Often, we hit a wall in our lives when an issue arises and we just don’t know what to do. Our minds are a jumble of thoughts and options, pros and cons. Clarity is elusive, but so needed.
How do we proceed in those times when clarity is distant? I want to suggest four steps that we can take when we hit that wall of uncertainty.
- Block a Clarity Time – Thinking through complex or cloudy issues takes undistracted focus. This does not happen in the ordinary course of a day. When we need to focus, we need to block time. Estimate how much time it will take you to think through the issue. Be generous with your estimate. I find that so many people never escape their fuzziness because they never set aside the needed time to give single-minded focus. They linger and suffer from unresolved issues. Blocking time is critical. Even better, have many set-aside blocked time in your schedules on a regular basis that you can use to gain clarity wherever it is most needed.
- Gather all necessary information – Often, lack of clarity comes from lack of information. When I hit an area that needs clarity, I first ask, “What information do I need to make an intelligent decision?” or, “Who do I need to involve that can help me gain clarity?” When you have the time set aside, and have gathered all of the necessary information, you are well on your way to clarity.
- Ask the Clarifying Question – “What is the most important thing?” Notice that the question is not, “What is important?” We gain clarity as we force ourselves to narrow to the one most important thing. Often it takes work to define what is most important. That is why we need generous time. We wouldn’t have such a hard time gaining clarity if the answers were easy and obvious.
- Ask the Focusing Question – “What is the lead domino that will get all the other dominoes to start falling?” Once, we know what is most important, then we jump to how am I going to get there. Usually, there is one small, first action which will get the ball rolling. Identify that first domino and you are on your way.
Here’s an added bonus: Make clarity and focus a regular habit and discipline by beginning each day and week with a Clarity Session. Begin each day by asking the Clarifying Question, “What is the Most Important Thing I need to do today?” This prevents days from being a flurry of urgent, secondary tasks that never move the needle. Then, have a Clarity Session each week when you lay out your goals for the next week and what among those goals is the Most Important Thing. This simple habit will supercharge your weeks with intention and accomplishment.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this method. Gaining clarity by setting aside time and asking, “what is the most important thing?” is hard work. Applying this to your days and weeks will have a massive impact on your accomplishments and satisfaction.