Sitting here in rainy Edinburgh I have little choice but to connect with my thoughts. I am reminded of a quote I came across recently by Venus Williams, Professional Tennis Player. She said:“Rain is good for me. I feel like I achieve clarity actually when it rains. The longer I have to sit and wait, the clearer my game becomes to me.
Clarity: clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity; the state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye. Dictionary.com
Clarity is the first fundamental step to our success anyway we choose to define it. Achieving clarity will enable us to become the person we want to be, do the things we want to do that give us joy and fulfillment and have the things we want in life. How do you achieve clarity? We need courage and bravery to look into ourselves and know what drives us, what are the needs that motivate us, what are the fears that block us, what is causing us to stress out or keeps us locked in the past and either way prevents us from moving forward and from setting and achieving our goals. Clouded thinking leads to confusion and indecision. Clarity is decision. Don’t let the title of this blog misguide you. It is simple, but it is not easy. Like everything else in our journey to Ithaca (aka our own defined measure of success), clarity can be achieved with commitment and regular repeat in order to form the habit of being in a state of self-awareness.
1. First Key - Know yourself and by extension know and own your thinking
A simple tool to know your thinking is to listen to yourself every day. Take a few minutes every day and devote them to yourself. Start a conversation with yourself. Ask yourself some powerful questions.
What is the most significant thing that has happened in your life in the last month?
What is the best thing about your life right now?
What is the one thing you would want to change?
What is keeping you from changing it?
What is presently in your mind?
What are you thinking now?
Who has influenced your life so far and how?
What is an event that has shaped you as a person?
What is your dream?
If you could do anything with your life what would you do?
If you had unlimited resources what you do right now?
It may be helpful to take notes of what we are thinking or just sit and contemplate for a while, for as long as it rains. It is very important that we allocate a specific time to connect with our thoughts on a regular basis, preferably daily. For some people the best time is at the end of the day and for some is before the start of a new day.
2. Second Key - Know your mental state (emotional versus rational)
Every time we need to decide, to engage in a conversation, to solve a problem, to give feedback or receive feedback, to make a choice about a road to take, to make or accept a proposal, and so on, we need to take a few minutes to assess our state, our physiology. When we are in a rational state, calm and in control, we are able to retrieve and consciously use all the data we have collected about ourselves. Being in a calm and rational state we are able to perform our conscious thinking. In contrast, if we are experiencing some strong emotions such as anxiety, anger, stress, irritation, overwhelm, pain, discomfort we may not be able to engage or decide in an optimum way. It is possible to change state from emotional to rational. This is what is called “break state”. Some ways to break state include:
Vocalizing our emotions in a few words. This helps reduce the emotion.
Changing our physical posture. This causes the emotions to subside. For example, changing the way we rest our hands, the position of our feet, getting up to open the window, drinking a sip of water.
Getting an actual break from the situation, if possible. This has a calming effect and reduces the intensity of the negative feeling. For example, going for a brief walk, engaging in something completely different, postponing our decision or reaction for a few minutes or longer, until we feel calm and ready.
Breaking state helps us to calm down and reduces the intensity of negative feelings so that we can enter our rational state in order to decide or engage in a situation with clarity of thinking.
3. Third Key - Give feedback to yourself and take responsibility
Being honest and accepting our responsibility for our actions is the only way to achieve continuous clarity and own our thinking. Allocating a few minutes every day to go over our decisions and actions and asking ourselves whether we acted consciously and with clarity is a significant feedback step we can all take. What could we have done differently?
My message to you today is don't wait for the rain to achieve clarity. Use the three keys daily (rain or shine) to unlock your clarity of thinking and action. You can best do this with the help of a professional coach. As my favorite poet says, Keep Ithaka always in your mind. Arriving there is what you are destined for.