Cutting through the clutter of indecision is the most energizing feeling you can create for yourself everyday. I want to show you how to create this clarity on demand.
If you’re leading the rudder of your life, or if you’re leading other people , feeling clear about what you’re doing and what you’re being is the most important work you can do. It is the juice that powers all decisions you make.
Here’s the thing: it’s hard to do this. There are more options on what to do then ever before. There are competing priorities. There’s a new bestseller book telling you to zag when you want to zig. And then that new podcast you heard last night is telling you something else entirely.
Our minds our completely overrun with thoughts. Our hearts are being trampled by a million feelings, priorities, guilt, and panic. No wonder it is hard to know what to do. Especially if you’re a leader.
In my work, I have to consistently create clarity both for myself and my clients. I am often placed in unknown situations where I have little knowledge about the organization, the different leaders within it, and various moving pieces within it. Not to mention limited industry knowledge.
Just this morning, I struggled through an important life decision. I had an answer at the end of 20 minutes.
Unfortunately, we often push away these decisions that have been keeping us stuck. And then, in a moment of panic, we decide haphazardly.
Other times, we are extremely intellectual and reasoned. Sometimes, the decisions we make in this state don’t always stick with us in the long run. It is hard to sustain such a state when we take action on this decision.
So what’s the alternative? Let’s first try to understand what creating clarity should NOT sound like.
3 Misconceptions About Creating Clarity
- “I just need to think more clearly”
Clarity is a whole-body shift in your state. This means any exercise or activity that gives you clarity should involve your whole self. It shouldn’t be just an intellectual exercise. This means you must engage not just your mind and thoughts, but also your feelings, and your gut.
- “I just need to get smarter.”
There is a large group of people now getting better at critical thinking, understanding logical fallacies, and absorbing mental models. I believe these are all enormously useful tools.
But as a leader, your work touches people–other human beings. This means involving your gut is equally important. You cannot blame people for the situation you are trying to find clarity for (in accordance with Principle #2 in my guide The Principles of Organizational Breakthroughs: A Practical Guide for Leaders).
- “It has to feel easy.”
Clarity does not mean easy. The situation can still be complex and difficult, but you should feel like a big blockage of energy has just been unblocked.
What Clarity Feels Like
Having clarity should feel like a major anchor being cut out. Your boat should have more buoyancy. Of course if the waters you are navigating in your life are turbulent, clarity can be terrifying when you are confronted with what you have to deal with.
But that level of clarity is also calming when all your analysis-paralysis dies away. Now you are free to act.
Aside: I work with organizations to do this in a structured and systematic way about larger problems. See here on how I can help your organization.
How to Create Clarity
I find that creating clarity really is a function of introspection. Introspection can be a hard topic to fathom because people think it’s about meditation (which is enormously helpful of course).
You cannot introspect if your internal state is agitated either. You cannot think clearly if your emotions are all over the place. This is when we make terrible decisions.
Instead, we can try to run both tracks in parallel and see what clarity emerges from it.
Here’s how it works:
- Take a sheet of paper. Yes, paper and pen please (or pencil). Not a computer.
- Start writing. Anything and everything that comes into your mind. Even the side priorities (especially the side priorities). Write down the dialogue that is happening when your mind is saying one thing and then another and then something contrary yet again. Just free-write without any censorship.
- Keep writing. Do it until you “get it.” On average, it took me writing 2-3 pages before I could process the decision in front of me. Now it takes me on average 1 page.
This applies to writers as well as non-writers. Writing is a way to process your feelings, emotions, as well as your thoughts.
The clarity you get from this exercise will stick with you and allow you to decide and follow through with confidence.
Why it Works
Your internal chaos soup needs acknowledgement. Letting the soup bubble inside of you is counter-productive. It tends to overflow and cause a mess.
When you write without censoring yourself, even little single thought, feeling, and expression that comes into your mind about something, you will find that a lot of the tension going out of you.
It will also force a lot of thoughts that are buried deeper, which often already contain the insight you are looking for to emerge.
This is also the primary tool that thousands of artists use to get creative on demand. What is being creative if not creating clarity or insight on demand about a situation (whether it be a canvas, a blank sheet, or a stage)? It is based on Julia Cameron’s excellent book The Artist’s Way.
Don’t take me for my word. Try it.
How do you create Clarity?
What are your most important habits, rituals, or tools to help you get clarity about your priorities? About cutting through the stuck feeling in making decisions? Have you tried the free-writing exercise above? How did it go?
Let me know what you think below.