Leading your life and career – learning from footprints

I’ve recently been fortunate to enjoy a holiday on the coast. As I was walking on the beach at low tide, one day I noticed the variety of footprints (and pawprints) forming patterns and tracing the paths that people had taken earlier that day. I started to consider the word footprint and recognised that reflecting on its meaning can help us to positively impact how we lead our lives and careers.

Exploring a number of definitions from various dictionaries has revealed a number of points that you may find interesting to consider – let’s look at three of them:

  1. ‘A marked effect, impression, or impact e.g. left a footprint in the field of research’.

    When you consider how you conduct yourself in life and at work, what is the marked effect or impression you are leaving?
    If you’ve not considered this, what would you hope it would be?
    What would others say about you when you are not in the room?
    How do you need to behave, with whom, and when to leave the desired impression or footprint?
    For me, my aim is to leave an impression of professionalism balanced with caring. I know that at times I need to be mindful of showing care more – in the same way that a footprint can change with an increased length of stride, when under pressure, my focus on professionalism can mean I need to more deliberately put myself in the shoes of clients to keep the balance and maintain my footprint.

  2. ‘Something that identifies e.g a genetic footprint’.

    What is it that identifies us? Is our identity related to fixed characteristics or learned behaviours or both? How much of who we are and how we lead is defined through our genes or upbringing? Do we believe we can change? A growth mind-set says we can. If we are not fulfilling our potential or stretching ourselves through a belief that ‘this is who I am .. so my potential is limited’, we can change this.
    How would you define your identity? Make a list of the things that you feel describe you uniquely. As you lead in your life and career, which could be amplified or developed (or reduced or adapted) to shape your identity in way that creates possibility rather than limits you? Before I started my own business, my identity was connected to an assumption that I would perform best within the structure of a large organisation. When I recognised that my focus and organisational skills would enable flexibility when working for myself, I started to see my identity differently and my business name also emerged – ‘Free to Lead’.

  3. ‘Range of operation (as of a service) e.g. a global footprint’.

    What’s the range of your footprint?
    When considering your work, how wide is your impact, on whom?
    Are there ways to have a greater range or a more consistent one on those you interact with?
    Is it more important to reduce your range and target it differently?
    In my last corporate role I enjoyed working on global projects because of the need to problem solve in an organisational system. While my range of operation was large, I recognised that I feel most fulfilled when working with individuals 1 to 1. As such, I needed to adjust my range and the easiest way to do this was to select more work with individuals rather than projects – another driver for starting my own business.
    Does your range of operation fulfil you? What could you do to tune it if not?

My final thoughts in relation to footprints relate to something else I noticed on the beach. As the tide made its way up the beach with the passing hours, each footprint was gradually washed away. If our past footprint is not perhaps as we would wish it to be, let’s act as our own tide on the beach, washing that past footprint away to replace it with a new one.

How might you adjust your step from today to leave footprints going forward of which you can be rightly proud?

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