We all get frustrated in our work sometimes. Often, that dissatisfaction stems from a lack of clarity in our purpose and our actions. But what if you could learn how to focus on the right actions, for the right reasons, and in the right order? What if you could start moving forward in your business with a clearer, more defined objective?
Debbie Peterson is a certified trainer and master practitioner in neuro linguistic programming through the Association of Integrative Psychology. She’s also a nationally recognized speaker and the author of “Clarity: How Smart Professionals Create Career Success on Their Terms.” In her book, coaching, and speaking engagements Peterson asserts that even the most confused entrepreneurs can achieve clarity by taking a few basic steps in their approach to work. It starts by focusing on five key elements:
Move away from thoughts like Why is this happening to me? and think about what you want to do to improve your situation.
1. Mindset. Focus on the things you want rather than the things you don’t want. It takes time to change your mindset, but it’s possible with consistent daily effort. The process begins with how you start your day. When you wake up in the morning, do you focus on everything that could go wrong, or do you focus on opportunities? Move away from thoughts like Why is this happening to me? and think about what you want to do to improve your situation. This is an empowering process of taking control of your thoughts and your future.
2. Passion. What do you want and why? Do you have clarity in the direction of your business? What is the overall goal for your business? Knowing the answers to these questions is important because it helps you tell your mind what you want to find.
3. Planning. Get your plans out of your head and onto paper. Write it down; sketch is out. Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based) and plan out ways you will gain better clarity in your work.
4. People. Who can help you reach your goals? You need a support network, people who understand you and raise you up. Fill your inner circle with people who can help you get what you want. If you feel like you need to figure it out all by yourself, you’ll get stuck. Remember the proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
5. Performance. What gets in the way of your success—fear of failure, time management, other people? Think about whether you have control or influence over those things. This is important because success comes by choice, not by chance. Are you putting your time and energy into what you want or into the obstacles that are blocking your progress? You get to choose, so choose wisely.
Once you’ve organized your process around the five keys to clarity, Peterson recommends getting specific about the work you’re doing and the order in which you’re doing it. She suggests making a career bucket list. Write down all the things you want to do in your business, then divvy them into A, B, and C buckets:
“The key here is to divide them equally, so you’re forced to prioritize rather than dumping everything into the critical bucket,” says Peterson. Within each bucket, prioritize again. List each task in order of importance so you have A1, A2, A3, etc. When you’re done, you’ll have an ordered list of tasks you can tackle one after another rather than drowning in endless, cluttered lists.
You can use the bucket list exercise across many areas in your business, from to-do lists to long-term strategic plans. Peterson goes through this process weekly for her regular to-do list and at longer intervals (every few months) for long-term planning.
When you run through the bucket list exercise, you’ll have an orderly list organized by importance. Next, think about the three things you can do every day to help you achieve your A1 goal. Then move on to the A2 goal and the three things you can do to accomplish that. “Every single day you are focusing on what’s most important for your business, and you’re making an agreement with yourself to move toward that goal,” says Peterson. This process helps alleviate the all-or-nothing thinking that overwhelms people. Instead of looking at everything you must do and getting overwhelmed, divide your workload into prioritized lists and give yourself the ability to tackle them one at a time.
Clarity comes from within. Unfortunately, a lot of us look elsewhere when assessing success, and this can confuse the process. To reach a state of clarity in your work, figure out what works for you, and determine your own model of success instead of measuring yourself by what others find important. Peterson recommends taking three steps to establish your own measuring stick:
1. Understand your core business values. What does your business stand for? Determine your core values, then build an experience around what you want to create. Ask yourself how you want to feel throughout the day and what experiences you want to have within your business. Think about times when you felt motivated, when there was a natural flow to your work. That was an experience. Identify those times and work to build more of them into your work.
2. Run your own race. We all get caught up comparing ourselves to everything else we see. But what does success mean to you? Pause to truly consider this question. Then write down the answer and make it one of your goals. Otherwise, you’ll just be chasing others’ (often unattainable) visions of success.
3. Partner with the right people. Your ideal partners will fall into two camps: the people who surround you and the people who support you. The people who surround you are the folks who make up your inner circle. However, not everyone who is with us is for us. Sometimes you need to evaluate your inner circle and make sure you’re surrounded by people who believe in you. The people who support you are individuals who are trying to create something similar to what you’re trying to create. Tap into the experience and motivation of others who are on the same path. When like-minded people come together and focus on each one in turn, action is sparked. You can tap into the momentum of the group and hold each other accountable.
Clarity is a journey, not a destination. This is a rinse-and-repeat system designed to help people continue down the path toward clarity while reaching important milestones along the way. Every time there’s a challenge or a new step in your business, Peterson recommends going back to the five keys to clarity:
Going back to this process again and again helps provide context; it defines who you are as a businessperson and what you want to achieve. When you do that, the markers start lining up, and the path forward becomes clear. You start making your own answers to questions that previously befuddled you.
“Having clarity helps you rebound and reach your potential,” says Peterson. “And you have far more potential than you realize.”
Jeff Kent is editor-at-large
Tags: bridging the gap