Several years ago, my team planned a two-day event called the “Instigator Experience.” In the nine months leading up to the event, my life changed a lot. I found a mentor who played an instrumental role in helping me turn my business around, self-published a book that succeeded beyond my wildest expectations, and rebranded my podcast.
After the event was over, my life took a turn for the worse. The major difference between before and after the event was clarity. Before the event, I knew exactly what I should be working on every single day. After the event, I didn’t have the same clarity, and as a result, I lost a great deal of momentum.
When you’re not clear on your goals, it’s impossible to accomplish them.
You’d never get in your car with no idea where you’re going. But we do this all the time in life.
1. Finding Clarity
Half the battle of finding clarity is figuring out what you want. Sometimes we think we want certain things because other people think we should want them. When we choose to do something because of the validation we’ll receive, we often make errors in judgment.
For a while, I had this idea that I wanted to turn Unmistakable Creative into a large, venture-funded media company with hundreds of employees. But the more I understood what that truly meant—a board to answer to, employees to manage, an office where I was expected to show up every day—the less I wanted it. By doing that I’d end up creating the very thing I’d spent the last 10 years trying to escape.
Figuring out what you truly want is a process of deep emotional inquiry, and you need to be willing to be honest with yourself.
One of the reasons I write 1,000 words a day is that it helps me find clarity. By getting thoughts and ideas out of your head and onto a blank page, you’re able to see your thinking. Another simple exercise that I revisit every few months is something my friend AJ Leon recommends in his book, The Life and Times of a Remarkable Misfit:
Write a 500-word description of what you want your life to look like in two years. This will act as your signpost. Then (and here’s the kicker), post it on your blog or email it to someone who will ‘get it.’ It’s hard to go back on a revolution that you’ve already announced.
Meditation can be another great way to find clarity. When I interviewed Gay Hendricks about finding your zone of genius, he recommended a daily meditation and contemplation of the following:
2. Aligning Actions to Goals
Once you have clarity, it becomes straightforward to align your actions with your goals.
Last year I had one big goal: finish writing my second book. The action that aligned with that goal was to set aside one focused hour a day of uninterrupted creation time. I even have the period blocked off on my calendar.
I had a deadline of November. Because of this, I was able to break up a huge goal into smaller, more manageable parts. Writing a 50,000-word book feels intimidating. Writing 500 words a day over nine months doesn’t.
Accountability can also make a big difference in your ability to take action. I work with a fantastic writing coach who keeps me on track. If it had been a few days since I’d made a dent in my manuscript, she’d send me an email nudging me, or we’d set up a phone call to talk about where I was stuck.
In his book, Principles: Life and Work, Ray Dalio uses the analogy of a machine to describe a process for achieving goals. We have goals, and we have an outcome. The actions you take bridge the gap between your goal and your outcome. If the goals are different than the outcome, you have a flaw in the design of the machine. If the outcome isn’t favorable, you have to either change the design or change the people.
It’s also important to focus on high-impact tasks.
Throughout his career, Brian Tracy always asked himself the question, “Is what I’m doing leading to a sale?” If the answer was no, he knew that he wasn’t focused on a high impact activity.
So, ask yourself: “Is what I’m doing moving the needle on what matters the most?”
High-impact activities tend to be in your zone of genius—the kinds of things that nobody can do as well as you do. They also tend to be focused on behavior instead of outcomes. I can’t outsource writing or interviewing guests for my podcast—those are high-impact activities. But editing the show, formatting blog posts, and other ancillary activities are necessary, but not the highest impact things I could be doing for our business.
For some people, low-impact activities become a form of procrastination. As a result, they’re busy, but not productive. Below I’ve included a simple framework you can apply:
A bias toward action is what separates the people who benefit from clarity from those who don’t.
Consistency leads to progress, which increases your motivation, which in turn creates momentum.
In any life, you’ll go through periods where you have a tremendous amount of clarity, and moments when you lack it. When a career has been a big part of your identity for a long time and no longer is, you’ll be searching for clarity. Throughout our lives, we walk into these caves of darkness and emerge into the light, having evolved, grown, and transformed into better versions of ourselves.
This article was originally published on Unmistakable Creative. It has been republished here with permission.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.
Srinivas Rao is the founder of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast and author of Unmistakable: Why Only Is Better Than Best (Available for Pre-Order on Amazon and Barnes and Noble). Each Sunday his team rounds up the most unmistakable parts of the internet they have discovered in The Sunday Quiver. You can follow him on twitter @unmistakableCEO.More from this Author