Evolution Happens – How You Can Work With It

How is your life different from last year?

How is your life different from 5 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Since you left college (or high school)?

How has your life evolved over time?

Is it an orderly progression of steps towards mastery?

Is it a series of plateaus punctuated by periods of change and confusion?

Are you where you thought you would be?

Did everything go according to plan?

Did you find challenges you didn’t expect?

We continue growing and developing as we age.

We’re not stuck with our initial decisions around “what we’re going to be when we grow up.”

We learn new things through experience – especially if we allow ourselves time to reflect on that experience.

If we manage to get some clarity around what we want our life to look like in the future, we’re able to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves.

We don’t have to wait for a wrenching event outside of our control to move towards our desired future.

We may be able to evolve more gently.

How can you ease into your future?

Can you combine what you are doing now and leverage your existing skills and experience with what you want in your future?

Can you set aside some time to make future-building a priority? Are there particular skills you will need that requires more concentration than combination will allow?

As you ease into your future, what will you ultimately need to let go of?

What will you need to prepare to say “no” to?

What obligations and contracts will you need to break?

What relationships need to change? What relationships may need to be abandoned?

In an ideal world, we are all doing this evolution mindfully.

We are taking responsibility for our experience of life and for what our life looks like.

Often, we’re reacting to what life throws at us. That’s OK. We can’t predict all-the-things and we control very little.

The best we can do is take one more step towards our desired future.

Look around and see whether an opportunity has surfaced that helps us along the way.

Occasionally discard things from the pack that weigh us down.

And continually check to make sure we are still going in the direction of our dreams.

Approaching Major Change

I was chatting with a friend a few weeks back. We started talking about how to handle conflicting major goals.

As I reflected on the conversation, I realized that in my life, I’ve handled major (somewhat planned) change using these three approaches:

  1. Combination.  Can I combine goals or activitie?
    • Example: If one goal is “Live in New Zealand for a few years” and another goal is “Become an herbalist” – maybe I can combine the goals “Study Maori traditional medicine in New Zealand.”
  2. Periodization.  This is the approach cited by those (like myself) who are big fans of focus and prioritization.  I find it works best for goals I can chunk into small steps and can tackle separately. 
    • Example: If a goal is to change careers to be able to spend more time with family: I can focus one period on getting clear on the transition, the next period on any necessary schooling (maybe further breaking that process down into the various skills required), the next period on working with a mentor to practice these new skills, the period after that practicing something specific, etc.
  3. Evolution. This is the process of combining old and new and is often done accidentally. 
    • Example: When I transitioned from History to IT, this was done via evolution (albeit not very planned). I had teaching skills I picked up when I served as a History Graduate Assistant and moved those to a new context (IT and corporate work). I let go of the old History context.  As my career evolved and opportunities arose, I would pick things up (e.g. project management) and let things go (e.g. eLearning development). 

I’m going to talk about each of these approaches and how they might combine over the next few posts.

Status Report – Change Planning January

Cross-posted to Medium.

I’ve been writing, but it’s been a slog.

The cookie-monster bathrobe came back with a vengeance, this time lined in lead. I must be onto something big — I don’t remember the resistance being this strong before.

I am ridiculously grateful for my family, partner, friends, and therapist. They’ve been awesome about holding space for me and reminding me that the voices in my head aren’t objectively true.

I’m also grateful that the discussion around mental health is starting to remove the shame around anxiety, depression, and any emotion that isn’t “happy.”

I have a LOT of thoughts about emotions, how they are manipulated, how certain ones are acceptable and others are not, how some expect us to take their emotional burdens, how others want to control how we feel, how we want others to take our emotional burdens.

It’s been good to pause and ask “How do I REALLY feel about [X]?” “What is triggering [Y] feelings? Are these really mine?”

These questions have a lot to do with the day-to-day of execution. Much of December, for me, was spent getting clear on MY answers to these questions and the importance of asking.

Writing this book has been quite a growth experience for me.

Stepping back and looking at last month (really, the whole of 2018), I made a lot more progress than I had been giving myself credit for.

We’ve crossed the 100-page mark!

