One of the best parts of a blog is that I get to interact with readers online from all over the world. I love to see readers interacting with the material and beginning to apply what we talk about in their own leadership context and journey.

Recently, I received this question from one of our readers:

“I am wondering if you would be able to speak more about how to create an intentional growth plan especially when you are stuck and could you possibly mention how this differs depending on the age of the person making the plan? I feel so often that examples are geared toward younger people.”

What a great thing to ask! Let’s dig in.

When it comes to physical fitness, if we really want to achieve a goal, we develop a plan and work hard to make it happen. As Jonathan Milligan says well, “Consistency is the mother of momentum.” Plan + Consistency + Discipline = Progress. Personal trainers coach their clients on this, helping them to put together a plan and then execute the plan.

When it comes to academic achievement, if we really want to achieve a goal, we develop a plan and work hard to make it happen. This is why students have advisors, who help them schedule the right classes in the right order so that they can graduate with the degree they are seeking.

When it comes to growth in our leadership, why should we expect anything different?

I share with my leadership coaching clients all the time: Growth comes through INTENTIONAL focus, discipline, and consistency. Nothing about it is accidental. What I focus on with these clients is developing a growth plan that is designed for what they want to achieve, the goals they want to hit, and the forward progress they want to make.

But what if you are stuck? What if you’re not sure how to get out of the quagmire that you’re currently ankle deep in?

Here are a couple of suggestions to help:

1. Learn something new.

When I have felt stuck in the past, I have intentionally sought out something outside my normal pattern of reading or listening to “shake my thinking loose.” I’ll browse and listen to an episode of a podcast on something way outside my normal lane. Last night I watched an episode of a show called “Drain the Ocean” before bed, about underwater archaeology and Egyptian temple ruins. Fascinating! Or I’ll grab a biography of someone I know little about (I just got a biography of Ulysses Grant as a gift that I’m looking forward to reading. I don’t know much about his life, but I imagine him to be a little different than me) 🙂 If possible, I’ll schedule coffee with someone and bring some questions about how they think, learn, and grow. I always bring a notebook and pen, and almost invariably walk away with something that helps me think differently about where I’m stuck. Through all these things, I can begin to “unstick” where I’m stuck and think differently about my circumstances or challenge.

2. Take a walk.

I know, this might seem a little crazy. But when I have been stuck in my writing, or stuck in a problem that I can’t think through I’ll take a walk. The fresh air and exercise clear my mind, and I often come back to my desk with renewed energy, vigor, and new ideas. It’s simple, but incredibly effective. Mark Batterson has written, “change of place + change of pace = change of perspective.” So true.

3. Set aside some reflection / think time

I first heard John Maxwell talk about this years ago. I’ve adopted it as a daily practice, and it has made SUCH a difference. Every day I reflect on yesterday, and think through the coming day or two. What do I need to be preparing for? What do I need to be thinking through in advance? What meeting needs more planning, or more thought in planning? Setting aside intentional time every day simply to think does not look productive on the outside, but I am convinced it is a secret weapon to effectiveness. It is one of the intentional ways I develop my own thinking, leadership, and growth.

4. Get a coach

We hire a personal trainer to help us with our physical fitness and growth; we hire a tutor or teacher to help us with our academic performance and achievement; and we hire a leadership coach to help us develop and execute an intentional growth plan. One of the reasons I do leadership coaching is to help leaders get better, to intentionally grow and thrive in their leadership. As Craig Groeschel says, “when a leader gets better, everybody they lead and serve benefits.”

Do these suggestions differ based on your age / stage of life?

Absolutely. What I listen to, the people I talk to and learn from, and the books and articles I read are quite different than they were when I was in my 20s. But I have to keep learning new things. My goal is to NEVER stop learning, so I keep challenging myself, reminding myself that to lead is to learn. When I stop learning, I will begin to grow stale in my leading, and I don’t want that. The people I serve and the mission I work to advance matter too much.

As we grow in our leadership maturity and in age, the challenges will change. The demands will look different. And that requires that we change what and how we’re learning too. My challenges today as a leader are not the same as they were 20 years ago. I can’t use the old solutions to the new problems; I have to keep growing, keep learning, and discover fresh solutions. New wine needs new wineskins! That’s why I ask leaders what they are listening to, what they are reading, and who they are learning from. That helps me to not only stay current in my learning, but to discover people I might not hear of if I didn’t ask.

The leaders I coach currently range in age from their 20s to their 70s. The number one requirement when you’re developing an intentional growth plan is this: a teachable spirit. If you have that, you’re ready, no matter your age. I’ve met people in their 20s who think they know it all and can’t be bothered to learn from someone they deem to be beneath them or outside their area. And I’ve met people in their 70s who model teachability more than you can imagine; they are my role models! Your mindset matters.

I came across a quote from Laurie Buchanan the other day: “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing. Read that again.” I wrote that down and have been reflecting on it since.

I hope this was helpful; if you have questions, use the comments below and I’ll do my best to address them in future posts!

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