Healthy Leaders


How to Stay the Course

Suzi McAlpineSuzi McAlpine

Recently, after a lot of deep thought, listening to my intuition and returning to my purpose, I made a difficult yet important decision regarding the strategy of my business.

After I became conscious, convinced and convicted about setting sail on a different path, I thought it was “job done.”


(As a coach, the irony of not linking intention with implementation is not lost on me!)

Within a mere two weeks of putting a stake in the ground and recalibrating my compass for my new perceived Utopia, I have already come up against the first and real roadblock to “staying the course.”

Without boring you with the details, my first struggle with executing my strategy involved a tussle with my ego. A facing-off between the reality of examining what I am good at versus what I love to do. And, realizing the two can be mutually exclusive.

It also required a gut-wrenching wrangle around sacrificing short-term financial gain for long-term achievement and financial success.

Not to mention the whole deep and meaningful lark around being true to purpose, self and actually doing what I feel I’m put on this earth to do (and be).

No wonder I’m feeling exhausted!

So my question is this:

How do we stay the course, when we encounter that first stretch of choppy waters, that initial rough weather; those challenges that accompany setting sail towards achieving our personal or organizational purpose?

Never mind the EXTERNAL roadblocks and detours. I want to know how we get in our OWN way?!

I don’t know the answer and I’m still in that conflicted, squirmy, uncomfortable space of navigating my way through this.

But, here’s what I’m learning – vicariously, through research and my own bumbling, meandering discovery:

  1. Identify upfront (ideally simultaneously, while you develop your strategy) likely roadblocks, challenges, risks and triggers for achieving “said” ideal scenario. Ensure you focus not only on external constraints, but also on such nebulous yet powerful concepts such as current culture and capability, deeply held paradigms and less than helpful habits or modes of operating.
  2. Notice and name how the current course serves you. For me, this meant recognizing that continuing with my existing strategy was a safer, financially more successful (in the short term anyway) path. It meant acknowledging my ego and how it got stroked by my current strategy. It meant naming the obvious; that the new pathway was scary and meant possible failure, higher risk and the chance of losing face. It meant consistently being outside of my comfort zone for a while. Naming these things seems so obvious, but it was a profoundly helpful exercise.
  3. Return to why. And again. And again. Why are you doing this? What is likely to happen if you don’t change? What are the consequences of inaction and staying your current course? What are the benefits of trimming the sails and setting sail towards a different, possibly brighter sunset? On a scale of one to ten, how important is this? When you ask these sorts of questions, it will bring you back to your true north. It will sustain you when you hit rough seas. It will build resilience. It will connect you with that initial conviction.
  4. Don’t do it alone. When I struck the wobbly patch this week, and my conviction was as compelling as a hung jury, I turned to a friend who I count on will tell me how it is. It was what I needed to hear, not just what I wanted to hear. Outtake? Turn to people who return you to point 3. A captain of a ship doesn’t sail it on her own. What resources do you have at your disposal that you are forgetting? People, frameworks, a mentor, books even? Who is your support crew?
  5. Stay the course. Practice courage. I’m learning that there is magic in the metaphorical pause, the energy of just “holding” when we find ourselves in that place of discomfort, when we meet the shadow of our ambition, or ourselves. When we stay the course, when we hold on, trim the sails, dig deep, or even merely forgo giving up, that’s where the magic, learning and breakthrough occurs.

My father, a keen “yachtie” who died recently, used to say to me as a child when we were together in his yacht, “Suzi, prepare to come about … Hold … Hold … Hold … Leo!” (Which for you non-yachties, means – “Stay still, stay still, stay … and now move to the other side of the boat!”)

As I struggle this week with staying the course towards where I need and want to head, I sense him whispering to me – “Hold … Hold … Hold ….”

So that’s what I’m going to do.

Stay the course.

I’m going to hold.

What “staying the course” are you facing right now?

And, what helps you “hold”?

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