By James Bryant (Founder and Director of Lead Different)

How did I end up here?

In my coaching and training, I get to work with people from all walks of life. Some of their stories burn into my memory.

Sarah was a lawyer (in-house counsel for one of the biggest companies in Australia.) I was running a workshop for some of the executives of this organisation, and she was taking part.  As usual, I was talking about the difference between a Default Future and a Deliberate Future. A Default Future is one that we drift towards. It is the path of least resistance. Most of us have spent a large amount of our life living in a Default Future.

A Default Future isn’t just your career either.  It’s relationships, work, hobbies, finances or education; it can impact any area of your life.

A Deliberate Future is one that we design. It’s something we invest towards – whether it’s time, money, learning, or growth.  You cannot accidentally end up in a Deliberate Future.

But in the first half-hour of the workshop, Sarah started crying.

The crying confused me. I’m ok with crying and it’s a common side effect of working with me, but usually it takes longer than 20 minutes! At the first break, I chased Sarah down to see what was happening.

Over the 10 minute break, Sarah told me about her role in the company, and how she came into the role. The position she was in was awe-inspiring; she was incredibly successful! As her story came to a resting point, she blurted out, “But I hate the law!”

It turns out that in high school, Sarah had graduated top of her class, she worked hard, and it paid off. Her dad informed her that she had two options.

  1. Law
  2. Medicine

The problem with medicine was that Sarah fainted at the sight of blood, so she reluctantly chose Law. At university, Sarah had worked hard again. Once more, she graduated at the top of her class!

Sarah was offered all kinds of opportunities and is very successful in all of these. She works hard and is very diligent.

But on that day in the workshop, just mentioning the concept of Deliberate vs Default Futures reduced her to tears. I asked her that if she could wave a magic wand and create a Deliberate Future, what would she create? Her answer made me laugh.

“I want to run an art gallery.”

I was laughing because I know so many who would love her job and situation. Sarah had a challenging job that pays a king’s ransom. But for her, this job wasn’t “it”.

That day I saw several things play out in Sarah’s story:

  1. No one else can decide for you what your Deliberate Future is. It takes some high-level curiosity and risk-taking to do this (but that’s a whole other topic!)
  2. One person’s Default Future is another person’s Deliberate Future, and that’s ok!
  3. The path of least resistance doesn’t mean the easiest route. Sarah’s path was defined by hard work. It involved pain. However, the perceived pain of a conversation with her father felt more significant than the real pain she went through.
  4. You have to plan your way anywhere. Sarah’s path towards becoming an art gallery owner involved lots of planning and learning. She couldn’t just quit her job and buy a gallery overnight. Plan your path.

Designing your deliberate future takes vulnerability, honesty, determination and planning. The good news is that the personal rewards and return on investment is priceless. After doing the hard soul-searching heart work, you can begin to put tangible actions in place to facilitate your new route.

Visualise your deliberate future

Year Glance can help you prepare and visualise the steps and actions to your deliberate future in just five minutes.

  1. To start with, create a new calendar in your Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar account. Name your calendar “My deliberate future”, “DF” or whatever it is that is your muse and inspiration.
  2. Add key steps and deadlines into your calendar.
  3. Add multiple day events for phases or stages.
  4. Import your calendar into Year Glance to overlay with your other calendars.

Visualising your year will serve you motivation towards your deliberate future and help you to keep the big picture in front of you.

James is the founder and director of Lead Different. He works with a range of clients from Fortune 500 companies, elite athletes, professional artists, and creatives to people who are starting a “side gig”. James was born and raised “all over Australia” before moving to California to train in leadership and development for over 3 years. James returned to Australia to start Lead Different which works with people to create lives, teams, and organisations that go beyond high performance.


Founder and Director, Lead Different