ENVISION THE FUTURE FOUR
DETERMINE THE FEELING YOU’RE AFTER
DEFINE WHAT’S MEANINGFUL
Whether you have a high degree of clarity in life or not, don’t fret, because you can learn to develop it. Clarity is not a personality trait that some are blessed to “have” and others are not. Just as a power plant doesn’t “have” energy – it transforms energy – you don’t “have” any specific reality. You generate your reality. In this same line of thinking, you don’t “have” clarity; you generate it.
Clarity is the child of careful thought and mindful experimentation. It comes from asking yourself questions continually and further refining your perspective on life.
Clarity research tells us that successful people know the answers to certain fundamental questions: Who am I? (What do I value? What are my strengths and weaknesses?) What are my goals? What’s my plan? These questions may seem basic, but you would be surprised how much knowing the answers can affect your life.
Clarity on who you are is associated with overall self-esteem. This means that how positive you feel about yourself is tied to how well you know yourself. On the flip side, lack of clarity is strongly associated with neuroticism and negative emotions. That’s why self-awareness is so key to initial success. You have to know who you are, what you value, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and where you want to go. This kind of knowledge makes you feel better about yourself and about life.
Next, you need to have unambiguous and challenging goals. … You should also give yourself deadlines for your goals, or you won’t follow through. … Having a clear plan is as important as motivation and willpower. It also helps you see past distractions and inoculates you against negative moods – the more clarity you have, the more likely you are to get stuff done even on the days you feel lazy or tired. When you see the steps right there in front of you, it’s hard to ignore them.
Practice One: Envision the Future Four
High performers are clear on their intentions for themselves, their social world, their skills, and their service to others. I call these areas self, social, skills, and service, or the Future Four.
“Know thyself” is the timeless advice inscribed on the Temple of Delphi in Greece over 2,400 years ago. But there’s a difference between “know thyself” and “imagine thyself.” High performers know themselves, but they don’t get stuck there. They are more focused on sculpting themselves into stronger and more capable people. That’s another big difference: introspection versus intention.
We’ve found that high performers can articulate their future self with greater ease than others. Tactically, this means they tend to have a faster and more thoughtful, confident response when I ask them, “if you could describe your ideal self in the future, the person you are trying to become, how would you describe that self?”
In reviewing recordings from my interviews, it’s clear that high performers have thought about this more than others. … Now it’s your turn
- Describe how you’ve perceived yourself in the following situations over the past several months – with your significant other, at work, with the kids or team, in social situations with strangers
- Now ask, “Is that who I really see myself being in the future?” How would my future self look, feel, and behave differently in those situations?
- If you could describe yourself in just three aspirational words – words that would sum up who you are at your best in the future – what would those words be? Why are those words meaningful to you? Once you find your words, put them in your phone as an alarm label that goes off several times a day.
High performers also have clear intentions about how they want to treat other people. They have high situational awareness and social intelligence, which help them succeed and lead. In every situation that matters, they know who they want to be and how they want to interact with others.
If this sounds like common sense, let’s find out whether it’s common practice in your life:
- Before you went into your last meeting, did you think about how you wanted to interact with each person in the meeting?
- Before your last phone call, did you think about the tone you would choose to use with the other person?
- On your last night out with your partner or friends, did you set an intention for the energy you wanted to create?
- When you were dealing with the last conflict, did you think about your values and how you wanted to come across to the other person when you talked to them?
- Do you actively think about how to be a better listener, how to generate positive emotions with others, how you can be a good role model?
Questions of this kind may help you look within and gauge your level of intention.
I’ve found that high performers also regularly ask themselves a few primary questions right before interacting with people. They ask questions like these:
- How can I be a good person or leader in this upcoming situation?
- What will the other person(s) need?
- What kind of mood and tone do I want to set?
What is apparent across all high performers is that they anticipate positive social interactions and they strive consciously and consistently to create them.
Try this activity:
a. Write down each person’s name in your immediate family and team.
b. Imagine that in twenty years each person is describing why they love and respect you. If each person could say just three words to summarize the interactions they had with you in life, what would you want those three words to be?
c. Next time you’re with each of those people, approach your time with as an opportunity to demonstrate those three qualities. Have those words as the goal and start living into those qualities. Challenge yourself to be that person now. This will bring life back into your relationships.
Next, we found that high performers are very clear about the skill sets they need to develop now to win in the future. They don’t draw a blank when you ask them, “What three skills are you currently working to develop so you’ll be more successful next year?”
Look to the future. Identify key skills. Obsessively develop those skills.
- Think about your PFI (primary field of interest) and write down three skills that make people successful in that field.
- Under each skill, write down what you will do to develop it. Will you read, practice, get a coach, go to a training? When? Set up a plan to develop those skills, put it in your calendar, and stay consistent.
- Now think about your PFI and write down three skills that you will need in order to succeed in that field five to ten years from now. In other words, try to imagine the future. What new skills will you likely need then? Keep those skills on your radar, and start developing them sooner rather than later.
The last of the Four Futures, after self, social, and skills, concerns how high performers look to tomorrow and consider their service to the world. Specifically, high performers care deeply about the difference they are going to make for others and in the future in general, so they cater today’s activities to delivering those contributions with heart and elegance. They may sound like a broad description, but it’s how high performers talk. They often speak of how all the extra efforts they make to wow people today are vitally important to leaving a lasting legacy tomorrow. That’s why, for many high performers, the details of how they treat others or approach their work truly matter. The high performing waiter obsesses over whether the table is set with symmetry and precision, not just because it’s his job but because he cares about the overall customer experience and how the restaurant will be perceived now and in the future. The extraordinary product designer obsesses about style, fit, and function, not just to create strong sales through this season but also to create devoted fans to serve a larger brand vision. What ties all these things together is the future focus conveyed in this question: “How can I serve people with excellence and make an extraordinary contribution to the world?”
The opposite is easy to spot.
When someone becomes disconnected from the future and their contribution to it, they underperform.
- When I think about the Future Four – self, social, skill, and service – the area that I haven’t had as much intention in as I should is …
- The areas in which I have not been considering those I serve and lead are …
- To leave a lasting legacy, the contributions I can start making now are …