2020 has been a year of reacting.
We’ve reacted to the shock to our economies.
We’ve reacted to injustice.
We’ve reacted to the fear of getting sick (or spreading sickness to others).
We’ve reacted to lost contracts and unexpected surges in demand.
We’ve reacted to others’ emotions, needs, and fears.
We’ve reacted to our own grief and fear.
“Reacting” has been a very understandable response to the world around us this year—there is no shame in how we reacted. But, always reacting is not sustainable. It’s also not an effective way to build a strong business.
I propose we make 2021 a year of proactivity.
It’s time to hit the reset button so we can reboot how we perceive and plan for the future.
As business owners, that means we pay less attention to what marketers, social media companies, and 24/7 news media beg us to pay attention to and pay more attention to the priorities we’ve set for ourselves and our companies.
Jenny Odell writes in her book, How To Do Nothing: Resisting The Attention Economy:
We need to be able to think across different time scales when the mediascape would have us think in twenty-four-hour (or shorter) cycles, to pause for consideration when clickbait would have us click, to risk unpopularity by searching for context when our Facebook feed is an outpouring of unchecked outrage and scapegoating, to closely study the ways that media and advertising play upon our emotions, to understand the algorithmic versions of ourselves that such forces have learned to manipulate, and to know when we are being guilted, threatened, and gaslighted into reactions that come not from will and reflection but from fear and anxiety.
We’re in the magical liminal space between years right now.
So this is the perfect time to consider what you want to invest your attention in for the next year (or even for the next month or two).
We can discard the anxious, reactive responses that became our default operating mode in 2020. And we can invest in a curiosity about what works for us and what works for our businesses.
“Curiosity is a crucial component in reducing our reactivity,” advises Sebene Selassie in You Belong.
What do you want to figure out in the coming year?
What questions do you want to pursue?
What experiments do you want to run?
You might want to figure out how to deepen your relationship with clients so that they stick around longer and send their friends your way. You might be asking, “How do I want to spend my time?” so you can spend more of your day on energizing tasks. You might want to experiment with slower marketing or faster turnaround on projects so you can find the best pace for your work.
What are you curious about right now when it comes to your business?
What are you curious about right now when it comes to how you lead?
When you make curiosity the bedrock of your planning, you take huge step in the direction of working proactively. And, lessen how much you react to what marketers, the media, or the drama-of-the-moment beg you to pay attention to.
And I think we can all agree we need a little more of that in the new year.
This is the work we do inside The What Works Network.
We bring our attention and focus to proactively running our businesses in the way that works for us.
We do it 3 ways:
- The Stronger Business Playbook — this resource gives you the tools and guidance you need to build your business on your terms. The Playbook is full of over 15 templates for building a more sustainable and effective business—plus 50 prompts for getting curious about the challenges or opportunities you’re facing.
- The Community — we share what we’re curious about, whether that’s specific question or an idea we’ve been thinking about. We connect with others to learn what’s working for them or how they’re approaching the question at hand.
- The Monthly Deep Dive – each month, we proactively bring our attention to an area of our business (January is “working the plan,” February is “nurturing our relationships,” March is “identifying opportunity”) and get curious as a community about what that looks like and how it can positively impact the way we do business.
If you’re ready to make 2021 a year of curiosity and proactivity so that you can build a stronger, more sustainable business, I invite you to join us.