How To Stay Focused And On Course

If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never know when you get there.

I know this sounds obvious, but it’s absolutely true. However, so much of the life of a creative pros is parceled out in packets – bitesized chunks of effort – that somehow cobble together into a body of work. It’s difficult at times to understand how it all fits together, and where it’s all heading. Worse, a lack of context for your work can mean that no matter how much you accomplish, or how much your work is recognized, it’s never enough.

Why are you working? What do you hope to accomplish?

I believe there are three “markers” of progress that help all of us avoid the trap of drifting along with our work. I put them in the form of three questions to make them easier to process.

1. Where are you going?
This is about vision. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you should at least have a sense of where you want your work to go, what you like, and what you don’t.

Vision isn’t about seeing the finish line, it’s about seeing to the horizon. You need to have a general sense of how you need to shape your work, your practices, and your relationships so that you are moving in the right direction. As long-time John D. Rockefeller business partner Henry Flagler once quipped, “I have always been contented, but I have never been satisfied.” I think this is a healthy attitude, as it allows for a sense of present-mindedness and forward motion at the same time.

Here are a few ways this question might play out for you:
What impact do I want to have with my work?
– Who is my intended audience, and how could I reach them?
How might I grow my/our influence over the next year through my work?

 

2. Where have you been?
This is about learning. Are you getting better at your craft? What are you doing to intentionally grow yourself and push outside of your comfort zone? Can you identify places in your life where you are substantially different than you were a year ago? Why or why not?

Here are a few ways this question might play out for you:
What skill have I developed over the past year?
How has my mindset or attitude changed?
What is different about my relationships?

3. Where are you now?
This is about celebration. You can’t live in the past or the future, as much as many of us try. You have to learn to celebrate and “mark the moment”, even daily. It can help to do a simple review of each day, and celebrate the big and little wins. (One tool I’ve recently become aware of is the 5 Minute Journal. It allows you to quickly record ambitions and wins at the beginning and end of each day.)

Here are a few ways to ask this question:
What success did I see today, even if it’s personal?
What am I grateful for today?
What is true about me, even though I sometimes deny it?

Vision, learning, and celebration are key elements of progress. Taking a little time each week to ask these three questions – “where am I going?, where have I been?, where am I now?” – can help you uncover opportunities for growth and impact, and prevent you from drifting off course.

Share your thoughts:

Please keep your comments civil and on topic.

2 Comments

  1. Lucy Clark

    Your ability to prompt with questions has really helped me continue to stay focused. Thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  2. Bob Caples

    I keep appreciating you more and more, Todd

    Reply

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I'm Todd Henry.

I'm Todd Henry.

I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas. More

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I write books, speak internationally on productivity, creativity, leadership, and passion for work, and help people and teams generate brilliant ideas.

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