Practice Two: Determine the Feeling You’re After
The second practice that will help you heighten and sustain clarity in your life is to ask yourself frequently, “What is the primary feeling I want to bring to this situation, and what is the primary feeling I want to get from this situation?” … Most people are terrible at this.
High performers demonstrate a tremendous degree of emotional intelligence and what I call “willful feeling.”
My automatic emotions don’t have to be in charge. My feelings are my own.
… But I share this here because it’s so thoroughly obvious that high performers are generating the feelings they want more often than taking the emotions that land on them.
- The emotions I’ve been experiencing a lot of lately are …
- The areas of life where I’m not having the feelings I want are …
- The feelings I want to experience more of in life include …
- The next time I feel a negative emotion come up, the thing I’m going to say to myself is …
Practice Three: Define What’s Meaningful
High performers can do almost anything they set their heart and mind to. But not every mountain is worth the climb. What differentiates high performers from others is their critical eye in figuring out what is going to be meaning fun to their life experience. They spend more of their time doing things that they find meaningful, and this makes them happy.
What emerged was that high performers tended to equate four factors with meaning.
First, they linked enthusiasm with meaning. When forced to choose between two projects, for example, many mentioned they would do the one they could be most enthusiastic about. This finding dovetails with research findings that enthusiasm independently predicted life satisfaction, positive emotions, few negative emotions, environmental mastery, personal growth, positive relations, self-acceptance, purpose in life, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and achievement. Clearly if you want a positive life, you would do well to summon as much enthusiasm as possible.
The second link to meaning was connection. … Like everyone else, high performers value the relationships they have in life and work. What’s unique about high performers, though, is that connection often correlates with meaning, especially at work. Connection is less about comfort than about challenge. In other words, high performers feel that their work has more meaning when they are in a peer group that challenges them. In their everyday life, too, they value being around inspiring people who push them to grow more than, say, people who are just fun to be around or are generally kind.
Third, high performers relate satisfaction with meaning. If what they are doing creates a sense of personal satisfaction, they feel that their life is more meaningful. Teasing out what “satisfaction” means to people is as difficult as finding out how they define “meaningful.” But for high performers, there is a clear equation for what leads to personal satisfaction. When your efforts correspond with one of your primary passions, lead to personal or professional growth, and make a clear and positive contribution to others, you tend to call those efforts satisfying.
Passion + Growth + Contribution = Personal Satisfaction
The fourth way that high performers say their efforts have meaning is by making them feel that their life “makes sense.” Psychologists call this coherence. It means that the story of your life – or of recent events in your life – is comprehensible to you in some way.
Often, the desire for things to make sense is more important to a high performer than are autonomy and balance. They will put their own desires for control or work-life balance aside if they sense that what they are doing makes sense and adds to a greater whole.
You may find this simple equation helpful:
Enthusiasm + Connection + Satisfaction + Coherence = Meaning
Not all of these factors need to be in play at once to give us a sense of meaning. … The important thing is this: You need to bring more conscious and consistent thought to what you will find meaningful in life. You start by exploring your own definitions of meaning and how to enhance it in your life. When you learn the difference between busywork and your life’s work, that’s the first step on the path of purpose.
- The activities that I currently do that bring me the most meaning are …
- The activities or projects that I should stop doing, because they are not bringing me any sense of meaning are …
- If I was going to add new activities that bring me more meaning, the first ones I would add would be …
Putting It All Together
You have to have a vision for yourself in the future. You have to discern how you want to feel and what will be meaningful to you. Without those practices, you have nothing to dream of and strive for, no pop and zest in your daily life propelling you forward.
We’ve covered a lot in this chapter. How do we put all these practices together so that our practices for clarity are strong and consistent?
[I use] a tool called the Clarity Chart. It’s a one-page journal sheet that [you] fill out every Sunday evening for twelve weeks. … download the full version at HighPerformanceHabits.com/tools
High performance clarity happens because we put these concepts up onto the dashboard of our conscious mind. Perhaps you’ve given occasional thought to the concepts we’ve covered in this chapter. But our goal is to focus on these things more consistently then you ever have before. That’s what moves the needle. With greater focus will come greater clarity, and with greater clarity will come more consistent action and, ultimately, high performance.