As long as there have been humans, those humans have sought clarity. We want answers to our questions, solutions to our problems, and resolutions to our conflicts. When something just feels “off”, we desire to make it right.
Of course, it takes a lot of work to find those answers. Soul-searching, mind-bending, truth-revealing work. It’s not always easy to do, and it’s definitely not always easy to accept the answers you find. Maybe that’s why humans have gone to such great lengths to find clarity in other ways.
Fortune telling, for example, has likely been around since 4,000 BC. Crystal balls have been around since at least the 1st century AD, when Pliny the Elder wrote about soothsayers using them. People try to make predictions based on tea leaves (tasseomancy), lines on human hands (palmistry), the flight patterns of birds (augury), or even the entrails of animals (extispicy).
But why do we resort to such drastic (and sometimes downright strange) methods to gain the clarity we’re looking for? Why is clarity so important to us? And if you’re not into the whole animal entrails thing, what’s the best way to find it?
What clarity can do for you
Clarity is something all humans are looking for. It’s human nature to want to make the “right” choices and do the “right” things. We have this inborn notion that there’s a “right” answer to every question that will bring us peace, happiness, and success.
In fact, you could probably argue that the search for clarity is the reason why we study…well, anything. Science, medicine, literature, mathematics, psychology…they’re all ways to make sense of the world and the people around us. We use these things to try to find clarity—to teach ourselves important lessons that we can then use to better ourselves, our communities, and our world.
But what does clarity look like on an individual level, and what can it do for you?
It helps you prioritize.
One of the best things clarity can do for you is help you set and stick to your priorities. When we’re faced with the act of juggling family, work, friends, personal growth, home responsibilities, hobbies, dreams, and more on a daily basis, confusion ensues.
Not only can clarity help you identify your priorities, it can also help you stick to them. Once you’ve had clarity about what’s important to you, you’re able to use that clarity in the future to remind yourself what your priorities really are.
It inspires action.
We’re big fans of taking action. Even if you aren’t 100% sure that an action is “right,” sometimes it’s better to do something than nothing at all. Things like prototyping can help you take that next step while minimizing your risk, and we’re all for that.
That said, there’s nothing like clarity to inspire action. If you’re able to gain clarity, you’ll feel more confident in what your next action should be, so you can move forward with less hesitation.
Clarity about the direction you want to go, and about what practical steps you can start taking to get there, is a big focus of the Design.org assessment (which, by the way, you can take for free!).
It helps other people understand you.
Clarity will guide everything you do, and it will affect every aspect of your life, including your relationships. Without clarity, you could be sending mixed messages to the people around you. Ultimately, this could result in weaker relationships.
Imagine one person in a relationship sharing what they need to gain clarity, imagine the other not really understanding it or ignoring it and moving forward with the status quo, not trying to resolve it. How far will that take the bond?
If, on the other hand, you’re able to find your clarity, express it to those close to you, and get on the same page with them about your goals and priorities, your relationship will only get stronger.
Why clarity is so hard to come by
Clarity can do a lot for us, so why is it so hard for us to find? The truth is, there are plenty of things holding us back from gaining the clarity we need.
We live in a fast-paced world
The world around us is not one that is conducive to clarity. The speed at which today’s world operates is enough to make anyone’s head spin. We even need our phones and smartwatches to remind us to breathe!
When things happen too quickly, clarity gets lost in the shuffle. We hecticly jump from activity to activity, from mindset to mindset, without pausing to get clarity about who we are, what really matters, and why we do the things we do.
We experience information overload
More than any other time in history, we have a huge amount of access to information. At any given moment, we could research any topic, any news story, or any person in the world. Of course, this information is often a useful thing, and can benefit our society in many ways.
It doesn’t, however, invite much clarity.
After all, we receive conflicting messages all the time from these different information sources. Earlier today, I saw two news articles covering the exact same story—same people, same timeline, same events. But the coverage of the news was very different. The headlines were different, the pictures accompanying the articles were different, the tone of the writing was different. Each article had its own “spin” of the events, and didn’t try to hide it. Which was “right?” I certainly couldn’t tell (not objectively, anyway).
So, even when we’re surrounded by information, that information is just as likely (or maybe even more likely) to lead to confusion than it is to lead to clarity.
We try to multitask
Our society glorifies busy-ness. The more you have to do, the more important you are, right? No wonder we’re checking our email while waiting in line at the grocery store, or listening to podcasts during our morning commute, or eating dinner while waiting at soccer practice.
Sometimes, we have to multitask just to keep up with life. I know I certainly do. But multitasking inherently splits our focus, which can damage our ability to find clarity. When you try to do too many things at once, you end up living life minute to minute, which is not an environment that fosters clarity.
We fall prey to the myth of perfectionism
Perfectionism is a beautiful lie. We’d all like to think that if we just worked hard enough, we could be perfect people who live perfect lives. Holding on to the myth of perfectionism can harm you in several ways—one of which is that it robs you of clarity.
If your goal is perfection—which is unattainable—you’re never going to settle for anything less. You’re never going to be able to gain clarity about a “smaller” goal that might actually help you progress, because you’re so fixated on being perfect. Once you let go of perfectionism, you open the door for clarity to come in and help you set goals that you can actually achieve.
How to gain clarity
Clarity is important, and it’s obvious that many of us are missing it.
So how do we find it?
Dissolve complexity, receive simplicity.
Clarity is simple. It’s a truth that speaks to you, makes sense to you, and helps guide you. By definition, it’s not confusing, ambiguous, or unsure.
If you want to gain clarity, you have to dissolve the complexity in your life, and then receive the simplicity that paves the way to clarity and progress.
Clarity provides you with powerful answers, but if you’re going to find answers, you have to ask questions. Stay curious about the world around you, about yourself as an individual, and about simple truths that will guide you toward happiness. If something is “off” in your life, challenge it! Consider a new way of doing things. Find the clarity that will bring you greater peace.
Change your environment
Distractions and discomforts can get in the way of clarity. If you’re finding it difficult to find the clarity you’re looking for, try to identify what’s blocking you, and do your best to change it. Is the clutter in your room stifling your creativity? Have you been inside all day? Have you been distracted by TV, social media, or texts? Sometimes, things that seem completely unrelated to your question can be affecting your ability to find an answer. If something in your environment needs to change in order to help you find the clarity you need, it’s worth taking the time to change it.
Self-awareness is key to gaining clarity. Being self-aware can help you know what kind of environment benefits your creativity, what kind of questions you need to ask, and what things in your life are creating complexity and holding you back. It can also help you tune in to things like physical health: are you eating right and getting enough sleep? Sometimes, a lack of health and/or energy can separate us from clarity.
Clarity is important to all of us as a human race, but it’s also important to each of us in general. Only with clarity can we set priorities and follow through with actions that will take us where we really want to go. As you work to dissolve complexity, receive simplicity, and gain clarity, you’ll find yourself on a path toward the life you want.
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