Are you like me, looking for clarity in a world gone crazy? I will share the three steps that helped me the most in my ongoing journey to get clear about my work.
Everywhere you turn choices clamor for my attention. You can’t even walk down the aisle of the supermarket without feeling guilty. Signs and messages bombard you. This product that will give your family the best nutritional value.
Open up your phone to read the news streams. The hawkers grab your attention about how to be beautiful, smart, informed, or saved. And the blinking ads across the internet serve up distraction after distraction.
If you want to find help for your new venture or hobby that you had long forgotten, watch out. Google will help clutter your mind. Hundreds, thousands, millions of experts can show you the way to fame and fortune.
I’ve learned dozens of ways to build a digital platform and get followers on social media. Books and articles lay scattered on my desk, in my eBook reader, and in folders on my computer. Don’t get me wrong. None of this information is wrong or bad. Most provide sound and tested guidance.
As a professed bibliophile and obsessive researcher, I love digging into the “how-to’s.” I find promises in the case studies of successful entrepreneurs and leaders. I have reached the saturation point. The time has come to sort through the mounds of possibilities.
What is clarity, and why do I need it? Clarity — the quality or state of being clear; lucidity (clearness of thought or style). One definition of clear describes it as “free from doubt.”
That sums up what I crave. I want clearness of thought and freedom from doubt. The shouting in my ears and distractions have left me exhausted and discouraged.
What I need, and you probably do too, is a good dose of clarity.
Clarity helps us to focus, to take action, to feel energized. A lack of clarity causes stress, inaction, a scattered focus, relationship difficulties, confusion on teams.
Leo Babauta, The Power of Getting Clarity
We have not received the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I scoured my books and a few online references on how to gain clarity. I saw 10 steps, no four, then eight. Well, how many steps do I need to take? Do I follow a specific order of those steps to gain clarity? I don’t have any time to waste sorting out the steps. Do you?
We assume clarity comes in a rush of inspiration. You know your purpose and can now settle down into your work. Done. Complete. Check clarity off your list.
How I wish for that simplicity. Life doesn’t come packaged in neat little bundles of clarity, purpose, choices. Open each box to find the answers perfectly lined up and ready for your eager consumption.
No. Life messes with your brain, your heart, your emotions. The excitement comes from the journey. You didn’t want to hear that. I know. Neither did I.
The truth—clarity looks more like a constant unfolding and digging deeper. If you expect to find a fixed destination, disappointment will follow you wherever you go.
I prefer to think of life as a pursuit, constantly chasing, never quite reaching your ideal … and learning to get over it.
Twyla Tharp, Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life
Clarity evolves as you focus your attention on what matters most. You establish and re-establish your intentions and routines. They keep you in the lane you chose to travel.
Three Starting Points
My brain gravitates to three. Three actions seem doable. Any more than that and inertia takes over. My breathing becomes shallow. A tightness grips across me and stifles every ounce of creative life have mustered. Long lists can destroy you.
Take a deep cleansing breath. I will share three, only three, actions to unclog the sludge weighing you down.
Number 1: Stop Distractions.
Turn off the input, at least for a time. I like the story that Dawna Markova shares in I Will Not Die an Unlived Life.
An Aikido teacher once told me, “Calm your mind until it is like water settling. The waves will disappear and the surface will be smooth as glass.” What he forgot to tell me is that when the water of your mind calms down, it doesn’t feel anything like peace. Because all you have to do is bend over and look down. What you find is all the junk settled on the bottom where you can see it clearly. If instead, you keep the water stirred up, everything hides in the murk where you don’t have to respond to it at all.
If you don’t stop to calm your mind, you will not see the junk hiding beneath the surface. The murk slithers through your life. Given the chance, it will strangle your dreams and talents. You may not like what you see. You can choose to ignore it. until you take time to silence the noise and look deeply, you may also miss the chance. You may not see your strengths and unique gifts that make you—you.
Number 2: Give Yourself Space
Stop. Give yourself some time and space to think and reflect. You may discover the hidden barriers, real or imagined, that block your potential. Reflection, even short moments of solitude, can calm the clamor of the noisy world.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
You will never find your authentic self by only listening to all the external voices. Everything you need lies within you. Trust yourself to find yourself. Clarity will emerge from the stillness.
Number 3: Take a Small Step
What do you want to do? Take one small step in that direction. Use kaizen, small changes, to build momentum. Don’t try to tackle your “big hairy audacious goal” in one bite. You will choke your enthusiasm and drown yourself in frustration.
One small step makes way for the next, and the one after that. Don’t wait for the big chance or the giant leap. The most successful reach their summit one step at a time.
Ask any musician. They spend hours on the small steps–scales and hours of practice. The pianist doesn’t to playing Chopin’s Sonata No 2 in B flat minor without many small steps.
A computer programmer writes one line of code after another to create the app you use to read this article.
Remember, clarity doesn’t arrive in a rush. Clarity evolves over a day, a month, a year, a decade, a life. I recently found myself floundering on where to focus my time and effort. I realized that seeking clarity didn’t need a week-long retreat in the mountains. Clarity would find me if I dedicated a few moments every day to remove myself from the crazy world.
Turn off the distractions. Set aside time each day to reflect and set an intention for your work. Take action-small steps. Repeat.