“The only reason people get lost in thought is because it’s unfamiliar territory.” - Paul Fix
It is a common experience for psychologists and coaches to have their clients come to them making statements like, “I don’t know what’s wrong, I just know I want life to be better.” Or they outline a problem they are currently facing only to conclude with the statement, “I just don’t know what to do.”
Today we consume information at a rate impossible to imagine a century ago. We receive multiple messages every minute through television, social media, internet sites, radio, the 24hr news cycle etc. All of it in some way or another trying to convince us of a particular message and the priorities we should adopt because of it. We live multi-faceted lives trying to balance family, friends, work and lifestyle, each seemingly as valuable as the next, constantly competing for our time. Circumstantially, globalisation is increasingly producing intricate webs of relationships where incidents can have economic and other impacts on the other side of the world. And the rate of change due to the development of technology is increasingly difficult to manage.
With so many different and changing inputs it is no wonder people have a tangled tornado of thoughts that can make life seem so unclear. How can we rise above all of these challenges to fulfil our potential? The answer can be found in the pursuit of clarity. Clarity allows us to cut through all the noise, understand what we want to achieve, why and how we can achieve it. We live in an incredibly complex world. However with a little bit of clarity, as Sir Winston Churchill states, “Out of immense complexities, intense simplicities emerge.”
Clarity takes work.
How many times do you ask someone a question, only to hear the answer, “I don’t know.” For most people this is a daily occurrence – an answer they both give and receive. It is only when – or if – we push harder and deeper that people stop and consider our question, taking the time and making the effort to sift through their thoughts and evaluate their opinions in order to give a meaningful answer. Thats the crux of the issue. Clarity takes time and effort. It is something we have to work for. It is not uncommon for coach to spend half a session or more working with the client to gain clarity around what is it exactly they want to achieve.
Thoughts untangle themselves over the lips and through the fingertips.
I have seen the truth in these words be proved over and over again. Communication forces us to articulate our thoughts, either through conversation (over the lips) or in writing (through the fingertips). We have to take the time and effort to sort through and evaluate out thoughts in order to formulate a coherent message for us to communicate. Thus it is the act of articulation that brings clarity. This is why people often feel better after having an honest conversation with a friend about important issues. Not necessarily because the issues are resolved, but because they come away with a new level of clarity. It is also those who have executive and performance coaches consider them to be so valuable. And it is why the simple act of journaling has been revered practiced by many of the through out the ages. As Karl Weick mused, “How can I know why I think until I see what I say?” It wasn’t until he read whet he was thinking that he gained clarity of thought.
Clarity allows you to take action.
I believe that people have all the internal resources they need be able to solve their problems, perform at a higher level and unlock their potential. Often however, they are so overwhelmed by the tangled whirlwind of thoughts in their head that they cannot see what it is they need to do. Once they go through the process of articulating each of these thoughts and gain clarity around their situation and what they want to achieve, it is my experience that most people are readily able to identify what they need to do, develop an action plan and execute accordingly.
Clarity allows you to prioritise.
For many people, they may know what they need to do however they find themselves swamped by the sheer number of tasks they have to complete. Here too seeking clarity is often helpful. As leadership expert Dr John Maxwell writes, ‘Clarity of vision creates clarity of priorities.’ When we develop a personal vision for our lives and become clear about what our purpose is and what we want to achieve, we can evaluate our tasks and prioritise them according to whether or how much they contribute to your vision. This principle also applies in the workplace. Having a clearly communicated organisational vision, values, goals and strategy, and articulating how staff contribute to each of these allows staff to gain clarity around their work. When they are clear about where the organisation wants to go, they can usually identify what needs to happen in order to get there and in turn order their priorities accordingly.
Clarity allows you to communicate.
Effective communication is one of the keys to good leadership. If you don’t have clarity, you will not be able to effectively articulate your thoughts and therefore effectively communicate to those around you. When it comes to communicating, clarity allows you to simplify. As Hans Hofmann puts it, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” If you have done the work to clarify your thoughts, you don’t want any unnecessary in your communication that may confuse your audience. You want to take steps to ensure the work you have done clarifying is not un-done in the transmission of your message. Thus simple, short and concise communication is often the most effective, and least likely to produce confusion. Dennis Roch writes, “If it takes a lot of words to say what you have in mind, it needs more thought.”
Ultimately, as leaders we want our people to understand who we are, where we are going and how we are going to get there. We want to inspire and motivate people to come on the journey, performing at their best so we can all fulfil our potential along the way. But the reality is, “Followers don’t give their best to something they done understand. People don’t stay on course for something they cannot see. Nobody becomes motivated by something he kinda, sorta believes in” (Dr John Maxwell).
Michael Hyatt writes, “If you don’t have clarity you don’t have anything.” Without clarity we don’t understand where we are or how we got there. Without clarity we don’t know where we are going or in which direction we need to head to get there. Without clarity we don’t understand what we want to achieve and what we need to do to achieve it. Taking the time to do the work, articulate our thoughts provides us with understanding of our situations, allows us to set goals, develop priorities and take action. Finally, clarity allows us communicate effectively to the world around us.
What is one thing you need clarity regarding? Leave a comment and articulate your thoughts below. I’d love to help bring some clarity.