The world today has been described as “VUCA.” Which stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.
It’s easy to get triggered, to feel threatened, and to live with a “reactive mindset,” Dr. Daniel Friedland writes in Leading Well from Within.
There is another option, however. Despite this “VUCA reality,” we can choose instead to live with a proactive or “creative mindset.”
“The essence of being proactive is to take responsibility for [our] life rather than reacting to outside circumstances or other people,” Danny writes.
Living with a creative mindset begins with having a motivating vision for our life. Then, having a strategy to achieve that vision. Next, outlining an implementation plan to operationalize our strategy. And, finally, earning the results we seek.
So far this week, we’ve explored how to create a vision for our life and specify the results we want to achieve. The final step? Come up with the strategies which will allow us to achieve our vision and results and then implement them.
Strategies are simply the key components of our plan to achieve our vision and SMART results. We don’t want to overcomplicate our approach, Danny tells us. Instead, we focus on eliminating or reducing the bad stuff and adding more good stuff.
1: As we did with our vision and results, Danny suggests we focus on three areas: health, relationships, and productivity.
We start with our health, which Danny defines broadly as optimizing our energy. We ask: “What strategies would be most helpful to realize my vision of optimal physical health?” We give ourselves the license to be inspired, creative, and pragmatic as we look for strategies we might take.
For example, to eliminate the bad stuff, we might strategize quitting tobacco, decreasing alcohol consumption, or reducing sugar and sweets in our diet.
“To put in the good stuff, [we] might include the sub strategies of eating well, getting exercise, getting adequate sleep, and practicing mindfulness—all major areas scientifically proven to contribute to [our] wellness, well-being, and performance,” Danny writes. For eating well, we might focus on “Eat [real] food, not too much, mostly plants,” as Michael Pollan writes in his book In Defense of Food. “In addition, to maintain or lose weight, [we] might employ a strategy to eat slowly and mindfully,” Danny writes.
Another strategy we can implement is to get social. “Running with a friend or joining a socially supportive fitness class holds [us] accountable, provides extra motivation, and makes [our] activities even more fun!” Danny observes.
Implementation refers to the specific steps we take to execute our strategies. We create a “to do” list with checkboxes and deadlines. We focus on what we will do today, tomorrow, and over the next few weeks.
For example, to implement our strategy of eating well, we might create an action item to dispose of the unhealthy foods in our home, build a healthy-eating grocery list, and perhaps design a meal plan for the coming week. We schedule the items in our planner or our calendar.
Our goal here is not to overdo it or overwhelm ourselves. Instead, we “start by prioritizing just one, two, or three strategies that [we] feel we can realistically implement,” Danny notes. We choose to focus on a few strategies now and come back later in the year and take on others.
“The most important thing is to take action and experience early success,” Danny writes.
Once we’ve outlined our strategies and implementation plan for optimal health, we celebrate! We’ve “just completed the framework for [our] own personal wellness program!” Danny writes.
The next step? Get to work and implement our strategies.
2: Relationships are the second area Danny recommends we create strategies and an implementation plan. We seek to enhance our connection with the people we love and care about and, if we are religious, with God.
Danny suggests we begin by simply making a list of people who are most important to us and then ask ourselves what we can do to strengthen the bond we share. “The simple act of asking questions and listening quietly for answers deepens [our] connection,” he writes.
Under each name, we write down specific ideas that come to mind. For example, “Take son to beach this Saturday”; “Help Dad with his taxes this Sunday”; and “Arrange surprise party for Jane next Friday,” Danny suggests.
Another strategy is to identify ways to quantifiably improve our relationships using a measurement tool like the Cantril Ladder. If we rate a relationship as a 6 out of 10 and we would like it to be a 9, we ask: “What would it take to achieve this result? What qualities would I need to bring? How would I need to pay attention? What would I need to do”?
In answering the “What qualities would I need to bring?” question, we might sense we need to be more fully present, be more loving, and express ourselves more fully. These answers become our overall strategy to strengthen this relationship.
We may also consider how we can express ourselves more fully. For example, “just before we enter [our] house, begin a meeting at work, see a patient or client, or make an important call, we think consciously about how [we] can best make it a meaningful and memorable interaction,” writes Danny. Our “intention primes [our] subconscious circuits to find creative ways to make it so.”
Another strategy is to be intentional to “resolve conflicts, heal damaged relationships, and let go of resentments, all of which drain [us] of energy,” Danny notes.
3: The third and final area to focus on is our productivity. We ask: “What strategies do I need to implement to achieve peak productivity?” Danny writes.
To maximize our impact, we focus on saying no to things that take us off track. “Part of learning how to say no is to deeply understand what [we] are saying yes to, specifically, [our] personal vision and [our] ability to make an even larger contribution in the world,” Danny writes.
Next, we think about what capabilities we need to build—”that is, the skills or capacities [we] may need to develop to efficiently complete [our] projects and serve others with excellence,” notes Danny.
To maximize our effectiveness and efficiency, we schedule high-priority tasks during the peak performance times of our day, perhaps first thing in the morning. “Also, to optimize performance, [we] experiment with synchronizing [our] work stream with [our] body’s natural activity-rest cycles of approximately 90 minutes of activity and 20 minutes of rest,” Danny writes. We may find we “can get a lot done in just two to three of these productivity blocks a day.”
When we clarify our priorities, the people we need to connect with, and the most productive times of our day, we “create a very specific implementation process for [our] work stream to optimize [our] creativity and peak performance,” Danny notes. We then track our plan in our journal, calendar, or perhaps on a whiteboard.
The final step? Pay attention to what is and what isn’t working. Then, iterate. We assess all four elements: our vision, the results we seek, our strategies, and our implementation plan. We reflect and then take action to run the cycle again and again.
Reflection: Is my vision motivating? Are my results clear? Do I have effective strategies to achieve my vision and results? Do I have an implementation plan that I’m consistently executing?
Action: Journal about my answers to the questions above. Take action based on my reflections.