meant I could invent and innovate!  It meant I was free NOT to have a plan with all the details but could chunk out areas to explore.  These words suggested we would need to experiment, see what did and didn’t work – and have permission to fail!

So, what does it mean to “build the bridge as you walk across it”? 

The third step defies all the training and books you may have read about project planning and goal setting.  You know, where you map out all the details and follow the plan.  When you’re in uncharted territory, you create the map as you go.   In this step, we create a vision for the future and then map the first steps.  

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