Have you ever made a list of goals in January only to discover in December that it was way too long? And that had you originally narrowed it down you could actually feel like a rock star in that end of year moment?
In the winter of 2013, a solution came to me. I remember sitting amongst the beautiful oak trees in Austin, Texas captivated by the remarks of Walter Robb, the Co-Chief Executive Officer of Whole Foods. After learning of how the $14B natural grocer was successfully building a culture of Conscious Capitalism, (i.e. the convoluted task of weaving interdependent life principles such as trust, compassion, collaboration, value creation into our cut-throat capitalist model for all the stakeholders in a business), the question arose: “how do I even begin to take on something this complex???” Walter’s response was simple: “We create three words to live by each year.”
I’m not sure if I was awestruck or simply exhausted at the end of this leader’s message, all I remember is driving home to Houston, pulling out a piece of orange stationary, writing down my three words - Faith, Patience, Trust – and tacking it up on the wall over my nightstand. I looked at these words every morning and each night before going to bed. Aside from comfort, no ah-ha moments came until the following January. As I leafed through my journal entries from the previous year, I was pleasantly confounded - not only was the pattern of the three words integrated into everything I’d set out to do, but I’d accomplished far beyond what I had intended, in some areas I’d never even explored.
How was that possible with only three words? I attribute it to the power of focus. Alan Fine, world-renowned Davis Cup coach and author of You Already Know How To Be Great, discovered that breakthrough performance isn’t about adding more knowledge to our capabilities (corporate trainings anyone?) but about taking our capacity and reducing interference. Focus puts our brain into a relaxed state, freeing up space to perform.
I’ve written three words and posted them on my wall every year since my Whole Foods experience. It’s become clear that I don’t need a to-do list (aka. interference!) each year, I already know what I can accomplish. I simply focus on three ways of being and let the doing take care of itself.
If you’re ready to feel like a rock star at the end of the year, I invite you to focus and try on Walter Robb’s simple advice – what will your three words be? If it’s working for Whole Food’s eighty-seven thousand team members, it may just work for you!