For Clarity and Focus, Ask More Questions.
The relationship between action and results is clear; you can’t have the latter without the former. So why, then, do so many of us – people with goals and dreams – struggle with sabotaging behaviors like procrastination? It seems illogical to stand still when we have goals to crush and dreams to chase. It’s easy to condemn a person and label them lazy, but is there something else at play here?
It’s true, hard work and hustle get you to the finish line. It’s also true most people talk a good game but when the time comes to act the line gets a lot shorter, fast. While there are a multitude of reasons for this, one reason I believe deserves strong consideration is that it’s due to a lack of clarity. A lack of clarity is usually either directly related to inaction, or more subtle and indirect, couched in the deep corners of self-sabotaging behaviors or emotions. A lack of clarity contributes to a lack of focus and creates an inability to act with an immediate and defined purpose; we become engulfed in confusion and frustration. Without clarity of purpose, it becomes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our goals and dreams, likewise, grow dim and feel less possible, less real to us. All this makes us significantly more susceptible to negative behaviors like procrastination.
Imagine you’re a business owner in the early stages. So many things to learn, so many things to know. In keeping with your goal of business growth, you realize you need to create and execute a top notch marketing plan. Upon this realization, you’re immediately faced with options. You could start posting on various social media platforms or focus on networking and forming strong alliances. You could even, decide to spend your time building an email list. These are just a few of the available options, but even these handful of options come with additional secondary and tertiary level options to consider. If you’re not careful, a seemingly simple situation like this can begin to cause overwhelm – especially when you have a million other things demanding your attention, as most business owners do. These good options could be the exact things that make it hard to decide which way to go. Doubt seeps in, confusion follows, and procrastination becomes the result.
To avoid such pitfalls, we need a way to quickly move through and cancel out white noise as it appears. White noise can come in many forms, some obviously negative and some seemingly positive. An abundance of options, for example, seems like a great thing, and it can be. But it can also be a trap if those options make it difficult to choose and move forward.
The answer to this problem of white noise and a lack of clarity is to ask questions.
To restore order and clear confusion, ask questions – more questions, better questions. Asking questions, especially at the first sign of chaos, brings clarity to the situation which allows us to focus with the precision needed to move beyond the immediate obstacle. The example above related to business, but this truth is applicable always. Asking questions bring clarity. Clarity clears the path in front of us, allowing us to see the road ahead. When we know where we’re going and how to get there, only then can we believe we have what it takes to make it to the end. Given the pot of gold waiting at the end of the road – our goals, our dreams – this level of clarity would turn most able bodies into willing journeymen. It’s not so much laziness that kills people’s dreams, it’s an inability to clear up confusion as it arises. That confusion is like fog on a city skyline, a little can be dealt with, but too much and our movement begins to slow to a halt. We become paralyzed by our inability to see clearly.
So what questions should we be asking ourselves?
A good rule of thumb is to reverse engineer the process. Begin with the end in mind: what’s the goal? Ask enough questions to ensure the goal is clearly defined, specific and measurable. Then brainstorm all options, eliminating as many as possible based on your clearly defined goals, capabilities, resources, and time constraints, for example. This step alone will eliminate much of the white noise that results in confusion. To take it a step further, break the goal down into smaller mini-goals. For each mini-goal, go through the process again. By doing this, you’ll eventually end up with a plan that outlines – in practical steps – how to accomplish your goal in a way you can feel confident about. This confidence is born of clarity and is the ultimate remedy for negative behaviors like procrastination. At the end of the day, it’s amazing the motivating force clarity can have on a person. If you’ve struggled with bad habits like procrastination, get into the habit of asking more questions. You may be surprised by how quickly your motivation returns once you’re able to see the road ahead clearly.