Take the Next Step

change planning Jun 21, 2022

A business school professor and friend, Geoffry Pfeffer, wrote a successful leadership book, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, which highlights how business leaders often know how to move their organizations forward but don’t do it. The book shares examples like how General Motors developed a joint venture to create Saturn but failed to transfer key learnings on how to build better cars to the rest of the enterprise. They knew what to do but couldn’t execute successfully.


This knowing-doing gap is not just a reality for business leaders; it’s a struggle for all of us. Living a long, healthy, purposeful and financially secure life is part good planning and part good fortune. It takes effort to understand what factors are most important for you, but purpose, social connection, physical well-being and financial well-being are proven to be key variables in living a long and vital life. Place – where you live and call home – matters and it is one decision that goes a long way to driving successful outcomes. In fact, it is a key decision at any age – data scientists argue it is one of the most important parental decisions.


But knowing that place matters and acting on your knowledge are two different things.


Moving is a hassle; the reward ought to be more than a glass of wine 


Common Challenges that Get in the Way


There are numerous challenges that get in the way of making wise choices about where you live. A common difficulty is simply being overwhelmed with life. In the macro, worries related to geopolitical instability, domestic polarization, inflation and risks of a recession are enough to consume attention and energy. In the micro, responsibilities related to family and work can be enough to crowd out everything else. Our tanks can be empty, unable to prioritize decisions of great consequence. Even for those with time and energy to determine where to call home, they can be overwhelmed by the multitude of options, particularly for those with resources and an openness to live anywhere.


Inertia may be an even bigger challenge. For people that have lived in their homes for decades, the idea of downsizing and shedding personal belongings can be daunting. The frictional costs of change can be greater than the need or upside of moving. The calculus is not necessarily about the real costs of change but the perceived costs. These perceived costs can be enormous and the related inertia can be too much to overcome.


For couples, joint decision making may be the greatest hurdle. Preferences and needs may be different: one prefers the convenience of urban living and the other loves the peacefulness of a bucolic setting. One wants to be embedded in the lives of extended family, the other desires to live a separate life. Conversations can reveal not just differences in preferences but also fractures in the relationship. It can be exceedingly complex.


In other cases, timing for a change isn’t right. In reality, it may be that time for a big change isn’t right. There are always options to make one’s current place better, even ways to do so without spending money.


 Maybe the next step is taking steps with a friend


Approaches to Move Forward


Take a moment to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current place. I offer a free tool – The Right Place, Right Time Assessment – that helps people identify current strengths and opportunities for improvement. Talk to your partner, family and friends to see whether your current place is the right one for you. Good friends won’t hold back if they think you are ready for a change.


Take a tiny step. This is the philosophy of BJ Fogg, behavior scientist and New York Times best-selling author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. Pick an area of opportunity and take a micro step to address it. For example, maybe there is an opportunity to be more active and as well as see good friends more often. Schedule a time to go for walk or a jog with them. Don’t get too elaborate. Start with one opportunity – pick a length of time and terrain that is not overly ambitious and go with it. See how it goes. It could be the start of a new routine.


Whatever the next step is, write it down. Be specific. Give yourself a timeline. Share it with your partner or friend. Maybe you have a friend at similar place in their journey. Be accountability partners. Maybe the next step is to reach out to a friend or acquaintance in a similar spot.


Don’t Let Perfect Get in the Way of Good Enough


Unfortunately, knowledge of what to do is not enough. We have to act on our knowledge. But it doesn’t have to be perfect. Often, mediocre execution is far better than doing nothing. Doing something creates momentum which begets more momentum. Take the next step. Your future self will be grateful.









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