1. Envision what you want. This is the fun part. Envisioning is a very natural process that most of us do—to some extent or another—all the time. We imagine what it would be like to do this or that, to walk in someone else's shoes or to simply try something different. Most of us are envisioning the future and where it will take us constantly.
Prior to any career change, it's important that you have a strong, clear vision of the life you want in the future and what you need to achieve professionally to get there. Develop your vision to a point where you can experience it with all of your senses: see it, hear it, taste it, feel it, and yes, smell it. Remember that thoughts become things, whether you're aware of it or not.
2. Explore the alternatives. Once you've got your rock solid vision, it's time to start exploring the various paths that could lead you to your goal. It's like when you grab your keys and head out to the grocery store. You probably have a few options for how to get there. The faster route may take you through a bad part of town. The scenic view might take a little longer. You have choices. Before you pick a path, it's helpful to know the alternatives.
This second stage is all about research and investigation. You literally explore. What exactly does it take to make that vision a reality? Maybe you need more or different education. Maybe you need to live somewhere else. Maybe you need to adjust your lifestyle in some way. Each possible path will come with its own pros and cons.
3. Make a choice. The third stage is perhaps the hardest as it involves decision-making, something that causes a great deal of anxiety for many people. This is where you weigh the pros and cons of each path available to you and come to a conclusion as to which one will suit you best.
Don't get stuck here. Remember, taking more time to think about something doesn't necessarily mean you'll come to a better conclusion. There is almost always some level of risk involved, so don't expect the "right" answer to provide any guarantees. Give it some serious concentration, listen to your gut, and then make your decision. Remember, nothing is set in stone. If you have to, you can always come back and re-evaluate.
4. Outline the path forward. You've got your vision; you've considered a variety of paths and picked the best one for you. But here's the honest truth: No matter how hard you try or how badly you want it, you probably won't be able to just make the decision, blink, and suddenly find yourself living that glorious vision. To make the idea a reality you have to take a series of baby steps.
This stage is all about defining those steps—outlining the specific actions needed to get from here to there. This is your chance to dive deep into the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty details. Call it a plan of action, a to-do list, or a road map. It doesn't matter. The most important part is that you put it on paper.
5. Execute your plan. This is the one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, get-it-done phase of the process. This is where the action happens. In this phase, you make real, tangible progress toward your goals. You DO THE WORK. Let's face it: Without this phase, nothing is accomplished. You've done a lot of thinking and planning, but you're still right where you started.
Yes, this final stage can be scary, uncomfortable, exhausting, and tedious. But it's worth it. Don't lose your motivation now. Take the plan you created in stage no. 4 and start checking off the items one by one. Slowly but surely, you'll step into that vision you created.
Chrissy Scivicque, the founder of EatYourCareer.com, believes work can be a nourishing life experience. As a career coach, corporate trainer and public speaker, she helps professionals of all levels unlock their true potential and discover long-lasting career fulfillment.