Clear on the Outcome, Flexible on the Approach

Life gets busy. Without intention and attention, it is easy to be constantly busy and yet still not moving the ball forward on the things that really matter.

The mantra that keeps me aligned and inspired through the blur of life is “Clear on the outcome, flexible on the approach.”

I am a big believer in taking time out to get clear on outcomes. On the busiest of days, this can be mean taking pause while brushing my teeth, waiting for an elevator, or walking between meetings. I consider it a mental discipline to be able to scan my life and my work calendar, as well as my inbox to get a “line of sight” on the things that matter most in any given moment. Just as important as staying clear on the outcomes, however, is staying flexible on the approach.

Let’s face it. As you go through the day, a lot of surprising curve balls can and do come your way. It might rain on your parade or picnic and worse yet, the report you were counting on having on your desk by 9:00 am might not be there. Conditions change, vital resources do not land on your desk when you need them, and sometimes members of your team let you down.

To stay on track, even when things do not go your way, it’s essential to connect your to-dos to what really matters — to align these to-dos with the bigger picture and dare I say, with your passion. If you are like me and most people in the world staying focused on your passion — what really drives you forward in work and life — is not always easy. Taking time to step back and link your priorities to your passion is a vital calibration.

This brings me back to my mantra: If you’re clear on your outcomes and flexible on your approach, you are already ten steps ahead of the game. This simple mantra, which I carry with me throughout the day, ensures that I know what I need to do and when, but it doesn’t tie me down to achieving my outcome in a single way. If I have to run rather than walk, I do it. If I have to delegate rather than do it myself, I’m prepared to reach out to my team.

My alignment — how I go through my day and stay focused on key outcomes — is ultimately all about my willingness to stay flexible and about ensuring that even my to-dos are ultimately fueling my larger purpose and passion.

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