“The difference between leaders and followers is perspective. The difference between leaders and better leaders is better perspective.”
(J. Robert Clinton. Making of a Leader)
In a few days I’ll turn off my work motor and head out for that green pasture called vacation. It’s no surprise, therefore, that I’m thinking about how I am going to use this break. I am looking forward to freedom from the digital tether that calls, texts, or emails me into the weeds of my normal responsibilities. It is a time for some fresh altitude. And, I can’t wait.
Altitude: my favorite metaphor for perspective.
Altitude creates the ability to see above the fray in order to navigate the present in light of the future. At ground level your field of vision is cluttered with rocks and trees and critters and obstacles. Get to 10,000 feet and the vista opens up for you without any heavy lifting. At altitude your perspective connects your current location with where you’ve come from and where you are going. At 10,000 feet, perspective is not difficult to achieve. Knee deep in alligators, perspective is nearly impossible.
The thing is, you have to fight for perspective every day. Perspective is fragile. Elusive. Maybe even a bit fickle. Longing to be productive in the present easily seduces us to think that perspective from the past is strong enough to carry us into the future.
The relentless gravity of the urgent and the noise of the immediate will cannibalize your perspective under the banner of “we really need you.”
I am constantly thinking about what it takes to win the fight for perspective. It’s something I write about often, because it’s something I’m always working on.
Q: What have I learned about how to win the fight for perspective? A: We have to fight for it every day!
By fighting for it, I mean building consistent disciplines and rhythms. I mean ruthlessly interrupting any half-baked notion that perspective comes to you out of the blue. Believe that and you might as well sit on the porch waiting for a winning lottery ticket—you never purchased—to flutter into your lap on the next breeze.
1. A DAILY SABBATICAL
Yeah, sure, I could call it a daily sabbath, but a sabbatical is something big, bold, and deliberate. Call me crazy, but I am saying you should fight for a little sabbatical window every day. Carve a slice of time devoted to one of the 3-R’s: non-urgent Reading, Reflection, or other Re-creation activities. See more thoughts on this in my recent post on the secrets of elasticity. Gary, that’s impossible. Really? The world of über successful people have found a way. Warren Buffett, for instance, reads 500 pages a day! He estimates that he spends 80% of his time reading and thinking. Check out this article for more.
2. A WEEKLY “ALTITUDE ADJUSTMENT”
The fulcrum between a week that’s gone and the week that’s possible is the perfect moment to stop for a little perspective. What progress did you just make? What ate your lunch? Where or how would you like a do-over? What is the one most important things you need to get done in the week ahead? How is your time currently spoken for, and in light of what’s most important, how does your time this coming week need to be reallocated?
Remember those goals and priorities you outlined for yourself a while back? The week ahead (and maybe the week or two after that,) are clean slates to be filled by your actions and time allocation to make progress on those dreams. Look away from that inbox, and get courageous enough to connect your time to your big priorities.
3. A MONTHLY DAY ON THE SUMMIT
Build it as a personal planning day, a personal retreat, a day of solitude… whatever format serves your soul best. But, one way or another, find a way to get out of the office and away from that digital tether for one day every month. Claw your way to 10,000 feet and look out way over the horizon.
Where are you headed? Where do you need to be headed? And, what are the mission-critical steps that will help you get there over the next 30 days?
Evaluate the past 30 days. There are things to celebrate and there were unexpected trends that need to be corrected. This is a moment to leverage the insights of self-reflection for the sake of ongoing course correction. This monthly discipline will do more for long term impact than just about any other altitude producing action.
The key to the fight for perspective is not a matter of rhetoric or good intentions. It is what you do every day, every week, and every month. I dare you to join the fight.
[ A Free Offer: These rhythms are outlined as part of my “Game Plan for an Intentional Life.” In the months ahead, I will be creating a package that includes video training, a workbook, and a follow-up coaching appointment. In the meantime, if you write me and ask for it, I’d be willing to give you the current version of the “gameplan.”]