This Tool Will Help You Make Sense Of The Past AND Take Charge Of Your Future

Dan Sullivan
5 min readApr 1, 2021

In July of 1982, I found myself in real trouble.

I’d been asked to present writing and artwork for a project I was creating for the federal government in Ottawa. But on the day of the presentation, I had nothing ready to show the cabinet minister.

I walked down the hall to the meeting where the cabinet minister and four or five members of his team were waiting for me. And I told them that instead of talking about the project, I wondered if I could tell them about an idea I had.

I addressed the fact that there was an enormous amount of complexity in what the cabinet minister did, and I asked him, “What are some of the things you want to have accomplished while you’re here? What would make you feel great about all of the work you’ve done?”

A “fascinating process.”

I wrote down his answers and then asked, “If we were going to prioritize these, what would that look like?” And we arranged the list of accomplishments in order of priority.

I explained that the next steps were to identify all the obstacles that were currently in the way of those goals and then to work through each one until it was transformed into a strategy for achieving them.

The minister said this was a fascinating process I had taken him through and asked what I called it. I drew a circle around the goals, obstacles, and strategies and decided then and there to call it “The Strategy Circle.” He said he wished I’d been there his first day in office.

I realized as I left that meeting that my whole life, including all the projects and experiments I’d done in the marketplace, had just clicked. I now had a structure that could work for anything.

Trapping myself, then escaping.

The great thing about the structure was that it required no homework on my part. I could simply set up The Strategy Circle, and I would never get trapped like I’d gotten trapped in that presentation situation.

It wasn’t just that I had solved the problem of that particular incident — it seemed that a door to the future had opened for me, and I now had a simple way of approaching the rest of my life.

I suddenly knew that every time I felt trapped, I could use my imagination to create an immediately bigger framework for taking liberating action.

Creating a new, bigger game.

Before that meeting with the cabinet minister, I was coaching, but only one-off situations. I didn’t have a process, and I didn’t have a structure.

In that hour, I felt that I’d done the best work I’d ever done, and it was going in the direction that I really wanted to go in my coaching life.

The cabinet minister had mentioned that day, after we’d made the list of priorities, that it was easy to get lost in complications and complexity. The Strategy Circle was a way to cut through all of that, and I saw that it could work for anyone in any situation.

In any circumstance and at any time, with The Strategy Circle, you always have the capability to create a new, more successful, satisfying, and significant way of operating in the immediate future.

You never have to be in the position of not knowing what to do.

Entirely new way of thinking.

Simply by using your brain in a way you already have the capacity to do, you can now experience your entire life in a transformative way.

The first step is choosing a future result that you want to accomplish and putting a deadline to it, making it a measurable goal.

The next step is to identify and write down all the obstacles that are currently preventing you from achieving that desired future result, and then put them in order of priority.

Finally, you consider each obstacle and transform it into the action required to achieve your goal.

A self-contained growth process.

It might be that you’ve spent years searching outside of yourself for your best opportunities and solutions, but with this process, you’ll always have available to you everything you need to grow.

It’s a totally self-contained growth process where you simply take advantage of what you already aspire to in the future and use that as the starting point. Then you identify everything that stands in the way of that vision of the future, and by allowing the opposition to be stated, you legitimize negativity.

A lot of people try to bypass negativity by not looking at the obstacles they face. But the obstacles to your goal are unique to your vision and extremely useful. They’re there for you to use as the raw material for creating solutions and growing as you move toward your goal.

Four-stage system for life.

I believe that everything that works in the world works by using the four-stage system of The Strategy Circle: vision, opposition, transformation, and action (or VOTA).

When you’re conscious of it working this way, it’s very powerful, because everything you think, talk about, and work through in your mind is completely real and specific in relationship to the vision you want for yourself.

The creation of The Strategy Circle was really the birth of Strategic Coach, because every concept we’ve created, starting when I was a one-on-one coach through to today, comes from this one basic concept.

This is the birthplace of all the thinking we’ve done in Strategic Coach, and it can be the foundation for your own future breakthroughs.

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I hope this article triggered some new ideas, projects, initiatives, and thinking for you and your business.

Thanks for reading,


Ready to start transforming obstacles into strategies? Get your copy of Your Life As A Strategy Circle today to discover the secret power of your own imagination (and see why this one tool launched a coaching revolution!).

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Dan Sullivan

World’s foremost expert on entrepreneurship in action. Co-founder and President of The Strategic Coach Inc. Find out more: