Think about the people you work with on a daily basis. Some of them know how to make a difference. In fact, they’re hell bent on it. Others show up, check a few boxes, and go home.
Let’s focus on the latter camp. This camp includes two groups of people. I call them the dreamers and the bureaucrats.
Dreamers are the ones who toss out idea after idea. These ideas may be good; they may be interesting. They might even be revolutionary. But none of them ever happen. As brilliant as dreamers can be, and often are, they’re all sizzle and no steak.
Bureaucrats, on the other hand, strictly adhere to guidelines. They think and act inside the box. They may get the daily minutiae done, but they can’t seem to focus on the larger goal.
In many ways, these two groups are a world apart. The dreamers are strategic thinkers; the bureaucrats are tactical thinkers. But they have something important in common.
They aren’t producing anything of real significance.
Do you identify with one of these groups? Are you unhappy about it? Then it’s time to take a few steps to your right.
Here’s what I mean by that.
The Focus 2×2: A Tool for Self-Awareness
In an earlier post, I talked about the “power of no.” Saying no to nonessential demands allows people to focus on what’s important: their long-term professional goals.
People who’ve mastered saying no have what I call a “tight filter.”
They may be corporate executives, or they may be subject-matter experts in their chosen fields. Regardless, they know their core skill set and their best career path forward. They can see and understand the “why” behind everything they do. And it motivates them to aim higher.
This is the difference between being an agent of change and being a cog in the machine.
Take a look at this 2×2. The productive group on the right includes both strategists and tacticians. They’re productive, so they’re successful in their respective careers. Notice the dreamers and the bureaucrats languishing on the left.
To realistically assess yourself using this chart, you need to ask yourself questions like these:
– Do I typically have more ideas that I don’t execute than I do?
– Do others say I prevent work from getting done?
– Am I a multitasker, or do I prefer to tackle one task at a time?
– Am I more comfortable delegating responsibilities or completing tasks myself?
– Which is more important: getting it perfect, or getting it in on time?
If your answers place you somewhere on the right, you’re in good shape. If you’re on the left, you need to get serious and get focused.
Clarity of Purpose Is Key
To become an agent of change, and change your career trajectory for good, you must work on tightening your filter. To do that, you need clarity of purpose—the “why” behind your work. Why are you doing this? What are you in it for?
Having clarity of purpose is like having the wind at your back. It allows you to prioritize—to say yes to the things that matter, and no to the things that don’t. It inspires creative thinking. It empowers you to make a meaningful contribution at work. And it keeps you from getting sidetracked so you can build the professional future you want.
The question is, are you ready to step out of your comfort zone?
I can’t promise it will be easy. But if you vow to spend less time staring at the ceiling or the cubicle wall and more time looking for ways to make a difference, you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish.