How to Seek Clarity and Find Your Best Self (High Performance Habit #1)

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Did you know that you could be a high performer? That phrase might sound a little strange as a mom. It immediately makes me think of high performance level athletes, which is so far from where my life is right now. I would never have picked up this book off the shelf, but fortunately last year I started following Marie Forleo and I saw her interview with Brendon Burchard about his most recent book, High Performance Habits, and was immediately intrigued.

What I quickly discovered was that I am a high performer, at least at heart, and that the habits he identified could help me be successful at whatever I cared to do.

When he says high performance, he's talking about how to leave mediocrity behind, stop settling for average, and maximize your personal potential as a human to effective and productive in a way that keeps you happy and fulfilled over the short and the long term.

That's exactly what I want. How about you?

He and his team spent years researching, successful high performing people across a variety of industries and he identified six habits that they all had in common, and that are not based on skill. They are habits that anyone can choose to cultivate in order to become a better version of themselves, a high performer.

The six habits are: Seek Clarity, Generate Energy, Raise Necessity, Increase Productivity, Develop Influence, and Demonstrate Courage.

Someone asked me on Instagram which one was my favorite, and I said for me right now it'd be raising necessity, which I explain why in a couple weeks when we get to it, but the two that I was most excited about for all of us were seeking clarity and increasing productivity.

So let's dive into number 1 - Seek Clarity. He identifies 3 practices to do to seek clarity, and they are envision the future four, determine the feeling you're after, and define what is meaningful.

Envision the Future Four

"High performers imagine a positive version of themselves in the future and then they actively engage in trying to be that."

It is fitting that this is the first practice of the first habit of the book, because it really does provide the foundation for everything else that we do. If you're familiar with the idea of writing manifesting statements or affirmations, it's based on the same idea. (If not, read You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero.)

If you follow Gary Vaynerchuk and hear him talking about self awareness and you think you want some of that, this is a great place to start.

The 'four' are self, social, skills and service. And in a nutshell, the practice is this: think about how you want to be and what you want to do in those four categories, in the future.

Self

When he works with his personal coaching clients, he has them think about 3 words that they aspire to, that they want to describe themselves. These are words that they feel describe their best self in the future - and he has them put those words in their phone with an alert that goes off several times a day, to bring those words to their attention as representing who they said they want to be.

Stop and think of your 3 words. 

Now write them down somewhere and put it somewhere you'll see it throughout the day. Maybe it's your phone. Or maybe it's your bathroom mirror, your fridge, or your computer monitor. If you're not sure the right words, just start with something, and as you seem them and think about them, you'll come up with better words and you'll tweak it as you go. I'd encourage you to also write a longer form of these as sentences in your daily affirmations. And it's all a work in progress, and it's meant to change with you over time. Your best self in the future will change from season to season, based on both the challenges you're facing and the person you're becoming.

My words right now are confident, joyful, and patient.

One important practice that underlies the rest is that high performers constantly revisit them, they have an ongoing habit of seeking clarity.

Social

Ok, I love this one, let's go straight to the most relevant mom example.

Think about each of your kids, imagine them several years into the future and think about how you would want them to describe you. 

I found this incredibly helpful for thinking about who I am and who I want to be, some ideas that can be hard to nail down. And it gave me some different words than the above exercise, words like present, and curious.

But of course this is not just about your kids. Now do the same thing with your spouse and your closest friends and family, maybe also coworkers or clients.

Before they walk into a room, meeting, situation, etc. high performers set their intention about who they want to be and how they want to interact with others in the upcoming situation.

This is a great tip for those of us who have to switch gears multiple times a day between focusing on coworkers or clients, and giving attention to our kids.

In the interview I saw, Brendon talked about pausing in that transition time (hallway before the mtg, driveway before coming in the house, etc.) to take a few deep breaths, release the emotions of the previous environment, and set intention about who you want to be in the environment and relationships that you are walking into.

As a work at home mom, this advice was gold.

