Purposeful Selfishness: What It Is and How to Get It

By 22 October 2013 March 20th, 2019 Achievement, Change

Early autumn is always the busiest time, with everyone back from summer holidays, thinking about what we need to achieve by year end. This is true for me as well, and so this blog has unfortunately had to wait in the wings until now. For those readers who have been waiting for the next installment, apologies.

My clients tend to come from financial services, engineering/manufacturing, or the public and third sector. Now well-launched into that final quarter push to year end, all the meetings activity since the summer has given me cause to reflect on how it is that we each get things done. Most of us will achieve our business objectives and hit our targets, but what are we doing for ourselves that would make the biggest difference in the long term?

Without a singularity of purpose and drive, a purposeful selfishness¸ we risk having the year slip past without having achieved the one thing that would most satisfy us.

Who gets ahead at work?
Often, it comes down to who has the fiercest drive, who is most determined, and who has managed the political currents most effectively. And even when all three elements seem to be flowing together, like white water rapids, it is still hard to know whether the next bend in the river will turn everything upside down. So if you are not an alpha male or task-oriented driver, and you do want to make your mark, read on.

One of the common criticisms of the investment community these days is that it is far too short-term focused. But in truth, very few people make a clear long-term investment in themselves. And without that singularity of purpose, that meaningful goal in our careers that we are driving toward, we are prone to the demands and distractions of the current week. And we risk the whole year going past and feeling no further along with that significantly defining achievement. Yet with clarity of vision and a long-term view, we can use it to guide our weekly and daily decisions.

What prevents us from achieving our own purpose?
Chiefly, we would have to spend the time fleshing out what exactly it is. I encourage my clients to write a page or two about the future as part of our goal setting process. Envisioning it clearly makes us more able to strive toward it. It only takes an hour or so to sit down and write a few paragraphs or bullets of “what the world will be like when I have achieved ____.” Few activities we can do are more motivational than this.
As you write about your future, consider:

  • What things will happen to me as a result of achieving ____? 
  • Who will I have more contact with? 
  • What will I spend most of my time on once I’ve achieved it? 
  • How will it be different than today?  

You can also come up with some qualitative measures of your progress—that is, how others will be different toward you, and how your own feelings and abilities will have changed. For example,

  • My team will…
  • My comfort level with ____ increases.
  • My interactions with ____ are now _____.

Once you have clearly defined your future achievement and the benefits to your life of achieving it, choose the one thing each day to work toward it.

Do your one thing first thing in the morning, for at least an hour every day.

It may not sound like much, but at minimum it will get you one step closer than you were yesterday. And if it doesn’t sound like much, all the better, as it will be easier to do regularly. Create the habit, plan for success (get in earlier or send the phone to voicemail or resist the urge to check your email), do whatever it is you need and can do to give yourself that hour each morning. After that, the rest of the day will be what it is, but with an hour focused on your long-term achievement safely behind you, you will feel better about yourself and be more likely to see other opportunities to strive toward your goal, too.

There are more than 40 work days left from tomorrow to 20th December. What could you achieve with 40 hours of dedicated focus between now and the end of the year?

Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures

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