Reflection Guide: Effort is not what we think
Reflections on making a different kind of effort to get what we truly want
Last month I mentioned that I’ve changed the format for my monthly reflection guides. As a quick reminder, I chose to do this so that your reflection time with me could focus more on the quiet turning inwards, and less on an external process created by me.
I also decided that these monthly reflections will always:
1. Leverage my four hard-won principles of Messy Humaning. For details read this post.
2. Take whatever format works best, from journaling to moving to meditations and beyond.
3. Urge you to do the hard thing of taking a quiet moments for yourself in our over-scheduled world.
4. Push you to find your own deep inner knowing and open up to the most expansive part of yourself.
I hope this helps you allow fresh truths into your perspective.
The Effort to Get What We Desire is Not What We Think
This month I’ve been reflecting a lot on what I truly desire, and what effort it will take to get there. Effort is something I am very good at, but effort without reflection is not the way to get what you truly want. Slowing down to make a shift in effort is sometimes necessary to cut to the quick of what matters and what is essential.
When I worked in Corporate Strategy, my team was constantly faced with choices about doing more or doing less. As a team we often wanted to do more. We wanted to make more slides, give more presentations, use more data, tell a bigger story. We wanted to impress and to show off our skills, to demonstrate all the research we had done and insights we had gained. And yet, the more effort we put into distilling our work—synthesizing, summarizing, and slimming down what we had to say to just the essential points—the clearer our message became, and the easier it was to share a vision, create alignment between people, and get into right action.
Meanwhile, the executives to whom we presented our work also often struggled with the question of more versus less. Of course they preferred to see three slides rather than five, and four bullet points on a page were better than eight. But here’s the rub. These very same executives had difficulty limiting the number of projects they would allow to unfold within their area of responsibility at any one time.
Rather than making the effort to review all projects under consideration in their area, which might require reviewing 100 pages in a slide presentation for a 1000 person organization (gasp), they preferred to hear only the high level. However, that meant they were not equipped with the information needed to help the entire organization prioritize. Without critical decisions about what to subtract from the agenda, this allowed projects and work to balloon, which typically led the output on those projects to stagnate as everyone competed for time and resources.
With every choice about how we spend our time comes a pivotal decision about how much effort we put into considering what to subtract.
It’s so tempting to move forward at a break-neck pace, with a pure focus on maximum, speedy output. But when we do so, we forget that to get meaningful results, we need to slow down, review all that’s coming up, and have the discipline to cut back to the essentials that will deliver on what we truly want.
This requires a clear understanding of what matters most.
That process relies on an understanding of one’s core values. This is as true for any organization as it is for an individual. And as much as we might like to think that core values can be about money, growth, accolades, acquisitions, or having more, that’s just not how they work. Core values are deeper. They move us at a heart level. They mean something. And they can take some introspection to find.
That introspection is the subject of this week’s reflection.
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