How I Gain Clarity
Besides the increasingly hot and not-so-helpful takes on COVID-19, I’m hearing two things from people:
- Extreme uncertainty, anxiety, having no idea what to do
- Messages that now is a great time to reflect
I think that #2 is the key to sorting out #1.The problem is that the definition of reflect is to think deeply or carefully about. Pretty vague…Without defining what to reflect on, you’ll just end up staring out the window thinking about the same things that are distracting you from your day-to-day life.
Here is the latest version of my reflection process. My hope is to add some definition to “reflecting” for those that need it, and I’m betting there’s a lot of you right now.
I take myself through this type of exercise from time-to-time, usually because it’s either been too long, I’m struggling with decisions, or if I’m feeling overwhelmed. I have also helped a few close friends think through this and they’ve told me that it’s been extremely helpful to help them gain clarity.
Disclaimer: Like all ideas, these pulled from the work of others. If you’re familiar with the work of Chris Bailey, GTDGuy or Ray Dalio, you might recognize some of the inspiration.
Optional pre-work: Brain Dump
If your mind is especially noisy, get everything in your head out of it. I sit with a notebook and write out all the things that pop into my head on paper in bullet form. This usually ends up being a couple hundred things everywhere from ‘start a business’ to ‘get beer for fajita friday’.
I have to do this to quiet my mind. Knowing that I’ve captured it, and will come back to it, helps me stop carrying it around with me all day.
To think about your life’s purpose, ask yourself two questions:
- What would I do if I had 6 months to live?
- What would I do if I had all the time and money in the world?
Somewhere between the answers to those two questions lies your purpose.
Then, to start thinking about the purpose of your life’s work, two more questions:
- What are the unique talents that I have?
- How could I be the most useful to others?
Marrying your life’s purpose with your capabilities, brings you to the purpose of your life’s work. If your work is nothing more than a means for you to reach your real life’s purpose, it can be liberating to define that clearly and accept it.
Since the aim of this one is professional, I’ll just share the purpose that I came to for my life’s work:
The Purpose: What is my life’s work?
I am here to help work be a source of joy for as many people as possible.
My work is predicated on the belief that work shouldn’t suck. Disliking what you spend 1/3 of your life doing is tragic. So I started Pod2 to help companies be better places to work, to help managers become leaders, and to help individuals gain clarity, direction, and fulfillment from their life’s work.
Develop a set of rules for how you want to behave. These are the guidelines for which you should make every decision about what to do, what not to do, and how to act.
I don’t structure these much. Some are rules; some are quotes; some are memes. I know what they mean to me, they serve as great reminders for me, and that’s all that matters.
It can be two or 100. I have 37 right now. The list will change, but here are mine (edited to be SFW)
The Purpose: How will I behave
The below is a list of principles that I strive to follow. These principles should dictate every decision I make.
- Don’t be a ***k.
- Lean into discomfort
- Tip for good service.
- Preserve optionality.
- The ratio of a team’s performance to the performance of their leader remains constant.
- Fix your sh*t first.
- “Okay” is actually terrible.
- Don’t half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.
- Drive the fun bus.
- Don’t get bitter, get better.
- Hold others accountable.
- “Because that’s how we’ve done it” is never okay.
- True evil is the complacency of good people. If you see something wrong, say something.
- Strong beliefs, held loosely.
- Get enough sleep.
- Never waste anyone’s time.
- Automate, outsource and delegate as much as possible without sacrificing quality.
- Quality work means high value, not perfection.
- If it’s important enough too put in a document or presentation, no typos.
- Never meet when an email will do.
- Never email if you feel uncomfortable.
- Never use PowerPoint when thoughtful speech will do.
- Never use words when a meme will do.
- Know what you’re bad at.
- Focus on what you’re great at.
- Self-care before work.
- Procrastinating is not self-care.
- Keep shoshin.
- Brush your teeth.
- If it’s not a “f**k yes” then it’s a “no.”
- Just do the next right thing.
- Use data and intuition together; don’t overweight either.
- Don’t vaz; just take a break.
- Work is important, but it’s not life or death.
- Try to help, regardless of if there’s anything in it for you.
- Have fun.
That, to me, is reflecting.
Once I’ve got a steady view of my end-goal and guidelines for how I want to live my life, I switch into planning mode. That where I create mid- and near- term goals, and identify next steps. That’s where progress starts. Oh yeah, and I deal with that list of 243 things that were in my head…
If you’d like to see anything more on my reflection process, or if you’d like me to share how I go about my planning process, just let me know.
You may have noticed my principle, “Try to help, regardless of if there’s anything in it for you.” I mean that. If you’re reading this and think of anything I can help you with, please tell me. I get especially excited about helping people gain clarity and become more intentional in their lives. Just throw it on my calendar.
I hope you’re all able to find peace during this storm we’re in. We’re in this together.