As you develop and integrate, you will naturally feel a sense of urgency to STOP doing the things that are not aligned with your developmental goals, as well as your purpose and mission. Thus, you will want to develop your “Front Sight Focus” skills. FSF requires that we simplify our “battlefield” and get very clear about what we really need to focus on. Simplifying the battlefield is SEAL-speak for eliminating distractions and decluttering your life. You must learn to do this for both external and internal environments. When you’re not bogged down with excess clutter you literally and metaphorically have more room for the things you need. If you jettison, outsource, and delegate obligations, beliefs, even relationships that no longer suit you, you’ll have more resources to devote to your remaining priorities.
You must jettison anything not important, or that is in the way. We take on so many things that we just don’t need… material objects (extra cars, toys, furniture, clothing, etc.). More important, we say yes to too many requests, bogging ourselves down in over-commitment. We also allow people into our lives who are negative or distracting– but we couldn’t see it before. What I am implying is that a big part of your growth will be to discern what belongs in your life… things, commitments, beliefs and people… and what doesn’t. Then, do something about it.
Reduce the Obvious Distractions
The first job of applying the principle of simplicity and decluttering is to reduce distractions. Start by eliminating network TV… what a waste of time unless it is a solid sporting event, news of a major development (that is not politics, but say a natural disaster affecting you), or a family movie. That alone will free up an enormous amount of time and eliminate a major source of negativity. Next up is looking at the use of your mobile device. Take a week to examine your usage stats using features like Apple’s Screen Time. Commit to only checking email 2 or 3 times a day. Quit Facebook and Twitter except for professional or occasionally use (my wife checks her Facebook account once a week, but my son is on Instagram constantly… he needs work in this area). Learn to shut down the phone before bed and don’t pick it up until after your morning ritual.
These two – TV and mobile phone use – will make a major improvement in the quality of your life, and the amount of undistracted time you have to train your body, mind and spirit. Once you master these two, other areas of distraction will become more obvious to you, such as:
- non-productive idle time at work getting pulled into useless meetings or someone’s orb of gossip or drama.
- Doing tasks and chores that you could have others do (a big one for me is home repairs. I can do them, but at the cost of me spending precious time doing other things… so I support the people who make their living doing those things).
- Procrastinating by focusing on the urgent but unimportant things, and mistaking this for front sight focus. Use the Eisenhower matrix to differentiate what is
Urgent + Important Not Urgent + Important
Urgent + Not Important Not Urgent + Not Important
You should spend most of your time in the top left (immediate FSF), then top right (Planning), Then bottom left (Crisis) and completely avoid bottom right until you have earned it (social media, running through email, etc.). This is a crucial exercise in self-awareness and control of where you put your attention.
Choose Your Focus
I know that I’m good at writing, coaching, podcasting, and training. I like to spend time meditating and envisioning the future. I am not great at executing day-to-day operations for my business. I must organize my time accordingly. At home, do I love to fix the dishwasher and paint the walls? Nope. I hire folks to do those things. My father would do everything around the house – and we grew up in a big house. That meant he was always working on it, and my brothers and I were slave labor. He did not spend a moment on personal development or nurturing his relationships when he got home from work or on the weekends. I decided early on that his example was not for me. My life is simple, and I have more time for the things I am good at and feel I need to do for my growth. The unexpected benefit is that I can also enjoy more financial success because I am aligned with my purpose and mission, and radically focused.
In my life the three core competencies I zero in on translate into generating and synthesizing new ideas and communicating them to my team, and through media like books, podcasts, speeches, this course, and others, etc. The key is to focus on only two to three core competencies. What are you really good at? Figure out and focus on what you’re really good at, and then narrow that down to two to three core activities.
- What is your purpose?
- What are you passionate about?
- What principles guide your life and what do you stand for?
- What are you uniquely good at?
- What can you offer the world that aligns with all of the above?
- What is your Vision? Your Mission?
- What targets FIT you and your mission now?
- How can you organize your day to focus only on the most important of these targets?
Focusing on your strengths doesn’t mean you don’t also shore up your weaknesses. But you have to choose your battles wisely… you can’t do it all. You shore up weakness if they are critical nodes in your life that could develop into to a failure point. Sometimes in a team environment, nobody else but you can fill a particular role. If your responsibility is related to a weakness, you need to improve in that area and not ignore it. Getting clear on what you should be doing and shedding what you should not be doing can lead to some tough choices.
This path is full of “hard-right” choices.
