“Life is just flying by. I can’t keep up. I work twelve hours a day. I know I need to be focused on higher-level stuff, but I just feel stuck in the day-to-day.” Sound familiar? I hear this from super successful professionals frequently, and the solution may surprise you.
The solution is “vision”. Nothing motivates focused action better than a clear vision of wild success. The problem is very few of us spend time creating, regularly reviewing, updating, reiterating, and externalizing our vision, whether as business owners, leaders, employees, in our personal lives, or in our relationships.
“We’ve always done it that way!”
If you’ll pardon my bluntness: I despise that phrase (I can’t think of a stronger word than “despise”, but I’d use it if I could!)! So many people and organizations are blindly going through life doing things because they always have. Many of those things were the best, fastest, most efficient (etc.) way to do things at one time. Somehow, though, habit and routine took over and no one ever re-evaluated new and better ways of doing whatever it is. If you feel like life is passing by and you can think of a few things you’ve “always done that way”, that’s a great place to start pruning!
But what do you prune, and why? The best place to start any pruning is to look at an activity, habit, or routine and ask, “why am I doing this?” (or for organizations: “why do we do this?” or “why do we do it this way?”). We could all re-evaluate “why” more often. Once you reconnect with the “why”, move up a level.
Setting a vision is not some drawn-out, navel-gazing leadership team retreat exercise. The best visions are back of the napkin, five-minute activities. A person who can’t jot don’t what they want and why on the back of a napkin in five minutes or less has bigger problems than clarifying vision. Here are some vision templates:
- What do I want to be true in X time period?
- What would wild success look like on XYZ?
- What do I want to be different about XYZ?
- I want ABC to go from X (current status) to Y (new status) by DATE
Read those templates again. These are not whiteboard-flip chart-ice breaker statements. These are simple, concrete bullet points.
Confront the Brutal Reality
Now what? If you want the vision to come true, you must be clear about the starting point. Peter Drucker used to say leaders have to look out the window and see things as they really are. How?
- What activities are we doing pointlessly?
- What needs to be reviewed or re-evaluated for change or deletion?
- What needs to be added to improve efficiency or effectiveness?
- What do we do well? Not so well?
- What new opportunities are available to us? New threats to our success and survival?
Compare those answers to your vision. Unless you did this last week, you’ll likely find some gaps. Aha! Improvement opportunities!
Plan to Close Gaps
Now we have a vision, our current reality, and some gaps and improvement opportunities. I doubt seriously that any successful adult professional can look at some bullet points of a vision and gaps between here and there, and NOT quickly identify a few actions to take to close those gaps. There’s your plan. Want to get to work even faster and more effectively? Choose one physical, visible next action that moves each of those gaps closer to closure. Add those to your to-do list. Your vision is coming true, folks!
When I say nothing motivates action like a clear vision of wild success, this is precisely what I mean. See how quickly and easily the human brain can figure out, “hmm…I want Y to be true, but X is currently true. I’ll need to do A, B, and C, to move from X to Y, and it makes the most sense to start with B, which will only take me about two minutes, so let me do that now…”? That’s how vision motivates.
We spend a lot of time mindlessly doing what we’ve always done, focusing on “what” and “how”. We need to spend more time on “why”. “Why” matters more.
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