Updated: Jan 22, 2019
What does it mean to check your foundation?
Let’s start with a metaphor of a building needing a solid, strong foundation to support its structure. Without it, the building is vulnerable to damage and collapse. Or, we could visualize a tree whose roots must grow deep in order for the tree to grow strong and beautiful.
In life then, our foundation is our anchor, our stable base, our place of safety that supports everything we do.
When did you last check-in with your foundation?
At its most simple, a foundation check-up is a reality check on our health and well being. Are you eating well, having enough good sleep, exercising regularly? Do you have a good emotional baseline, supportive friendships and relationships, and are you making time for things that bring you joy, either inside or outside of your work? Without a solid foundation, it’s not possible to be your best self, live your best life, or do your best work.
Beyond these basics, our foundations will also be specific to our stage in life and our specific role at work.
One client, a small business owner, has lived with a foundation of chaos for more than 20 years. She’s been able to successfully navigate her life despite the chaos–until now. After a year’s separation from her husband, she craves order. During a recent session she blurted, “I need to get on with divorcing my husband!” Living in an in-between state is not serving her. Creating a foundation of order vs. chaos will enable her to focus more on her priorities, such as building her new business, which she is very driven to do.
A second client is undergoing a profound shift this year that is shaking her foundation. She’s a successful entrepreneur, a big character with an outgoing personality. She can’t help herself from collecting people and projects. At a foundational level, this year she feels the need to pull back, to be more reflective, gather fewer distractions, and reduce her social media activity, where she’s been feeling some heat. I challenged her not to say ‘yes’ to anything for the next month. She’s taken up the challenge with a smile on her face.
Another client works at a media company. He’s not at a senior level but nevertheless feels that he’s always-on, putting out fires constantly. He needs more time to exercise, get good sleep, be creative and more social. After three sessions we’d identified that his foundations are unsettled, and the impact is that he’s neither at peace within himself, nor confident at work.
Here’s a framework to prompt your own foundational check-up:
What’s your life stage?
Early in our careers connecting with our foundation will likely include exploring our core beliefs, personal values, skills and talents. It will also include building personal and professional relationships. Our foundation may shift as we become more independent, moving out of home and being fully responsible for money management.
In mid-career checking in with our foundation may include a hard look at the competing demands of work and family. What’s our priority? If we’re looking to stay on the career track where do we want to go from here? How much risk do we want to take? How can we push ourselves to create a vision that inspires us, rather than settling and trying to make the best of it?
Later in our careers a foundation check-up will look at both the big picture and our finely tuned skills and passions. How is our health? Can we afford to work less if we want to? What’s the work we’re so good at and still so passionate about we simply must keep doing it? And do we have extra fuel in the tank for speaking engagements, volunteering or for taking on advisory or board roles?
What’s your role at Work?
Another lens for our foundational check-up is to look at the role we play at work. For managers and leaders a foundation check-up may mean a reality check on our state of burnout. If we’re burned out, our performance will be negatively impacted and our relationships will be compromised. It may also include a review of our hard skills, presentation skills and emotional and social intelligence.
For individual contributors a foundation check-up should include scoring our level of satisfaction with our work. Are you doing great work, learning new skills, winning awards, sharing our knowledge, having an impact?
For a business owner checking-in with our foundations would include looking at our technology, systems, processes and people. Do you have a good space to work in and a good method for staying organized? Are contracts and forms and modern payment methods in place? Do you have collateral that speaks to what you do and your unique way of doing it?
These are just some lenses to look through as you undertake your own foundational check-up. Taking your foundation for granted, will not serve you well. You’ll end up struggling to find your way. Instead, take some time for your foundation check-up and tune-up. This can be be most effectively achieved by partnering with a leadership, career, business or life coach.