Look around; there are more options, opportunities, and potential distractions than ever before.
We live in an overwhelming world where it seems like, if you’re not constantly on the look out for the next big thing, you’ll be left out in the cold. Don’t get me wrong, the same reasons that make the current age overwhelming are the reasons that make it thrilling. But most of us aren’t born with the skill set we need to take advantage of it or even manage it.
In order to lead yourself to the success you crave, you need to hone that skill set. So what skills make or break the smart, capable, ambitious people of this irrepressible world? I’ve identified three: perception, discernment, and focus. By leveraging these skills, you can become a better self-leader and more reliant on your own judgement and creativity to generate success.
Self-leadership isn’t about what you want to do — it’s about how you want to do it. You get to decide where you’re headed and how you’re going to get there. Self-leadership is the key to creating a framework that has you relying more on yourself than on gurus, can’t lose formulas, or shiny object marketing.
When you’ve honed your self-leadership skills, you can objectively analyze new tactics and shiny objects instead of getting distracted by them. That means you’re more in control and more confident.
Self-leadership is your path out of the overwhelm. It’s your personalized approach to realizing your ideas in a business that brings you the wealth, peace, and ease you really want. Let’s examine perception, discernment, and focus further so that you can start leading yourself more effectively today.
Tara Mohr is now a well-known expert in women’s leadership and well-being and the author of Playing Big. But before that, she took a rather circuitous path. She started at Yale, got an MBA from Stanford, and did a stint in the non-profit sector. She’s a certified life coach, too.
Over the years, Tara met many women. She listened to them, observed them, and became aware of patterns.
Her perceptiveness allowed her to create a deep understanding of the women she wanted to serve. She identified the problems that were below the surface while at the same time acknowledging their more acute needs. She perceived that many women “play small” as they’re constantly trying to gain one more set of credentials, one more rung up the ladder. In response, she developed the Playing Big brand.
Women immediately flocked to the idea of Playing Big and a quietly powerful venture was born. Tara’s perceptiveness resulted in a message that resonated at the core of the women she wanted to serve.
When you use all your senses — both your mind and your heart — to better understand the world around you, you can lead yourself to the kind of insights that generate immediate buy-in from those who matter most. In order to supercharge your perceptiveness, start asking “Why?” every time you notice something a little interesting. Why does your customer respond that way? Why did that blog post get more hits than average? Why do I constantly procrastinate on this project?
The deeper you dig, the more you perceive.
My partner, Sean, works as a server at a brewery. He’s a master, seeing service as a craft not just a job. When he approaches a new table, he uses his power of perception to take in an immense amount of data about the people sitting there.
When you’ve been doing it for as long as Sean has, you know what to look for. The signs — the whispers, the smiles, the questions, the enthusiasm or lack thereof — are obvious. For him, it’s not just about perceiving what the situation is but using it for his benefit. Luckily, he’s a server that understands he benefits most by creating the best experience for his customers.
He also understands that each customer’s “best experience” is different. The family who’s just trying to get hot dogs into their kids before they head to the beach wants fast service and no nonsense. The couple who is on a beer tour of the North Coast doesn’t want to be rushed and is very happy to listen to a lengthy description of everything on tap.
Sean perceives the situation and discerns the best course of action to create the experience the customers want. Ideally, that leads to a much bigger tip at the end of the meal.
Discernment isn’t just decision-making. Discernment is using what you perceive in the environment around you to choose action or direction that’s grounded in who you are, what you want to create for people, and how you want to connect with others. How do you make the most of a decision between two or three equally correct paths? Discernment.
I’ve worked with and observed hundreds of entrepreneurs over the last 5 years. One of the biggest factors that predicts future success is the ability to focus. Focus is not just the ability to block out distractions but to create the right conditions for uncompromising progress toward one’s goal. That probably sounds exhausting. Yet, one of the key conditions for that kind of productivity is to discover what energizes and motivates you, then to leverage it to your advantage.
There are many enemies to this kind of focus today. Beyond the usual suspects of technological distractions and ever-shortening attention spans is a silent killer: too many goals. Manifold goal setting has become a panacea for a lack of clarity and purpose. The more goals you have the more productive you can be, right? Wrong.
The scourge of hyper goal setting is like the curse of busyness in that they’re two highly desirable yet completely useless states of modern living. If you find yourself answering, “I’m busy” every time someone asks how you’re doing, you know this well. Modern life asks us to wear busyness like a badge of honor. Yet, the busier we become, the less we’re actually creating.
Focus is what allows us to inhabit the quiet spaces where power and self-leadership reside. It’s in these quiet spaces that we make the most progress toward our goals and produce the work we dream about.
To truly focus, you need to edit. Edit your vision for happiness, edit the number of features your new widget comes with, edit the way you communicate with your team, edit the number of appointments on your calendar. Edit the number of things you’re trying to accomplish at any one time.
Once you find yourself in the quiet space that an edited life and business affords you, you can tap into the power that allows you to act on the imperative to create, innovate, and transform. You can build something that truly matters to the people who matter most to you.
Using these 3 skills — perception, discernment, and focus — you can rely less on outside direction and more on your own self-leadership. If you’d like to better understand yourself as a self-leader, I’ve developed a free quiz you can take to see where you’re at now and what you can do to become more effective.
You can take advantage of all the opportunities this exciting world affords without feeling constantly overwhelmed. When you’re more effective, more focused, more perceptive and aligned with the market, you exude authority. That’s the key to leading both yourself and others toward your vision of a better world.
Tara Gentile is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.