Let’s talk about clarity and focus, and the role it plays in your business and life. One way to think about clarity and focus is to consider it your big WHY. Why you work in the career you do today. Or, why you started your own business. Or, maybe why you chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Regardless of what you’re doing today, you are where you are for a reason. Sometimes those reasons stay true for a lifetime, and sometimes those reasons change. For me, I started my career in a corporate job, then I did a beautiful stint as a stay-at-home mom for about six years, then I went back to my corporate job, and now I’m starting to transition into an entrepreneur role. I can tell you, every change I made, I did so with clarity and focus.
Clarity is knowing who you are, how you want to interact with others, and what you want to achieve. With a clear mind, I don’t worry about what could go wrong because those thoughts don’t have time to cross my mind. I’m ultimately able to take action more easily knowing that I’m doing things that align with my goals. Without a clear mind, it’s easy to talk myself out of things and get frustrated when I can’t focus. I’m more likely to give in to my inner critic and forget about the goals I’m working towards.
Let me share a personal example to make this more real. So, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, and three years ago, I finally conjured up the courage to sign up for the Marine Corp Marathon. I’m competitive (mostly with myself) although my siblings may say otherwise. Not only did I want to finish the marathon (which for a first marathon, they say just getting to the start is an achievement), but I also wanted to finish it in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes (which by the way was Oprah’s finish time back in 1994).
As you can imagine, I followed a hard core training program to get ready for this major event (which was one of my bucket list items). About 18-weeks into my training program, I injured my left hip and my lower back. I was in excruciating pain and could barely walk let alone run. But, I remained steadfast in my resolve to run the Marine Corp Marathon. With crystal clear focus on my marathon goal, I did everything possible including chiropractic care, acupuncture, massage, yoga, hot saunas, and much more to heal and restore my body so I could still run this race. Well, I got to the start of the marathon (yay, me!), and I ran like a true champion until mile 16, and then everything fell apart. My hip locked up and my pain returned to my back, hip, and down my left leg. It was a struggle to walk, jog, or run — and every mile required mental focus and determination. Most of the time, I was in complete tears, not only from the pain, but because I had a goal to finish the race in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes, and I knew that I wouldn’t achieve it. Regardless, I still wanted to finish so I carried onward to the best of my ability.
I’m proud to say that I did finish the Marine Corp Marathon, and when I crossed the finish line, the clock read, 5 hours and 3 minutes. I was able to finish the race for 3 specific reasons. First, my amazing husband. My husband nearly ran the full marathon himself jogging from one spectator marker to another across the city to cheer me on, as well as ran several miles alongside me holding my hand to help me get through the severe pain. He’s such an amazing guy. Second, my bestie. She similarly provided constant motivation, support, and much needed distraction and laughter with so many entertaining stories. And last not but least, my clarity and focus on my goal.
You see, clarity creates thoughts that lead to actions that support the goals you want to achieve. If I didn’t have this clear goal, it would have been incredibly easy for my inner critic to convince me to take the sweeper van back to the finish line. Thank goodness that didn’t happen!
So, what do you want to achieve? What are your business or life goals? What can you do to get more clarity and focus?
Here are 3 of my best strategies that always help me get more clarity and focus.
First, create space. Your mind has to process everything that comes across your field of vision. If your home or office is cluttered and messy, the mess and clutter results in brain fog. You can’t live thoughtfully or work effectively in chaos. Clear the clutter and reset to zero at least once a week.
Second, identify what matters. Write down your passion statements for work and life. What matters to you? Not your husband, not your mom, not your sister, and not your friend. Seriously, what really matters to you? Passion statements are not maybes, they are musts.
And, third, experiment. You don’t know what you don’t know. You learn by trying new things. If you want clarity about the foods you need to eat to fuel your body, or maybe workouts that inspire you to move your body, or perhaps habits that improve your life, or even the type of work you want to do, you need to experiment. We all learn so much through our experiences and experiments.
Now that you have clarity and focus, let’s talk about how to set goals. Like most of us, our dreams become reality when we can break down our BIG goals into manageable goals, let’s call them micro goals, and we can achieve small wins. The most effective way to set and achieve goals is to write them down in a journal. But, it takes a lot more than just writing them down. It requires persistency, creativity, and strategy. Top-level athletes, successful businesspeople, and achievers in all fields set goals. Setting goals gives you a long-term vision and short-term motivation. It helps you organize your time and your resources so you can make the most of your business and life.
So, I’m a huge nerd when it comes to goal-setting exercises because it’s become a proven way for me to accomplish major milestones and achieve great success. I just recently started coaching a new client who is a mid-level manager in a large consulting firm. Over the past few years, he’s been working on developing several core skills and capabilities to help advance his leadership. Things like, communication skills, building his network, influencing others, team leadership, financial planning, and learning how to become a strategic thought leader. He wants to work towards a promotion and recognizes that he needs some support to build and hone some additional skills. Today, we met to assess his strengths and opportunities, and identify specific areas and types of work to get involved with in order to help him strengthen the value and capability he offers to his colleagues, clients and firm.