Skills

If you've been following on Instagram, you'll see this is the one I started posting about first. I'm fascinated with his concept of a Primary Field of Interest, and the idea to identify 3 strategic, supporting skills to focus on within it.

This touches on the much discussed and advised topic of 'niche-ing down' and narrowing your topic. Everyone says to do that and I'm board with it, but it's just so hard to nail down and stick to. I've been in this process for a year and a half. So I'm going to share my Instagram post from a week ago, and then my current thoughts, and you'll see how my answers have morphed in just the last week.

Instagram post 7-18-18:
In one word or phrase, what is your primary field of interest? And what skills are you focusing on within that?

I've been wrestling with this. My most recent answers are Marketing as my PFI which seems obvious once I accept it, and then video, analytics, and creative thinking.

The more you can niche down, the better. According to Brendon Burchard high performers intentionally seek clarity in their focus, and then consistently over time revisit to confirm they are staying aligned with their most strategic activities. 

I'm trying to find a list of skills to focus on that I can filter all my decisions through. This is what clarity can do for you - it enables you to be more decisive, make the right decisions, and work toward becoming an expert in your field in a way that is uniquely you.

Hopefully over time you'll see my unique combination crystallize on my blog and YouTube channel.

So I've been thinking how I would niche down at my day job if I could, and thinking about I really do best and where I have the most to offer moms with an online business, and I realized advertising is the obvious answer.

So maybe my PFI is Digital Advertising, and then based on my audience, my target skills would probably be Facebook/Instagram ads, Google/YouTube ads, and Analytics across platforms. From a practical and financial standpoint, that seems like a home run.

Last week I had Marketing for PFI, and then video, analytics, and creative thinking. But as I've been creating content and teasing out what resonates most with me and with my audience, I've realized I want to play with multiple formats: written, audio, and videos. So I don't want to specify a format as I'm listing my core skills that will support and define my PFI.

Creativity is a theme that I love and that I think will be a constant, because that explains why I want to play with different formats and platforms. I also really love ideas, content, and content strategy, which becomes content marketing as used by online businesses. And I love math, numbers, and Google Analytics. I really love reporting and mining data, looking at traffic reports to help figure out insight to guide future action. I love the process of walking through all of this with others, which leads me to consider offering consulting services.

And then I love growth, and books about everything, because reading books means I'm growing, and sharing about it, which means others are growing.

Creativity, marketing, analytics, content, consulting, advertising, growth.

I believe in the value of focus. In one of his books Steven Pressfield highlights concentration and depth as values to strive toward, because they are the ultimate enemies of resistance. (If you don't know what 'resistance' refers to, you've got to read Turning Pro, and Do the Work.)

I've got very serious personal goals to increase the amount of concentration and depth in my life. But first I've got to finish fighting the very real battle of narrowing my focus, battling my inner demons, and coming to agreement with myself on a few concepts that I'm willing to devote the next 1-3 years on.

Numbers. Creative thinking. Site traffic. Content marketing. Advertising.

Where is the common denominator?

For me, I don't actually have the answer to this yet.

Another track I've considered is following Brendon's example. He shares about how his PFI was Leadership and his skill was curriculum development, and when he left his job to go on his own he pivoted, and made his PFI marketing and he focused intently on learning video and email marketing. This rounded out his knowledge and enabled him to become a leader in online education.

So along those lines I'm considering focusing on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, since I already know a ton about Marketing.

I hope that helped get your wheels going about your own area of focus. And we do have more practices to cover, and then we'll cycle back around and explore how exercising the practices in an ongoing way allows them to inform each other and facilitate our steady growth.

Service

This requires a small but subtle shift and I think he explains it best, so I'm going to share, and interact with, a passage from the book, where he explains that high performers search for relevance, differentiation, and excellence:

"Relevance has to do with eliminating things that don't matter anymore. High performers don't live in the past, and they don't keep pet projects at the forefront. They ask, 'What matters now, and how can I deliver it?'"

I know that's an area I need to keep working on, the willingness to keep learning and when necessary to let a pet project go, to always be assessing what is best now.

