I Need Clarity!
How waiting for clarity stops us from taking bold action.
Do you find yourself feeling trapped and frustrated about a situation in your life? Do you hope that eventually, there will be a clear sign telling you what the "right" thing to do is?
The subject of clarity, or having a clear A-Z map of getting to what we want in life, is a subject that comes up with all my clients. They may be clear on where they want to get to, but they don't take a step because there isn't a clear route to getting there.
Before transitioning into being a full-time coach, I had an excellent job in a fantastic company. I'd always known that I would coach full-time at some point, but I was waiting for the path to present itself. I was doing well at the company but started to feel trapped and frustrated the more I waited for a safe path to present itself.
I want to repeat that:
I was waiting for a SAFE path to present itself.
A safe path would have meant working for the company until I had enough clients in my coaching business to pay the bills. This way, there would be no risk to me, and I would stay the course, do a good job at work and watch as my coaching business slowly grew.
However, what happened was I started to feel trapped. I was frustrated that I couldn't give my coaching business the fuel it needed to grow. I began to feel stressed and depressed as I couldn't find a different safe path out of the situation. I stayed in that situation a long time, waiting for clarity.
So why is this such a familiar story? Why do we wait for the perfect plan? The answer is because of our ego. When we talk about ego, the common misinterpretation is that we're talking about arrogance. Arrogance is about exaggerated self-importance or "having a big ego". The ego is our conscious mind; it is part of the human personality we experience as the "self" or "I". Our ego wants to protect us from any physical or emotional harm. Our ego generates the inner critic that keeps us safe in our comfort zones. It's the ego that tells us to "stay the course", "Don't rock the boat", or "things will get better if you do nothing". We should be thankful for our ego as it's only trying to help. However, if we don't question the messages it gives us, we could end up feeling confused, trapped and frustrated.
So what can we do?
Well, if you asked your ego, it would come back with, "what can we do that's not scary?". Everything we want is always on the other side of our comfort zone, and stepping out of your comfort zone is scary.
If you find yourself waiting for the "perfect sign" before you take action, follow these steps:
1. Ask yourself, "what would I do if it was easy?". If there were no obstacles or fears...what would you do? If you can get yourself into this headspace, answers come pretty quickly, and these answers indicate the direction you should be heading.
2. Now ask yourself, "what if I did it?". This is where the fun begins! Your ego will have a field day with all the reasons you shouldn't do it. Listen to what it has to say and understand that it's trying to keep you safe. There will be a tremendous amount of resistance or fear when thinking about taking action. A great acronym for FEAR is:
False, Evidence, Appearing, Real
Your ego imagines the worst-case scenarios, and you feel them as if they have happened in the form of anxiety. Anxiety is fearing a situation that hasn't yet happened. I'm not saying we can get rid of fear, but I am saying not to trust our ego's message.
3. Ask yourself, "what is a micro action I can take towards the direction I want to go?". Again, there will be resistance here. There will probably be some dialogue about "this is just one step, but what does the whole path look like?". The truth is that the path will present itself the more we get used to taking uncomfortable steps. We grow with each challenge, learn something, feel empowered and build momentum.
Let's take my situation at work. I loved the company and the people, but I felt trapped:
What would I do if it was easy? - I would leave on excellent terms and start serving my clients full time.
What if I did it? - Here comes my ego: What if I failed? What if I couldn't keep the lights on? What if we lost our home? What if... (This could go on a while!)
What micro action could I take? - Be vulnerable and have an open conversation about your internal dialogue with your boss. Which, by the way, went amazingly well and gave me clarity on what I should do next.
My point is you don't have to have the perfect plan, and you can't wait for it to show up. "Taking bold action is the key to getting clarity, not waiting for clarity before taking bold action".
Again, I want to repeat myself:
Taking bold action is the key to getting clarity, not waiting for clarity before taking bold action.
It doesn't mean you have to quit everything and do that thing you want to do immediately. But it does mean start taking action towards it, despite what your ego tells you. When you meet resistance, that's a clear sign you're on the right track. We're wired to see warning signs as negative when really, all that we want is the other side of that resistance. Start seeing those warning signs as guiding lights. Sure, it will be uncomfortable, but what's a little discomfort if we get what we want?
Waiting for clarity can leave you trapped, frustrated and worse; it can keep you stuck in a rut for a long time. If you're struggling to figure out what your next bold action should look like, please reach out.
Here's to your journey.