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Welcome to our second entry in the Task Cycle ® series. If you missed last week, we talked about establishing a purpose, the critical first part in personal development.  This week, we’re tackling how to lay a foundation that will lend itself to future success.


What do you think of when you imagine a foundation?  I think of a house being built. I go back to when I was in second grade and my parents were building the house we live in now; the smell of wood and drywall, the feel of mud as it squished through my flip-flops, the loud sounds of drills and saws and heavy machinery that I was told to never touch.  I remember the builders laying the foundation of the house and how they had to wait until the rain subsided, how they dug a deep trench and carefully created the outline of what would one day be our house.  When I think of foundations, I think of the one that sprang up from a possibility, a goal, a dream.


In a way, “laying a foundation” is very similar to laying the foundation for a house.  First, you must have your plan in place: your purpose.  Only then can you begin to dig the deep trenches that will hold your foundation.


The DIY network provided a great tutorial on how to lay the foundation for a house.  We adapted this tutorial for our own use and applied it to leadership development:


Pick a place

In order to lay a foundation for your purpose, you must establish where this change is going to take place.  This could be a physical place, such as “at the office” or “while I am at home,” or it could be less tangible, such as “whenever I am angry and stressed” or “whenever I am with my kids.”  This will give you a “reminder” every time you are in the situation to be especially cautious of your actions, words, etc.


Get someone else’s opinion
You wouldn’t begin to build a house without the opinion of a contractor, inspector, an official— anyone who was knowledgeable about building a house.  In the same way, you should get someone who knows about you to contribute to establishing your purpose (we talked about this last week) as well as laying a stable foundation.  Make sure this person is skilled in problem-analysis, and can understand short- and long-term planning. Talk to this person.  Take them to lunch. Listen to what they have to say about you and your purpose.  Are trying to go too big at first?  Can you enlarge the scope of your foundation?  Discuss this with them, and address how you might adjust or improve it.


Begin to “dig”
Dig deep.  This is more of a mental process, but it is essential to understand some things about you.  You could attack “digging” by addressing the 5WH questions:
Who am I talking about? (Usually yourself)
What do I need to improve?
When is a specific timeline that I can create to track my progress?
Where do I usually initiate this behavior?
Why do I usually act like this/what makes me act this way?
How can I address this behavior so I can improve?


Some of these questions seem simple, but attacking them in a standard order makes sure nothing gets left out.  Also, sometimes it is enlightening to address problems in this way; you might realize some seemingly obvious information you didn’t before!


Block off potential problems before they start
We all have them in our lives: Negative Nellies/Normans.  These are the people that drag us down, the people who tell us we can’t do it, or even the little voice in the back of our head that tells us our work will go unrewarded.  They are the coworkers that stand around and bash the attempts of others, or the moms on the sidelines at the soccer game who never fail to present the latest harmful gossip.  These people are not good for your mental health, and honestly not good for their own health, either.  These things nourish the negative thoughts and feelings that will seep in through the cracks to damage the foundation you so carefully laid.  So silence the naysayers, pull the plug on the “little voice’s” microphone, and seal out negative.  Change can happen, and will happen if you approach it correctly and with the right attitude.


Establishing a firm foundation is not only a key part of the Task Cycle®, but also a key life skill that will allow you to create achievable and meaningful goals that will drive personal development.