"Differentiation allows high performers to look at their industry, their career, and even their relationships for what makes them unique. They want to stand out for who they are, and to add more value than others do."

Right, as I help others and get feedback I need to keep watching for what they see as unique to me and what the value is the I am uniquely giving them.

"Excellence comes from an internal standard that asks, 'How can I deliver beyond what's expected?' For high performers, the question 'How can I serve with excellence?' gets more attention than perhaps any other."

Ok, excellence, got it.

"In stark contrast again, underperformers are too focused on self over service. They give more mindshare to 'What do I want now?' than to 'What do those I serve want now?' They ask, 'How can I get by with the least amount of effort?' instead of 'How can I serve with excellence?' Underperformers ask, 'Why don't people recognize my unique strengths?' while high performers are asking, 'How can I serve in unique ways?'"

Which is why everyone always recommends doing market research and surveys to understand your target audience.

What stands out to me most is that last question, "How can I serve in unique ways?" which is really helpful although in the context it feels a bit self-focused. I think the other half of the equation comes out in Brendon's question prompts and that is the concept of legacy. What contributions do I want to start making to what will eventually be my legacy?

I'm going to write these questions down to revisit.

Determine the Feeling You're After

How do you want to feel? This is a wonderful topic, and it gets a few pages in his book, but if you want to dive into it, I recommend The Desire Map, by Danielle LaPorte. You can read this post I wrote after reading it in April.

She talks quite a bit about turning goal setting on its head and asking yourself how you want to feel, instead of what do you want to accomplish.

How do you want to feel?

Now brainstorm a list of activities you should pursue toward that end.

Back to Brendon's book, basically, we can take ownership of our feelings, decide how we want to feel, and then set things in motion to bring our life into alignment with the feelings we want to have.

Define What's Meaningful

High performers link meaning with enthusiasm, connection, satisfaction, and coherence.

Here is an action step for each of these, to help you find and increase your sense of meaning:

  1. Ask yourself every morning, "What can I get excited about today?"
  2. Look for ways to connect with people who inspire and challenge you.
  3. Find a passion that allows you to both grow and contribute to others
  4. Take time to reflect on your big picture, with aim of helping it make sense.

The last one, coherence was huge for me. I think because I have always sensed that it was deeply important to me, but until now have felt rather apologetic about it, as if I should be happy because I already have 'enough'. You can be grateful for your current blessings and still strive for more. Here is what he says:

"This sense of coherence seems to be particularly important to high performers. They want to know that their efforts align with something important, that their work is significant, and that their lives are creating a legacy and feeding a larger purpose."

I am fascinated by this concept of alignment. He mentioned it in the interview and I wished there was more in the book about it, but I'm starting to find there is if I dig deeper.

That is the end of the list of practices he covers for Habit 1, Seeking Clarity.

At the big picture level, I have to say that reading his book was like coming home. All of these things resonated with me. I could see how there were roots of all of this in my personality or my past, but I needed the knowledge of how to move forward with intention and cultivate these practices - in order to make real progress toward becoming the best me.

That's what we all want, right? We all want to feel we are progressing and are free to progress toward who we were meant to be.

This is what I wish for all of you, and in a holistic way, not just emotional or mental freedom, but also physical and financial.

Where are you in your own journey of seeking clarity?

Please comment below, I'd love to hear about it.

7/28/18 Update: I've decided to pivot like Brendon did. For me this means making Online Business my PFI. And I know so little about this that I'll have to research and figure out what the top 3 skills are. But I know a lot about marketing, advertising, analytics and how to work from home. I need to learn how to run your own business, specifically an online business. I'll learn biz logistics, and then combine that with what I already know, and approach it with my unique perspective of who I am. As I work on this, I'll be re-reading Stand Out, listed in the links below, and answering her questions again based on my new focus.

Additional Resources on this Topic

These are books that have helped me explore who I am and what my unique contribution could/should/will be.

Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It, by Dorie Clark

Known: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age, by Mark Schaefer

Crush It!, and Crushing It, by Gary Vaynerchuk

You are a Badass, by Jen Sincero

 

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