Future-Proofing Your Professional Life for 2020 and Beyond

future-proofing your professional life
Athletes in Law Special Issue

It’s that time of year when so many of us are setting (and, by now, probably breaking) new year’s resolutions, but resolutions are so last decade!

Start 2020 by going bigger! And how can you future-proof your professional life for the decade and be ready-set-go for the future? Goal-planning! So let’s forget those resolutions and instead focus on looking at the big picture and asking ourselves the serious and yet perhaps more exciting question, “What do I really want to accomplish over three to five years?”



Here’s a three-step plan to think about making your future dreams come true through thoughtful planning and preparation.


Find some quiet space, perhaps with a journal or a meditation cushion, and think about where you’d like to be—whether professionally, personally or both—in the next three to five years. Imagine it’s now 2025. You look around and say to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe how fortunate I am and how happy I am with my life right now.”

Try to let go of that voice in your head that says, “Yeah, but,” every time you have an idea. For some people, this is really simple; they know exactly what they want. And for others, they struggle: They have lots of desires, they want a lot of things, they don’t want to commit, they aren’t sure.

But just try it! Without judgment or negativity, particularly if you’re not clear about the direction, try to imagine with as much granularity as possible, the life you have (partner, job, title, house, car, possessions, income), and imagine the location you’re living in (city, beach, forest) and what’s it like there. What is brining you joy and meaning? What kind of work are you doing? What did you have to learn about yourself, or what beliefs did you have to let go of to have this future come true?


Once you have a vision for your future, you can reverse engineer to today to figure out how to make it happen—create the map, if you will. If you want to go to Chicago, and you jump in the car without any navigation planning, you could end up in Chicago, but you could also end up Miami or Mexico.

In order to make the dream in Step 1 reality, what will you need to do to make that happen? What is currently standing in the way of your aspirations? What beliefs or perceptions do you have that are holding you back from taking your business to where you want it to go? What will it take for you to be considered “ready” for that position? Write down what you think you would need to do in order to make whatever you were dreaming about in paragraph one.


In step 1, we looked at the big-picture, long-term goals and aspirations. In step 2, we did a breakdown of the development/learning areas that are required to get to that goal. This is the action planning phase where you take some of the items in Step 2 and create specific actions necessary to move you toward your goal.


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If you’re an associate in a law firm and your five-year aspiration is to be a partner, and what you’d need to do to make that happen is to bring in X number of major clients, bill $Y/year and be considered an expert in your field at the firm. Looking at the what you need to do, regarding bringing in X number of corporation clients, what would you need to do? Brainstorm about all the different things you can do to forward this one specific area of development and with the results, pick three to five that you will commit to doing. Try picking action items that you can do in the short term as well as some longer-term actions. Try this exercise for each of the items you’ve identified in Step 2. This is how you’ll start making your dream or goal in Step 1 become a reality.

Working with a coach can help you with all three steps by first helping you visualize and capture the three-to-five-year goals. Second by helping you get clarity around what things you need to develop, learn, create or acquire to make that dream happen. And last, guiding you to craft the clear and specific action plan as the road make to your destination. Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen

Ellen Cohen, JD, CPCC, PCC., is an executive coach and attorney. She is certified by CTI and International Coach Federation and is an enhanced practitioner in Conversational Intelligence (CIQ). She focuses her coaching on senior executives and lawyers in law firms and corporations to enhance their professional impact, build high-performance skills and cultivate wellbeing and resilience. Prior to becoming a coach, Ellen spent 20+ years as an entertainment attorney at Disney, Showtime, Sony, Fox and Microsoft. She received her BA from Brandeis University and her JD from Emory University School of Law. To find out more: ebccoaching.com or linkedin.com/in/ebccoaching.

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