Everything can’t be critical. Everything can’t be a top priority. If everything is important, nothing is. We’ve all heard these axioms, but in our daily experience, we observe widely varying responses to identical circumstances. A challenge or a change can seem huge to one person or organization, causing panic or paralysis, while another seems to take the same challenge or change in stride. How is it that certain situations stymie or devastate some, while others keep on going seemingly unfazed?
I think it has a lot to do with whether we are “living small” or “living large”. When our focus is inward and centered primarily on our own needs, this narrows our vision and keeps our attention on the little things close to us that affect us. In doing so, we live smaller and smaller lives. The smaller we live, the larger any new challenge or difficult circumstance seems to be.
When our personal focus is outward and more centered on others’ needs, this broadens our vision and takes our attention away from the little things close to us that affect us. In doing so, our lives grow larger – more robust – and new challenges or difficult circumstances naturally seem smaller. Our line of sight for big picture stuff is clearer. Examples are plentiful of those who are able to overcome tremendous personal obstacles by turning their eyes and their passions toward the interests and concerns of others.
Living large on a corporate level, as with individuals, requires an outward focus. While internal procedures and practices and financials are essential disciplines for a viable organization, the real “stuff” of a large-living firm is how it connects with and impacts customers, community, suppliers, and employees beyond the walls of its own existence. With a purpose far beyond profit generation, large-living organizations help their customers succeed, support and enrich their communities, work with their suppliers as partners, and help their employees be better in all spheres of life, not just in the workplace.
An organization that is living large will give appropriate attention to competitive challenges and changes in its marketplace, but instead of being obsessively preoccupied with the ebbs and flows of quarterly earnings and short term challenges, it will have the necessary clarity and bandwidth available to leverage macro trends and opportunities. With less time and energy focused on smaller, inward challenges, greater visibility is available for larger, external opportunities.
Living large sounds great, but it is easier said than done. We would like to believe we live large all the time, but the gravity of life pulls toward self-preservation and inward focus. As leaders, we would do ourselves and our organizations well to pause periodically and assess the “size” of our focus – whether we are predominantly living small or living large. Perhaps a trusted friend or colleague would provide some healthy objectivity, or maybe it’s a worthwhile discussion topic for your leadership team.
Either way, as we shift our focus outward and upward, obstacles may be inevitable, but they will seem less insurmountable.