If having a clear sense of purpose in your life is the first pillar of personal development for change agents, the second pillar is knowing what is truly most important to focus your energy and action on, from one moment to the next. The more deeply you feel called to make the world a better place, the more keenly you will feel out of alignment if you’re not making progress towards your purpose.
This video and the accompanying worksheet will guide you through the process of dialing in on your priorities, both as an instrument of impact in service of your mission in the world, and as a vessel of joy with your family, friends and all those whose lives you touch.
Sometimes a helpful perspective on setting your priorities can come from where you feel most stuck in your life. When we get stuck, we tend to get caught up in a negative loop. Often, when you are struggling to establish and act on your priorities, you’ll find yourself getting caught up in procrastination and busy work as well as a sense of exhaustion and overwhelm. In my practice as a coach for funders and social entrepreneurs, as well as in my own journey of personal development, I have found that there are six patterns of thinking and feeling that often get in our way as change agents. Let's call them “obstructing angels” because they are part of our psychological immune system—they are trying to keep us safe, but they are getting in our way nonetheless. Building up your practices around setting priorities is all about helping you clear out that confusion and get clarity on what is truly most important for you to focus on, from one moment to the next.
When you don’t have clarity about your priorities, which of these barriers to impact and joy come into play in your life? What does focusing your time and energy on the wrong things cost you?
In the previous post on Pillar #1: Purpose, we talked about defining your purpose in each of three major life domains. Some people call these "work, family and personal" but for change agents we use the more resonant categories of "impact, joy & love, and personal powerplant." Just as it’s important to define your purpose clearly in each of your three major life domains, it’s likewise important to be clear about your priorities in each of these three areas.
The worksheet for this session gives you an opportunity to reflect on your priorities for each of these areas. Below we’ll walk through the questions that go along with setting your priorities for the “impact” domain of your life--this is all about identifying and consistently acting on your "mission maximizing output."
Identifying & Prioritizing Your Mission Maximizing Output
1. What is your ultimate vision for a better world? What is true and flourishing in that world you hope and dream to see, whether in your own lifetime, or for children in coming generations?
2. Many factors will likely have to come together to bring this ultimate vision for the world into reality. What particular element of this change story is calling most for YOUR service? What is your arena of engagement in pursuit of this ultimate vision, whether for now, or for life?
2.a. Is there a personal story or experience that leads you to focus on this arena of engagement?
3. What’s the most audacious measure of impact in your chosen arena of engagement? What will be different when you and others have succeeded beyond your dreams within this arena, and made the greatest possible contribution towards the ultimate vision for a better world you named in question 1?
4. Within your chosen arena of engagement, what is the most important contribution for you to make towards the audacious measure of impact you named in question 3? What is the ONE thing that you CAN do, such that by doing it, everything else on the path to achieving audacious impact becomes easier or even unnecessary? (See Gary Keller’s book The ONE Thing for more on this). Jim Collins introduced the idea of the “hedgehog concept” in his book Good to Great as a way to figure out exactly how to focus a business for unique success in a competitive market. Here’s an adaptation of this idea for change agents. Your ONE THING is at the intersection of four spheres:
●Root cause of the problem in your arena of engagement
●“Resource engine” that can reliably bring money and other assets to solve the problem
5. When you achieve success pursuing your ONE Thing, how will you know? Brainstorm a list of the lagging indicators of your successful impact. These are the measures of success, once you have achieved it.
6. How will you know you are on track towards success on your ONE Thing before you get there? Brainstorm a list of the daily/weekly activities that constitute leading indicators of your successful impact.
7. From your list of leading indicators, which stand out as the most powerful contributors to your lagging indicators? This is your Mission Maximizing Output –the activities that truly move the needle most on the outcomes you value.
8. What is the next, best step for you to prioritize your mission maximizing output on a daily and weekly basis? What percentage of your work time are you spending on producing your MMO now? See if you can start tracking this and gradually increase your MMO percentage from month to month. Any sustained improvement, however small, is is incredibly valuable because prioritizing the most powerful contributors to your most valued outcomes pays compound interest over time!
You can condense your answers into a one page primer—and go through the same exercise for setting your priorities around joy and love as well as your personal powerplant. Download the worksheet to get a customized, fillable template for all three.
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These are the same materials we use with the social entrepreneurs in our accelerator program and the funders we coach one on one. The world has never been more in need of a new, greatest generation of change agents and that's why we're opening up free access to these materials to anyone who's ready to make use of them!