I’m a strong believer in focusing on one goal at a time. So, we decided on his one goal to start with —and to break down that goal into bite-size chunks so he can make steady progress towards his BIG goal. The idea is that when you can focus on one goal at a time, you can accelerate how quickly you reach that goal, and the small, micro goals become ways to validate your progress and celebrate your small wins.
Now it’s your turn, I want you to think about one goal that you really want to work on over the next 30 days. Keep that goal in mind as I take you through one of the most effective methods for goal setting and the actions to take to achieve your desired result.
First, let’s start with the definition of a goal. A goal is the intention of a person’s ambition or effort; a desired result. It’s the destination of a journey. In order for a goal to be meaningful and effective, your goal needs to matter to you. Let me say that again. In order for your goal to be meaningful and effective, your goal needs to matter to you. If your goal matters to you, you’re more likely to take the right actions to achieve it. For the best results, your goal must be “SMART”. The “SMART” acronym stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Each “SMART” goal you create should have these five attributes to ensure you reach your desired result.
So, I’m going to illustrate how you can use this “SMART” system using my marathon example.
First, you want your goal to be as specific as possible. Instead of saying I want to run a marathon, I specified that I wanted to run the Marine Corp Marathon in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes. You see, the more specific you are, the more clear your action steps will be to get there.
Second, your goal should be measurable. How are you going to track and measure your progress? Create a mechanism to measure your growth each step of the way. One effective way to do this is to set interim goals that allow you to achieve small wins as you progress towards your ultimate goal. In my marathon example, I attempted to run a half marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes as part of my training program to gauge my readiness towards running the full marathon in less than 4 hours and 30 minutes.
Third, we also need to be realistic. It’s perfectly okay to set a stretch goal, but don’t set a goal that’s not attainable. Every goal should have an action plan outlining the steps to get you from your starting point to your desired result. It would be unrealistic to assume that I could run my marathon in record time without taking inspired action to improve my strength and endurance.
Fourth, sometimes, unforeseen circumstances cause you to change your goals. That’s okay. Regularly review your goals to make sure they are still relevant. Let’s say the Marine Corp Marathon was postponed or cancelled. In this case, I would simply choose an alternate race.
And, finally, give yourself a deadline. Include a timeframe such as a week, month, or year, and include a specific date. In my marathon example, I ran the race on October 28, 2018.
Now that you know how to create SMART goals, I want you to schedule time with yourself over the next 3 days to create one goal with up to 5 micro goals using the SMART system.
So, now that you’ve got clarity and focus and you’ve set your goals, how do you stay motivated? Achieving your goals is seldom easy. It’s why knowing how to stay motivated is so incredibly important when it comes to getting what we want in the long term. The truth is that when you’re excited about something, it’s so much easier to stay motivated and achieve your goals.
So, let’s talk about my 3 simple strategies for staying motivated.
First, visualize the end result in excruciating detail — what the outcome will be, who it will impact, and what it will feel like when you achieve your end goal. This means visualizing the sweat on your brow, the feeling of relief, and the utter excitement — this is what will fuel you on days when you don’t feel like working. Make this visualization part of your morning routine. One of my favorite morning rituals when I first wake is to snuggle with my puppy in bed and say my prayers, gratitude, and visualize my day. If I’m working towards a big goal, I’ll close my eyes and visualize how it will look and feel when I reach my goal.
Second, break down your goal into bite-size chunks. Create smaller, micro goals and and tasks with shorter deadlines. For example, if your goal is to “re-organize your closet for the winter”, start by saying, “First, I’m going to tackle the shoes, then the sweaters, then finally the winter coats,” etc. This method can make the biggest task feel more manageable. I personally love to see small wins so I will often break down my goals and tasks into bite-size chunks so I can feel like I’ve accomplished something and more importantly, I can celebrate my small wins. Give it a try. You’ll be amazed at how much energy and motivation you can create on your own.
And, third, surround yourself with positive people. When you surround yourself with positive thinkers who emanate positive energy, you raise your energy and motivation to achieve your goal. Do you have people in your life who can engage in stimulating conversation about business and other things you’re passionate about? As humans, we give and receive energy and inspiration. Make sure you are open to receiving the energy from others. One of the mantras that I say every day is, “I’m open and receptive to all good things”. If you are into mantras and affirmations, I’ll share a quick tip. It’s always good to repeat your mantra or affirmation several times. It’s one thing to just say it, but it’s much more meaningful when you actually believe it. Repetition trains your mind to let your thoughts become your beliefs.
So, you may be asking yourself, how do I get started? I thought the same thing when I decided to get serious about getting clarity and focus on the vision for my business and life and creating goals to support what I wanted. That’s why I created this really amazing business planner. It helped me get clear on what I want, set goals, and stay motivated. And, it can help you too. Because knowing what you want, creating a roadmap to help you reach your goals, and staying super focused and motivated to get to your end result is incredibly inspiring and liberating.
And, isn’t that what life is all about?
What I want you to know and what I want you to remember is that you control your own destiny. It is our job to get clarity about who we are and what we want so we can take inspired action to create the life we want to live. All you need is 15 minutes a day to start doing it.
So, get clear on what you want, take one small step a day, and start today. As Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time”.