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3 ways to keep the big picture in focus amidst insanity

When I finally took a moment to slow down and focus on myself, it became easy to see what I was doing wrong…

The past three months have been a blur filled with delivering speeches across the country, meeting amazing people who are building a better world, and beginning a few new projects for Ignited Leadership.

And yet, as the nature of my work became more and more exciting, something started to feel off. Some of the things I loved doing began to feel burdensome. My excitement had dwindled too. Instead of leaping out of bed like I normally do, I found myself feeling apathetic about the day ahead.

When I finally slowed down and focused on myself, I realized exactly what happened: I lost sight of the big picture. Unchecked, modernity has a habit of making it hard to keep the big picture of life, work, and leadership in focus.

When I ask audiences how many people get at least 10 emails a day, people laugh. Everyone gets at least 10 emails a day. Many of us receive 50+ emails a day. With such a steady stream of incoming messages, it’s easy to live in your inbox and forget about all of the bigger picture things outside of our day-to-day demands. Things like improving yourself and your community, high quality time with your favorite people, and keeping a focus on the things in life that you truly cherish are too often pushed aside by the daily demands of keeping your head above water.

The email stream is just one example of how modernity makes it hard for us to see the bigger picture. Most of us use social media and monitor a variety of news sources. Many of us have experienced the blurring of our work-life divide, and feel over burdened by an abundance of personal and professional obligations filling our calendars and our minds.

The end result is that we end up reacting to a million different things and never have high quality time for ourselves to reflect. Without time to reflect, we end up losing sight of the big picture and that is exactly what happened to me. As the scope of my life and work increased, I had less time for myself, and consequently, was losing direction.

This, unfortunately, is common among developing leaders and high performing individuals. Our schedules are so full that the time we could be using to focus on the big picture is taken over by the demands of our day-to-day.

You’ll know you’ve lost sight of the big picture when you’re getting dangerously close to apathy, you don’t feel passionate, you feel lost, you feel needlessly frustrated, or you find your heart just isn’t in it anymore.
What we have to do to lead at our highest level is get the big picture of our work back in focus. Here are three strategies that I used to help me regain my focus, excitement, and happiness amidst the blur of high pressure demands.

1) Take yourself on a date to regain focus of the most important things in your life. Schedule a time to take yourself out to a nice place, and reflect on the things that mean a lot to you. I like to go the atrium of the National Portrait Gallery, and if you live in Washington, DC, I highly suggest taking yourself there. Regardless of where you go, turn off your phone, and if you are using a computer, disable your internet connection. Give yourself the luxury of focusing all of your attention on yourself.

Personally, after a few hours of writing and reflecting, I decided to narrow the focus of my time down to the six most important things. Three for me (health, simplicity, and love) and three for Ignited Leadership (delivering great speeches, exceeding my client’s expectations, and writing). I printed those six focuses out in huge font and put them in my bedroom to make sure the big picture stays in focus.

2) Say no more often, cancel unimportant engagements, and let a few of the balls drop. One of the reasons our lives expand so significantly and we lose sight of the big picture is because we try to please people. There is nothing innately wrong with trying to please people, unless you’re trying to please people at the expense of your own success. If this is the case, start cancelling the appointments you have that aren’t that important to you, turn down offers that don’t align with your big picture, and be cool with letting a few of the less important balls drop.

The aim is to free up more time for you to focus on the big picture items by eliminating those that aren’t actually important.

3) Move the big picture forward a bit each day. Now that you’ve gotten the big picture in focus, and you’ve freed up some time by eliminating the things that don’t truly contribute, all that is left is to make sure you’re moving the big picture forward a little bit each day.

Dedicate a bit of time every day, even just two minutes, to your big picture. If you’ve broken your big picture down into component parts as I have, make sure that each component part gets a bit of love each day.

For developing leaders and high performing individuals life has a nasty habit of snowing us under with constant, high pressure demands that need our attention now. As these demands mount up, it’s easy for us to lose focus of the big picture and become disheveled. That’s exactly what happened to me. By taking yourself out on a date to bring the big picture back into focus, getting cool with saying no to things that aren’t serving you, and moving your big picture forward a bit each day, you’ll not only accomplish more important things, you’ll regain your sense of vivacity and excitement.

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