“We see in order to move; we move in order to see.” William Gibson
Without clarity, you cannot lead yourself or others. I would like to invite you to think about the role of clarity in your leadership, your professional life, and your personal life.
Yo-Yo Ma, Special Forces, & Clarity
I love the coincidence in this, just as I started to write this article and I was contemplating these words by Yo Yo Ma “If you don’t have clarity of ideas, you’re just communicating sheer sound” the Amazon “Classical For Focus” Playlist began to play Yo-Yo Ma’s rendition of the Unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 Major.
Clarity is beautiful. Clarity makes all the difference. Clarity is a matter of life or death. I have heard it said that men in Special Forces have lower heart-rates and cortisol levels when an attack is imminent instead of when they are partaking in “hurry-up and wait.” This is because they have clarity of what they will do in the attack situation, it is the ambiguity that creates doubt and thus tension.
So when you think about clarity, you can visualize Yo-Yo Ma on the cello and Special Forces troops on a mission. If your approach to something does not evoke either of those, then you might not be clear. If you want to be a high-performer, Brenden Burchard gives us this to think about: “Our research shows that compared with their peers, high-performers have more clarity on who they are, what they want, how to get it, and what they find meaningful and fulfilling. We’ve found that if you can increase someone’s clarity you up their overall high-performance score.” (p. 59)
Seeking clarity does not mean that you have to wait until you have it before acting. Sometimes as you act, ambiguity dissipates, and clarity ensues. Burchard tells us that “Clarity is the child of careful thought and mindful experimentation.” Moreover, he wrote that you generate clarity by asking questions, researching, trying new things, sorting through life’s opportunities, and determining what is right for you (p. 59).
How to Develop Clarity
One way to exercise and develop clarity is to journal about it. In this previous article, I wrote about the benefits of journaling and how you can use a systematic approach to journal and reflect. Every day I journal a few sentences about clarity, focus, and intensity in things that were important that day. I also have a practice of checking-in on clarity before, during, and after a task. This can take as little as a few seconds. However, I imagine that it saves me much time and energy.
Here are questions that help one become clear
- What do I want as a result/outcome of this?
- Why do I want that result or outcome? What will that do for the situation or for me?
- Is my approach the best way to achieve that result or outcome? Alternatively, what else might be more effective, easier, faster, or impactful?
- How is my clarity as I move into action, during the action, and at the end of action?
- What can I do differently next time, to have greater clarity and get better results?
I ask myself all or some of these questions. As I enter the gym, I want to be clear as to why I am there; what I want as an outcome. This often makes a difference between just going through the motions or pushing myself.
When interacting with individuals, I try to get clear on: how I want to come across? What does the other person need? How do I want the other person to feel/how do I want to feel? What is the outcome that we want?
Before starting a project, here I am more methodical, I take time to ask myself the five questions above. Yes, it takes time. Time and energy are precious, and I want to make sure that I am clear on how to spend those as I maximize what I want to accomplish. We do not want to be busy about things that do not matter, that do not make a difference, or that could have been executed more effectively in an easier way.
Peter Economy has this to say about clarity: “[Leaders] are clear and concise at all times–there is no question of their vision and what needs to be accomplished. This gives others the opportunity to digest their goals and decide whether or not they will support their cause. Generally, very few people know what they want, much less how to get there, so they will gravitate towards those who appear to have a clear picture in mind–good clarity leads to great achievement.”
I am curious, as you begin to engender more clarity in your life what image will surface? Will you hear the haunting sound of a cello, perfectly conveying human emotion? Or will you have the intensity and focus donned by someone on a mission.
Burchard, B. (2017). High performance habits: How extraordinary people become that way. New York, NY: Hayhouse Inc.
Economy, P. (n.d.). The 5 Essential Qualities Of A Great Leader. Inc.com. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/the-5-essential-qualities-of-a-great-leader.html