The jobs we want to get done are found at the intersection of what matters to us and what needs to change. Intersecting moments that we can manage every day when we choose to pay attention to the things that move us and motivate us.
This is the work we care about. This is the work worth doing. The work that is often most difficult.
And that is a good thing. If the results you want to achieve were easy there would be no value. Give anyone the right knowledge, conditions, timeframe or budget and they will perform. But so would everyone else. So there would be no value. And the future of work is all about value. Delivering in moments that matter by doing work that matters.
Doing this valuable work doesn’t necessarily mean turning up tomorrow and making a career changing decision, or taking a large leap of faith without first considering the implications. It means finding some simple things you can do that will get you started.
If you usually feel stress what would it take to find calmness? If you are being unproductive how could you better manage your time? If your team is facing a problem what insight or action could help move that issue forward?
If you can do this once, then of course you can do it again. And that’s the point. We all have historical moments of courage. Whether they occurred last decade, last year or last week, something happened, and you immediately felt fear and anxiety arise.
Probably manifesting in your head with a voice telling you to stop, step back and avoid the risk in front of you. But for some reason, you saw the opportunity in front of you, and decided to step forward. And that was the moment you deployed the biggest, boldest and best version of yourself.
Finding the courage to deploy your capability in these difficult moments is what gets you through the hard part. When some part of you wants to step back, play it safe and do what you have always done, but instead, the courageous part of you speaks up, encourages you to take the path less trodden, and get the job done.
Let me share three suggestions that might be helpful in the moments you decide to dedicate your courage and capability to get the work that matters to you, done:
1. Assess the risk
When you next find yourself at the crossroad of stepping up or shrinking back, assess the risks. Every choice we make has prizes and punishments. Often, we restrict what is possible by overstating the risks. We see them adversely, in absolutes, or ending up as anarchy. We can also lose sight of rewards to be gained, and so default to safety. So be clear about the risks and rewards to accurately assess the course of action that best serves your future.
2. Take action
Taking action doesn’t have to mean pushing all your chips into the middle of the table and going “all in”. This all or nothing approach is what can terrify some people into inaction by amplifying the negative consequences we fear when something doesn’t quite happen the way we intended. Sometimes the small cautionary step, or series of steps, is a more appropriate way to trial your approach, test out the waters and turn inaction into action. One exception. If you decide the reward is worth a big risk, then go big. Don’t hide behind your doubt or go half hearted.
3. Replace perfection
The last thing is to do is review your success. When we set about getting something that matters to us done, we hope for the best. The reality is most success occurs as a series of steps and involves a stumble or two along the way. So replace perfection with progress and leave yourself open to a second, third or fourth step. This will give you a more realistic perspective of the work to be done at the start, and delight you if your success experiences the fast track.
Work that is worth doing involves set backs, strategic misalignment, subtle changes or seismic shifts that scare us along the way. These difficult moments can derail the most seasoned performer. So rather than ignore them, or be interrupted by them, use these three steps to identify them, and positively impact them. This is how the best get better.
They do the work that matters and makes results happen.