By Neil Phillips.

Several of the International Coach Federation’s Core Competencies are about designing actions, planning and goal setting.  When you approach planning like a coach, you will see things that you normally miss.  You will often create better plans by embracing the tension inherent in the planning process. Be curious about that tension.  Since you are planning your future, the possible course of action is not set:  new facts are discovered; attitudes change; and new options are uncovered. By being curious, you can explore, design, and execute well.

Tension and uncertainty are often desirable during the planning phase.  The uncertainty creates a little bit of fear and adrenalin and that lets you operate at a higher energy level.  While that sounds a little counterproductive, it’s not.  If you really don’t care which options you choose or what happens, you won’t plan well.  It’s only when the outcome matters that you try.

There are four types of tension that are important to recognize:

Tension exists between action and inaction. Is it better to keep doing what I have been doing or to change?  Your natural tendency is to “stay the course” rather than change.  When you say “I want more _____,” you assume there is an alternative worth exploring.   This is a perfect opportunity to explore your thoughts and feelings that something isn’t right.  While you may want to push ahead, you may also hear that little voice saying, “It’s really not that bad” or “there’s no sense upsetting the routine.”

Tension exists between profitability and growth.  While you think of these as business terms, they can be applied in lots of different setting.  Is it time to cash out or invest? Is it better to rest and re-energize or go all out?

Tension exists between the short-term and the long-term.  If you are in sales, you are always asking yourself this question.  A common choice that you have is between building systems for slow and steady growth or instituting a campaign mentality.  Do you want to march forward or leapfrog?

Tension exists between the whole and the parts.  Let’s say you want a more balanced life.  As you work to discover balance, a natural trade-off appears between the different pieces.  Some need to be snipped and others expanded. Which changes will produce balance?  Is balance something different depending on the season?

Finding the tension and digging into it often helps to clarify your intentions and actions.

What about you?  What tensions are you finding in your planning?

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