Water and I aren’t really good friends. Don’t get me wrong. I like looking at lakes, oceans, and the falling rain. I like a refreshing shower. I’m even willing to hit a golf ball over a water hazard on the course. But when it comes to swimming, it’s not going to happen. Or at least that’s what I thought until my son Stevie needed me to be a chaperone on a whitewater rafting trip this summer.
For those of you who have kids, you know that all bets are off on the day they’re born. Everything you successfully avoided as a married couple or single adult suddenly becomes fair game when your child looks up at you and asks what color helmet and floatation device you want to wear.
It doesn’t matter how great you are at running meetings or delivering a pitch to a new client. Business skills won’t help you here. That seemingly flimsy raft is waiting for you to get on. It doesn’t help that the rapids are rated. I don’t need to know how rough they’ll be. I’ll be hanging on for dear life regardless of the turbulence and trying to smile when my son looks back at me.
A rafting experience can be a lot like the workplace right now. You feel determined to get through rough waters, and without an anchor, it can be disorienting. What’s helped me this year is focusing on my fight.
Focusing on your fight means to be you and find strength in who you are. Get clear about what you stand for and believe in. And most importantly, hold on to it.
Each of us must hang on through the shifting rapids if we want to enjoy what’s at the end of the river’s journey. While leadership has gotten more complicated in today’s world, we need to remain steady, get clear about our purpose, and hold on tightly to a vision. Digital Talent Agents CEO John Hall suggests that you practice the three Rs to improve your focus. I’ve borrowed his terminology here and added my own descriptions. Tell me if you agree:
Reflect on what you’re fighting for every morning. What can you do to keep your fight top-of-mind so every decision is guided by your purpose throughout the day? For instance, my fight is lifting up my team leaders so they can be present for their people. My fight is answering the call when the senior leadership team asks me to step up and lead our diversity, equality. and inclusion initiative. My fight is staying focused on excellence in everything I do.
Avoid what I call distractions and sideshows. As the day progresses, you’ll be pulled in multiple directions. Don’t let the lure of multitasking or on-the-job disruptions prevent you from staying focused on your fight. Multitasking actually slows you down. Schedule blocks of protected time when you can be present for a task without calls, social media, or texting alerts. Consider visual triggers you can post near your workspace to keep your fight top of mind.
Hall recommends taking breaks throughout the day to regroup—even if it’s a 30-second breather. He says it’s helpful to ask, “What do I want to accomplish?” I would also add that you can take a longer pause at the beginning and end of your day. It’s a great chance to plan ahead in the morning and, later, make adjustments for the following day while it’s fresh in your mind.
If you’re wondering what happened on the rafting trip, I focused on my fight, which on that day was being there for my son. He was beyond excited and the look in his eyes made every terrifying rapid worth facing. What is your fight tomorrow and how will you hold on tightly to it? Consider Hall’s reflect-remember-regroup strategy, and let me know if it helps you overcome any of life’s rapids.
One of my greatest passions in life is helping leaders find their fights. If this article has helped you hone in on your personal fight, I recommend you sign up for my newsletter. Every month, I share meaningful life lessons and leadership strategies that I’ve learned throughout my career.