It was icy and the pickup truck on the road in front of me started sliding out of control as it rounded a corner on our way back from the ski hill the other day.
While others in the car with me were shouting distracting instructions, in my head I could hear my father’s voice from my driver training lessons with him: “Just focus on the road David.”
At this point, I didn’t worry about the truck ahead. I concentrated on feeling my tires on the road, the road conditions and what was happening around the vehicle.
For many leaders, 2020 was a year when they saw organizations slipping out of control in front of their eyes. Revenues dried up for a month or two, employees didn’t want to come to work, governments and health authorities were shouting out distracting instructions and fear was paramount.
Even now, we seem to be on a slippery slope: unending waves of pandemic, new and ever more dangerous virus strains, and considerable anxiety about whether businesses will be able to survive the seemingly endless threats of lockdown.
How do we remain grounded in these turbulent times?
For several years I’ve been encouraging my clients to name their year, as I have. I learned this from Christina Bianchini while presenting at a conference she hosted.
The idea is geared at helping us to focus on a desired achievement for the year. For example, some people might name their year the year of love, prosperity, health or fitness, or the year of the marathon.
In business a company might name it the year of transparency, clarity, profitability or communication.
Last year I named it the year of presence. I tried to be present in each moment of 2020. I can’t say I succeeded but I tried. I stuck my name of the year on my computer and looked at it every day. I tried to be present to those around me – my clients and family – as well as being present in my activities.
Having a focus for my year grounded me when I felt out of control, bored or complacent. When the world news, social media or other distractions were fighting for my attention, I tried to come back to my goal: to be present in the moment.
The year is coming to an end and as I look back and evaluate how I did as a husband, father, business owner, employer, coach or friend, I know I have lots to work on. I’ve decided that 2021 will be the year of listening deeply.
Like the last few years when I’ve written down my focus for the year, I haven’t understood exactly what I’m trying to accomplish, I just know I need to be grounded in a focus. I recognize I need to become a better listener.
As I explained my focus for 2021 to one of my clients last week, they commented over Zoom that they thought I was a good listener. It was at that moment I realized I wasn’t listening to what they were talking about and I was thinking about something totally irrelevant, confirming my need to focus on listening deeply.
As we returned from the ski hill, thankfully, the truck in front of me stayed on the highway. Because I was grounded and able to focus on the road, I avoided being frozen in fear, which could have resulted in an error of judgment.
Being rooted and attentive to a guiding motto, principal or goal can keep us from being distracted while others around us feel out of control.
I encourage you to name the upcoming year and to reflect daily on your goal for the year. Hopefully, come next year, when others have floundered, you will feel a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment because you’ve bettered yourself in some little way that might just change your life.