KISS-ing Things is Hard
Whether it’s leaving a team that’s taking you too far off track, dropping a friend whose negativity keeps you down, or ceasing an activity you used to enjoy but is keeping you from pursuing your core interest…you will inevitably face hard choices. Some folks come to this awareness but don’t do anything about it… because it can be painful. Twenty years from now do you want to be still stuck in that negative job or relationship. DO you want to be out of alignment, not passionate about your life or career? Not making the “hard-right” choices will squash the life force out of you.
Don’t be that person living a life of quiet desperation.
When I chose to leave Wall Street and join the Navy I called my folks to tell them the news. My mother burst into tears then my father accused me of trying to kill her. The process was an emotional roller coaster. However, I was clear in my mind that I needed to take that drastic turn, to start living aligned with my passion and purpose. There’s no effort more worthwhile than aligning passion and purpose into a career. If that means we have to reorganize priorities, then embrace the suck and do it.
My Mom felt I was turning my back on the family. The alternative would’ve been to continue down a path that would have led to that quiet desperation I was already glimpsing as a CPA on Wall Street. Often people have great intentions about starting new efforts but get derailed by others or by their own belief systems. They become timid and afraid to say no to obligations, or allow themselves to get talked out of things. We must have compassion but also learn to lean into our purpose with confidence and clarity. My family got over it and came around to support me. I remember how proud my parents were as I accepted the Honor Man award from SEAL training. Accept that the choices we make can have emotional fallout and that this is the natural result of reorganizing the structures in our lives. Time heals all wounds and when aligned the right people align with us.
Keeping things simple requires us to declutter our external and internal environments. It is an easy reminder that the simple plan, the simple idea, is always more effective than the complicated one. Steve Jobs was dedicated to this principle. Apple’s incredible success hinges on this concept. Jobs insisted on the simple solution and often canned projects and people who veered toward the complex. Here is a review of some easy steps to follow to enact the decluttering principle.
Spend the next week or so decluttering your external spaces: your closet, the trunk of your car, and your garage. Cleaning out these three spaces—which you probably look at or enter daily—can have a tremendous effect on your psyche. Releasing clutter and clearing physical space helps you release energy that’s been stopped up.
Apply the 80/20 Pareto rule: 20% of your actions will lead to 80% of your results. If you identify that highly effective 20%, and then eliminate, delegate or outsource everything else, you can increase the time you spend on your most productive actions. To identify your key 20%, for one week keep a journal of how you spend your time. Record your work time as well as your personal time in 30-minute blocks. Note activities like cruising the web, Facebooking, meals, TV, reading, etc. for personal time. Note activities like email, meetings, key project work, planning and creating for work time.
At the end of the week, analyze and chunk it down to get a picture of what you’re really doing every day. Which actions pushed you toward your goals and were aligned with your purpose? Which left you dead in the water or even took you off track and drained your energy? Begin to weed out those actions and time-sucks that aren’t serving you so you can focus on the actions that produce the results you want.
Align your 80/20 results with your Front Sight Focus planning so that the 20% of your activities producing the bulk of your positive results are working toward the right results. So, you need to get clear on what kind of results you’re looking for. Goal setting is critical to maintain your motivation and forward momentum and accomplish great things. Many people get frustrated because they choose too many goals to focus on at any one time, or they choose the wrong goals and start to clutter again.
The secret to effective goal setting is also ruled by the KISS principle. I recommend setting goals in three categories: long term (18 months to 3 years) and quarterly (3 months) and daily. The long-term goals are tied to your mission and purpose, and the short-term goals are tied to your long-term goals, and your daily target is tied to your short-term goals. Don’t choose more than three or four major goals at any one time. When you accomplish one, add the next. Piling goals onto a growing list results in being overwhelmed and more clutter.
Consider chunking your time into three categories: “Development (Self Mastery such as training, practice, retreats, education, nature, etc), Professional (Organizational such as projects, process, and financial goals), and Other (Family, Financial, Fun, etc.). These blocks of time can be an hour, a half-day, a full day, or an extended block. The important thing is to block your time or it will get blocked for you! You have heard the story about the jar of rocks? If the jar represents your life “vessel” and the rocks the things you do in life – then if you fill your jar with the small rocks first, representing little unimportant things that are always there for us to do – then you won’t have room or time for the big rocks, representing the key, important things we must do to move the dial. Blocking time allows us to fill our jar of life with the big rocks first, which still allows us to do the small things but with greater peace of mind.
Following these steps brings KISS to life. You can intellectualize this but until you experience it you will not know its power. That’s why we start with clearing stuff out physically. Then we move to simplify the number of activities we perform regularly and narrow our focus to the actual goals, keeping things as simple as possible by limiting the number of goals you pursue at any given moment. Finally, we plan and block our time for optimal focus. Simplicity brings focus, which leads to acceleration toward all of your being and doing goals. Avoid complexity and clutter… it leads to stagnation and will stall your development.