We are increasingly reactive in our lives.
Too many distractions.
Too many pressures.
Too much information.
Too many trees in our view to get the perspective onto the entire forest.
Very few people deliberately think:
Every day people succumb to the pressure of daily motions, wishes of others.
Every day people are too tired to get out of our comfort zones, and don't know WHERE they need to venture out to get closer to what they really want.
Deliberate, reflective thinking is out of fashion. People believe that they no longer have time for that. Sometimes, people don't know where their next destination is. Sometimes, people have a vague idea of where they want to get, but have no clue about where and how to start. Thus stagnation begins. It often comes with a vague sense of worry, as your dreams, and ambition, and your desires for the More, for the Better, for the Higher, for the Next Level in your life...they are not gone. You might have cornered them, but they haven't left you. And they send you the signal in the hope that you will remember them.
So, here is the one thing for you.
Focus them with deliberate, reflective, strategic thinking.
And honour them with iron discipline.
This is going to be my last post in 2019 and in this decade. And today I want to write about that focus, that personal strategy, which takes our ambitions and gives us focus and clarity. And it is going to be a bit different from what I have written before.
2020. The new decade.
Let's think a little bit about this together.
You are doing a fantastic job now.
You work as hard as any human being can (and this has been your secret weapon for ages, your first class work ethic). You are passionate. Over ages of practice you have figured out your strengths and put them to great use.
And then what? At the back of your mind you have this strange nagging thought that the result should look different and feel different just about right now. But it feels...well, the same (may be great, but very similar to the one you had last year; and the year before; and two years ago).
But you strive for more. You quit your current job and look for new opportunities, and go through the same cycle again. Huge initial success, you are the hero, and then the same thought there, in the back of your mind.
What is your next level?
Think about it for a second. More of the same stuff is not next level. If you are truly great right now at what you do, it may be difficult at first, but let your fantasies take you there.
What is your next level?
Roger Zelazny, a great US fiction writer, once told about short stories (I think it was in interview with Neil Gaiman) - they are like final chapters in the novels, which he had not written...yet.
So, how does the final chapter (or short story) of the next tome (next level) of your successful life story read? Imagine a long shelf of books and find your place on that shelf. First quarter? Third? Right in the middle? Take the next tome, open it to find it empty. Fill it out.
Once you have it, a very magical thing will happen. You will give yourself a starting point to work backwards to where you are right now and to highlight the path, which you can take to your next level.
Most likely, this path will be very different from the one, which has taken you so far. It will require you to brave new waters, develop new habits and skills, and embrace new mindsets. But that's what makes this life exciting, right?
Time to write the final chapter (short) story of the next volume X of your life!
So you have your next level firmly in your mind. Possibly even the first small step. What will move the needle for you?
Focus on your strengths they say.
Put your strengths to work they say.
There is significant merit it to it, admittedly. Focusing on the "positive" has been a huge advance for the whole field of psychology. There is a problem, though. Misinterpretation.
Many people believe that as soon as they find their 'passion', an activity, which resonates with what they are really good at, they will succeed indefinitely. Many spend lives running in search for such a purpose and missing massive opportunities.
But here is the simple truth.
Life in its beautiful complexity doesn't really care about our strengths.
Other people don't really care about our strengths.
We keep bumping into situations where our "strengths" are inadequate. And spend our lives looking where to fit them better. Even if something resonates deeply with us, we shall inevitably face adversity and challenges, where our current strengths will simply not be enough. Such is the blessed variety of life. And the speed of change only grows all the time.
So, we have a choice.
Keep looking for situations perfectly matching our strengths and hiding when it is not the case. Running when situation requires something else. Quitting. Or delegating, outsourcing, and hoping for the best. Frankly - stagnating more and more.
"What is required to be of service here? What will move the needle? How can I grow into that?"
Research shows that top performers of the world don't focus on their strengths any more than average performers.
Instead, they work to skill up quickly and efficiently to meet the challenges, step outside of their comfort zones so that they DON'T. COMPROMISE. THEIR. MISSION. That's their single biggest strength: unwavering commitment to the mission and belief that they can do whatever it takes to serve it.
What will move the needle for you in the in the next year? In the next decade?
What will it require of you?
