Leaders use “white space” to chart changes

In many years of coaching, I have found that for people to make significant changes in their lives, they need to have time away from current responsibilities to assess what matters most and to make room for something new to come in. When people continue their current process, I find they are unable to find new ways that are more than small incremental changes from what they have been doing all along.

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Consider Linda, a marketing executive for a product-marketing firm. She was sure that marketing wasn’t what she wanted to do long-term, but didn’t know what she did want to do. While we worked to explore new options, she had little time to reflect on a future while she was so busy trying to keep up in her present job. She decided to take a sabbatical, and that was when her future planning took off. As she worked in her garden, took long walks in the woods near her house, and meditated, her new future came into view.
Another client got married and moved to another country with her husband. She was concerned that she needed to get a job right away, yet during coaching she spoke of how she longed for white space – free time to explore and get clear on what really mattered. She decided to delay job hunting and to use the free time to find her new focus. During that time she discovered that she wanted to go back to school and pursue a new field. She feels she would never have gotten to this discovery had she not had time without other obligations.
If you are considering a serious change in your life, find a way to carve out white space. Perhaps you can get a sabbatical from your job or give up all other outside obligations and devote weekends to exploring your new future. In depth thinking doesn’t occur in the 15-minute breaks between one activity and the next. It requires time to let go of the present and be totally open to new explorations.