The two inextricably linked things that will power your career growth

Be honest: How finely honed are your powers of observation?

Are you the person who never misses a thing and could give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money? Or are you the ignorant one who couldn’t find a clue if it fell on your head?

One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when a friend told me that the word he used the most was I observe, as in “I noticed that you ______.” She explained that I pay attention to things, but more importantly, I take action.

Read that last part again: I take action

Why does this matter?

Because simply observing something makes you a bystander, taking action means going one step further and using that observation to accomplish a purpose and bring about positive change.

The first is passive; the latter is proactive.

In other words, it’s about combining attention and intention to advance your career.

Let’s break down each of those essential elements:

Attention it is a focused effort. It’s about being highly selective with your time and energy and aligning it with your goals. This also means subtracting things from your life that distract you from what you want. When you say no to things that no longer serve you, you can say yes to things that do serve you.

Paying attention also has the added benefit of showing respect to others. This world has a cacophony of noise. Tons of distractions. A million reasons that make it hard to be heard. When you actively listen to your boss, colleagues, and clients, you show them that they matter the most.

And finally, when you pay attention, you increase your chances of noticing things that others might miss: patterns, mistakes, or new opportunities. Create an environment where interruptions are minimized, so you can take note.

Intention it means that you commit to what you want. This is where you pledge allegiance to a specific outcome. It is where you translate a lofty goal into something that is most important to EVERYONE. UNIQUE. DAY. Doing this involves creating reminders that resonate with you, and it also requires consistent practice that turns a new idea into a lasting habit.

This is the thing about intention: it’s never bland. It requires clarity about what you want and what you hope to achieve and then build an unwavering determination to achieve it. But at the same time, it is open enough to allow alternative and sometimes even better possibilities to emerge. He doesn’t let fear stop him; it is action oriented.

Although each element is individually important, the simple truth is this: attention without intention is meaningless.

Tremendous growth and learning occur when you combine attention and intention. When you’re in that space, what you observe, and then act on, can catapult your career. For example:

  • Perhaps by scanning the P&L, you’ll discover a colossal accounting error that leads to millions of dollars in savings for the company.
  • Perhaps you see a pattern of people using your product in an unintended and unique way, creating a whole new market.
  • Or maybe you suddenly get the idea to combine two seemingly disparate things and create a whole new category.

Without follow through, all of these examples would be fleeting thoughts and missed opportunities.

So how can you increase your powers of observation so you can take action? Here are some suggestions:

Eliminate distractions

Put down your phone, stop checking your email, and close the door. Clear your environment of possible interruptions so you can take note.

Focus on whatever (or whoever) is most important to you

It’s hard to spot things when you’re busy multitasking. When you focus on those people or things that are most important to you, you can better see, hear, and feel small details that you might not otherwise see.

Maintain a childlike curiosity.

Can you imagine the things we would see if we all approached the world with an open mind? Cultivating your natural wonder will give you room to make keen observations.

Remember: attention without intention is meaningless. But realizing things, and acting on them, can boost your career.

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