Current status:

  • Introduction — 12 pages full draft. (No change)
  • Chapter 1 (Theory) –7 pages partial draft.
  • Chapter 2 (Vision and Values) –24 pages full draft. I am incorporating feedback from the pre-order group and clients regarding Values.
  • Chapter 3 (Roadmapping) — 7 pages full draft.
  • Chapter 4 (Focus and Prioritization) — 27 pages full draft.
  • Chapter 5 (Change Planning Model) — 12 pages full draft
  • Chapter 6 (Planning) — 7 pages full draft, 7 pages partial draft
  • Chapter 7 (Execution) — 14 pages full draft
  • Appendix — Goals Workbook. Sent to the pre-order group for review.

Full draft = Something you can read. Looks like part of a book.

Partial draft = Sentence/paragraph snippets, outlines, personal notes, sources I need to look at or revisit.


  • I will be putting up the whole book (minus exercises) on PubPub once they are in full draft. The review period will be March 1 — May 1.
  • The chapters are shaping up to be approximately 30 pages per. The introduction and appendices (however many there will be) will each be about 10 pages per. Bibliography and notes will likely be about 20–30 pages.

For January— the things I didn’t get done in December…

  • Get the Change Planning Exercise out to the pre-order group
  • Begin outreach to the Publishizer publishers/book publishing services who expressed interest during the campaign.

Learning How to Learn

Many of us have been educated in schools built to produce good Industrial Revolution era workers. Learn by the clock, perform to standard, don’t question the teacher.

When I pursued my graduate degree in Instructional Technology (early 2000s) – much of the conversation centered around how a child’s brain developed.  Adult learning theory focused on embedding any new information into the frameworks that adult had already developed.  Though there was a sense that humans continued to develop once they hit adulthood, there was an implicit assumption that continued development was limited to a select few and everyone else quit growing. 

This assumption mapped to Frederick Taylor’s belief that there were a select few “college men” (i.e. managers) who were capable of making all the decisions and everyone else could do the work.

Maslow’s “self-actualization” level was a “nice-to-have” if you got lucky.

The past 20 years has produced research confirming the plasticity of the adult brain. These findings are only now appearing in the popular culture.

The ability to learn new things quickly has become increasingly important as our environments evolve at a seemingly faster pace than ever.  Knowledge rapidly becomes outdated. Years of mastery becomes irrelevant.

Harold Jarche has put together a nice framework that helps us practically learn new things quickly – Personal Knowledge Mastery.

Harold sees Personal Knowledge Mastery as consisting of three interwoven processes:

  • Seeking – Finding and receiving information.
  • Sensing – How we make sense of the information we find and receive and putting it to use (or not).
  • Sharing – Exchanging what we learn with another. Making the necessary adjustments as we receive feedback.

In my experience, the Seeking process starts with a question and getting a general lay-of-the-land. 

The Sensing process has me finding or developing frameworks to organize that information and begin discerning the information’s importance.  Is the information important, or is it noise? Do I need to unlearn something from previous experience to incorporate this new information? Does the framework I currently hold still work or do I need to find or create a new one?  What assumptions are behind the information? What assumptions am I holding as I engage this information?  This reflection, processing, and integration time is invaluable, nevermind the practice. New knowledge and skills don’t stick unless I honor this space.

Sharing allows me to refine that information and challenges me to make enough sense of that information such that I can either ask questions (I find that I need to understand enough of what I don’t understand about the information to be able to create a question that makes sense to another person) or communicate what I have learned and request feedback.

Learning how to learn will allow us to keep our technology skills up to date – no matter what happens to the user interfaces and functionality of the tools we use.


Case Study – Change Planning Facilitation Pt 2

One week later, after Heather moved (hence the bad lighting on her side), we continued the facilitation. 

We found that the extra week helped her confirm some of her analysis around the short and long-term impact of her change.

She also provided some feedback about the process towards the end of the video.

Heather writes about her outdoor adventures at http://portages.life/blog.html.

Case Study – Change Planning Facilitation Pt 1

Heather was kind enough to let me record this session.

She is looking to make her blog into a business.  We wanted to confirm that this was a good idea, analyze the potential impact, and surface any risks.

This particular facilitation is part of a larger coaching engagement. As a result, the change planning facilitation has been divided into two sessions.

I can make a transcript available upon request.

Heather writes about her outdoor adventures at http://portages.life/blog.html.