What are the gaps with your current abilities?
How can you grow to meet adversity and challenges and succeed in the new circumstances?
If you are to get to a new a level, most likely this will require something new of you. New habits, new mindsets, new behaviours. The key word is NEW.
What is the one big favour we could do ourselves as we enter 2020 and the new decade of our lives? That's a gift of clarity.
1️⃣ Find something that has NEVER worked, but you keep repeating it again hoping for a miracle. Or, worse, you do the same stuff again and again because simply...
You have read it somewhere...
A friend told you to try out this thing long ago...
Some 2-hour motivation speaker said that at a corporate event...
This behaviour got automatic, and we have never stopped to check whether it actually works.
2️⃣ Find something, which NO LONGER works. What has brought us to success initially may not be sufficient for the next level. Such as focusing on your strengths (above). Well, life will not keep creating opportunities for you to shine on the world through the beauty of your strength. Life may require something different of you. Again, it doesn't really care about what you are strong at.
Before the end of 2020 find what has never really worked. Find what doesn't work any longer. Ask whether more of it will take your life to the new level of success and vibrance. If not, then commit to make 2020 a year of your personal adventure, exploration and quest to find new habits, which will take you there.
What are at least three such things for your 2020 and the new decade?
In modern world we increasingly work with and through other people to move forward.
Ask yourself - do you have enough influence to meet your goals?
What is your personal influence strategy for 2020?
Here is a way to start thinking about it.
What is the best possible future for you in December 2020? Who do you need to be on your side to make this happen? Who can prevent this from happening? Who can influence them? How? Start developing your influence strategy by asking lots of “who?” questions and putting parties and relationships on your map.
Before trying to persuade or influence, let’s think hard about whom we really need to convince. Is it the person’s boss or shareholders? Family? Constituency? Peer group (such as other team members who evaluate her or his behaviour in interaction with us)? Make sure that you map the parties and explore agencies inherent in the situation.
It is natural to think of the other person as if (s)he is in control of everything. It is rarely the case. Someone needs them to be on their A-game in their interaction with you. Find our who. And what they want. And how they influence the person you are trying to influence.
What is the agenda of issues?
What is the one thing you can do in January to get things rolling – building your coalitions and finding ways through or around roadblocks?
What are your messages in each case?
The earlier one starts thinking about it deliberately, consciously and in a structured, disciplined way, the easier will be the path to the goal.
Adversity, challenge, struggle.
They can do one of the two things to us.
They can bring the best from us.
Or they can bring the worst.
Fear. Fatigue. Frustration. These are the three huge, debilitating problems, which we need to handle as we work to gain success in whatever our endeavours are. How we handle them is critical.
Struggle is nothing but a signal. Something has changed. The context requires something different from us. New strategies, new behaviours, new skills - whatever. Something isn't working any more.
Struggle is also inevitable. If we haven't experienced struggle for a long time, we might have stagnated. Success might have lasted for a while. But things change quickly nowadays, and we are forced to face this change. That's a struggle.
Or we start something new, and our strengths (surprise) are no longer enough, and we need to develop new skills, habits and mindsets, quickly and confidently. We struggle.
Take high achievers who make it to the top, and, then, something changed, and they suddenly are no longer relevant. This may cause a tremendous sense of loss.
Some collect themselves quickly and ask - what do I need NOW to get back in the game. Others blame economy, politics, employer, anything to explain to themselves and to others why this happened. This is a waste of time. This behavioural strategy is quickly reenforced through associative thinking and "friendly" peer support. It can take top achievers to the very bottom in no time.
Struggle is inevitable. It is a herald of the change, of the next level in the game. It is also a lab. It creates unique opportunities for us to look at our behavioural strategies and to re-build ourselves for the next level.
Embrace the struggle!
2020 it is. New Year. New decade. Pause for a moment. Listen to your thoughts and feelings. What does this new decade mean for you?
I have just one dream for you, my friend, for your families, and for those dear to you.
Thank you for being with this community this year! So much more is coming in 2020. I send you and those dear to you my warmest wishes and best regards. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
We shall talk soon.
Until then - dream like you have finally felt your wings. You always had them. Time to throw them open and catch the fresh wind of new adventures.
The new decade is waiting for you.
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