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In  The one clear thing Part 1, I talked about the complexity and challenge around me and how the writing of this blog has emerged as one clear thing I can focus on at present. 

Finding ‘the one clear thing’ is the message emerging from all the complexity and multiplicity around me. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed and do the wrong thing or nothing. There is an almost innate tendency to make things more complex than they need to be.

What does it mean to ‘find the one clear thing’? It means keeping the complex simple. It means providing a cut-through to moving on and solution. The one clear thing is emerging for me as:

1. Identifying the key question(s)

2. Beginning the essential work

3. Making the daily steps


 1. Identifying the key question(s)

What key question(s) can you focus on, ask, that if answered carefully and consciously, would enable all the rest to fall into place?

This approach enables you to:

  • focus energy and effort 
  • avoid resistance and distraction
  • avoid the allure of complexity

As an example, in a workshop recently, we were working to resolve a complex business issue. The workshop was focused around a single, powerful question honed from a previous workshop of senior managers. It was our task to answer it. It was incredibly hard to keep the group focused but with the aid of a very skilled and dogged external facilitator, at the end, we were able to clearly and succinctly answer the question. We will use these principles to drive future business directions, structure and staff capability development now that we are clear.

Chris Guillebeau also uses the key question approach in his World Domination work to guide goal-setting for individuals and the difference they can make.  In A Brief Guide to World Domination – How to live a remarkable life in a conventional world’Chris talks about personal goals, ordinary people pursuing big ideas and also through this, making a difference in the lives of others. The key questions he asks you to consider, ‘the two most important questions in the universe’ are:

#1 What do you really want to get out of life?

#2 What can you offer the world that no-one else can?

I have written about this in an early post, ‘Why Transcending?’ and shown how answering these questions helped me to develop my focus here. Read Chris’s Art of Non-Conformity blog to see many examples of people who have used this technique to get them focused on the one clear thing that matters to them in their life’s work. For me now, the key question is reviewing ‘How can my blog work here bring my answers to those two key questions to life?’

Jonathan Fields in a recent post, The Bucket List Lie on his blog, Awake at the Wheel, also encourages us to keep it simple by making a list of one:

A single, meaningful action you’re going to take before the end of the day to move you one step closer to a single, deeply meaningful quest. 

Julie Kay of JK Leadership Development and the wonderful Developing Leaders Online encourages businesses to focus on The single most effective question you can ask in the context of customer service and feedback from clients. It’s a great question because it’s solution focused and provides some metrics for knowing when improvement has taken place.

You can see that the first step identifying the key question is:

  • action oriented
  • solution focused
  • resistance averse

So what’s the key question for you right now, the one clear thing that can take you forward?

I’ll explore the next step ‘The essential work to be done’ in a follow-up post very soon.

Image, The base of Looking Glass Falls near Asheville, North Carolina by Alaskan Dude from flickr and used under a Creative Commons license with thanks