It was a usual work day for me: I got up very early in the morning, grabbed something to eat on my way and rushed to the office as quickly as I could — I had around 1 hour and 30 minutes of commuting time waiting for me after all.
Energy had reached rock bottom, and one thing was already certain for me: I would face the same on my way back home. And I did, after spending extra time at the office just to avoid the traffic jam. When I finally got home, my wristwatch announced that it was 9:00PM, and I questioned myself what to do next: should I cook something tasty? Perhaps hit the gym? Or finally work on that side project that would really make me excited? Realizing that I didn’t have enough energy for any of these, I ordered a pizza, took a warm shower and went to bed already thinking about the next day.
“Am I just surviving?”
After repeating this for too long, I had one of those deep reflecting moments that makes you rethink your choices. Don’t get me wrong, professionally my growth was skyrocketing, and my career path was very promising. Yet, something was off, I felt I had too much on my plate all the time and this chaos only led to increasing stress. I felt the urge to get out of the autopilot mode, connect to my core values and set my priorities straight, so I could live the life I wanted.
If you are in a comparable situation, know that you are not alone! The solution is straightforward, yet complex: you need to reignite your focus and let go (creatively destroy) of what is not valuable anymore.
My new year resolutions
I had wanted (for a long time) to start writing articles, get fit and read more books. Putting these into practice seemed somehow impossible, but they were not. In fact, I made them my latest new year resolutions and, spoiler alert, this article that you are reading is a result of doing the exercise I explain below!
One of the ways I found quick and effective to review my wishes and set exciting and stretching new goals is to take leverage of a liberating structure called Ecocycle Planning. It can help you to answer the following two questions:
What are you currently holding onto that you should let go of? What are you neglecting that you should be paying attention to?
In my case, the 3 goals I mentioned were all being neglected, and I needed to think of in progress actions that I could let go.
This liberating structure borrows concepts from nature to aid our thought process by inviting us to take a snapshot of our ideas, wishes and activities and distribute them among the 4 stages and 2 traps:
Renewal (incubation) 🌱 This stage is focused on the seeds that still need to be planted, so they can flourish. 👉🏻 These are ideas connected to your growth: wishes that have not yet taken shape or been fully supported. 💡 In this stage no time or energy have been invested yet to discover if they are valuable
Birth: 🌱 This is when you begin to observe the initial signs of growth from the seeds you planted and invested resources in. 👉🏻 These are any in progress actions that can contribute to your growth. 💡 We have limited amount of time and energy to make the items in this stage valuable
Maturity: 🌱 Time to reap the rewards of your love, care, and hard work by harvesting the fruits of investing your resources. 👉🏻 These are the in progress actions that already show signs of independence like feeling of control, ability to mentor and automated behavior. 💡 Going through difficulties, recovering from setbacks, and trying again is part of pushing actions from Birth to Maturity
Creative destruction: 🌱 In forests, it is sometimes necessary to remove trees consuming a disproportionate amount of resources with little benefit in return, so there is room for new growth. 👉🏻 These are in progress actions you’re currently working on that don’t give you as much energy as they used to. Maybe you have new goals, and it’s time to let go of something else or simply just something you started at work but are not expected to maintain. 💡 Be bold to trigger the renewal cycle. The sooner you make decisions, the more energy you will have to get unstuck and unleash your growth.
The Ecocycle planning goes further, making us think deeper and move to the core of this exercise:
Which of the actions distributed in the sections above can be moved to following traps?
Poverty trap 🌱 When there is lack of water or sunlight, a seed may have trouble to germinate 👉🏻 These make you feel unable to move forward with important actions, considering the time and energy you have available. 💡 You may need to take a step back and reassess how you’re allocating your resources. To prevent falling into this trap, shift your focus and reduce the number of tasks you’re committed to.
Rigidity Trap 🌱 This is where the renewal cycle takes place! 👉🏻 These are the activities that you do that don’t generate much value, or things you keep doing and don’t even remember why. When an action becomes a habit through repetition, breaking the routine can be hard as it becomes automatic. Energy drain, boringness and overdoing are some of the symptoms of not letting go when you need to, in order to create space for new things (renewal stage). 💡 The longer you wait to take action on items in this trap, the harder it will be to make progress on your growth goals.
From theory to practice: creating your own exciting growth plan
Keeping these concepts in mind, the steps below will enable you to get create your personal development plan, getting you unstuck and move towards the life you want:
Start with a reflection moment, writing down the goals you are currently working on and also any potential new wishes you have.
For each wish/goal, create cards for activities that will contribute (or are already contributing) to accomplish it.
Distribute these cards among the Ecocycle stages and traps. Take your time, think deep and be honest with yourself.
Analyze the final result. Are the goals stretching enough? What can you do to boost your chances to reach your goals and achieve the life you want?
Make it fun! Add colors and drawings to your cards 👨🏻🎨
The more space you make available, the better. Try spreading the cards on a wall or on the ground. This will make it more flexible to move the cards and allow you to capture all your thoughts without space limitations.
There are many ways to apply this structure! Some examples: - Elaborating a personal development plan at work - Prioritization and clean up of Product Backlog in Scrum Teams - Developing new year resolutions (writing articles was in my own poverty trap for way too long 💥)
In this article, we talked about an exercise that relies on one of the Liberating Structures called Ecocycle planning, which helps to bring clarity on what we are currently doing, reflect on our goals and create a laser focus on where your time and energy should go. It aided me to get unstuck and move towards the life I wanted, and I hope it also does for you! Do you periodically reflect on your goals? I’ll be happy to hear your thoughts!
👋🏻 I’m João Techi | Liberator | Empathizer | Problem Solver My values are empathy, trust, and helping others. 🌱 I seek to approach things with empathy and a growth mindset, aiming to do my utmost best at all times. 🧨 I aim to take the rescuer version of myself out, inviting people I work with to help themselves because they feel safe to be who they are. ❤️🔥 Once empowered, my actions will leave an enriching footprint that leads to a lasting transformation — which warms my heart.