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Finding What's Important: Get transparent with yourself and find your why.

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to attend a webinar with the Studer Community Institute, Leading Change in Times of Uncertainty and Disruption. Kristie Tobias, an innovative and dynamic national consultant and speaker with Huron Healthcare, led a great discussion with over 400 participants. I'm excited to share some of that info with you in the next several posts. One of the early topics was Building a New Normal. In order to do this, we need transparency, dexterity, and resilience.

Transparency is what I want to share today. Transparency means being honest and open about and with ourselves, our business, and with others. When you increase your transparency, you can find your why–what's important to you.

Below are some tips on how you might find, refine, or refocus what's important to you.

In Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Simon Sinek uses the origins of Apple, Inc. (then Apple Computers, Inc.) to illustrate finding why. Long before the founders built their first computer, they built a device (that they never sold) that allowed people to circumvent long-distance rates. They didn't like the status quo, and didn't buy into the gatekeeper mentality. That the powerful should hold the keys to the kingdom. Apple is born out of its founders' why. They exist to push the boundaries.

The why comes from looking back. Sinek shares that finding why is a process of discovery, not invention. In order to find it, you don't look forward to your goals and aspirations, you must look backward to find your core. You must willing to take the time to be transparent and intentionally self-aware. Your why comes not from what you want to do, but from what you're made of at your core.

Inventory How You Use Your Time.

If you're like me, this all sounds great, but putting it into practice seems daunting. Where do you start? There are a lot of right answers. For me, it starts with data. A popular and enduring quote in management literature from Peter Drucker states, "what gets measured gets managed." In Building A Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change Is Reshaping America, leadership expert Quint Studer says that what gets measured gets improved.

So first, take a measurement of how you spend your time. This might mean looking back at your calendar, or mindfully tracking how you spend your day? How much screen time do you have (if use an iPhone, you can now pull a report on daily screen time, number of pickups, minutes on which app, etc.)? Who are you seeing? What are you doing? When and for how long? What's your setting-where are you?

Microeconomics studies how individual actors make decisions. From what I remember from my microeconomics class (a very long time ago; no need to tell me if I'm technically wrong here, economists), given a set of assumptions, we as individuals use our resources so that we get the most benefit. If this is generally true, looking at how you spend your time will give you an idea of what you deem most important (or at least most urgent). You have a finite amount of time each day, and you decide how to allocate each minute.

Whether you mean to spend your time like you are, or whether you end up needing to shift your attention, this inventory may be a good start.

Consider How You Feel.

Now that you have your inventory, take a step back. Consider your feelings. How do you feel before each item you identified? How do you feel during? How did you feel afterward?

This part takes some hard work. If you're like me, taking stock of feelings is not easy. But this is where the magic happens. If you can discover how you respond on a biological, psychological level, then you're one step closer.

This gets to your roots. Who are you? Not who do you want to be, but what makes you, well, you? Once you can answer that, things get interesting. Then you get to decide what to do with it. Which core traits and values do you want to lean into? Which do you need to temper?

You've taken inventory of how you spent your time in the past. Now take some time to inventory how you feel. Take a week and record your daily tasks. Take some time each day or a couple of times a day to reflect on how you felt before during and after. Write it down. Then reflect on why you may have felt that. Write it down.

Consider Your Intuition.

Now that you know how you've spent your time, what you feel about that, and possibly why you feel that way, you may learn that you knew what was important all along. This may seem counterintuitive considering all the above, but you likely already know to some degree what's important to you. After you find it, you may say, "oh yeah, I knew that."

We humans are hard-wired with intuition. Certified smart folks say so. According to studies in the area of Information Theory, the conscious mind can process less than 50 bits of information in a single second. In contrast, the subconscious mind processes over 11 million bits of information from our senses per second.

So, your subconscious mind has plenty of data to work with, and those numbers only reflect the data you're processing right now. Your brain has a bank of information that it's processed over the course of your entire life story as well.

While you can thoughtfully take stock of your life story, plenty of it has been hardwired into you. Intuition is built on experience and expertise. Experience is the experimentation; you try, you win some and lose some, and always learn in the process. Expertise is the art of mastery. As expertise builds, you automatically know which observations are more important, valid, and reliable. Consider your job. How long did you take the first time you completed a typical task compared with now? Certain things are now baked into the cake of you. Your intuition knows what you should do.

What's Important?

Now that you've taken some stock of what's important. Do more of that. You have time.

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