The other day, my friend Shyla (name changed) suddenly remembered that she had to be in a workshop I was conducting and deliver a short session in it. She was home and the travel would take 20 minutes, which left her with just ten minutes to get ready. She yanked open her wardrobe and stared in dismay as the cluttered spectacle met her exasperated gaze. She had not tidied the area in several weeks, just pushing everything inside as she rushed about doing other things, always promising herself that she would sort it the next time. Somehow, she pulled a lone ironed pair of trousers off a hanger and rummaged for a top with the least creases. The match was not good; she had lost precious time, hence no time for makeup too. Thrusting her feet into the first pair of shoes she saw, she rushed to the car and crossed a couple of red signals to reach the venue almost ten minutes late.
It can be easily understood how her presentation would have been impacted with such wretched stress in her head. She was teary eyed as she apologised later for having made a less than excellent entry in my otherwise much appreciated session. What was the problem? Was she not bright enough? Not at all! She is exceptionally efficient. As I consoled her, we traced the source of her misery back to the cluttered wardrobe. Doesn’t the same happen when we try to make decisions in a mind that is over-stuffed with unwanted, unproductive thoughts? To get the grain, the teeming chaff needs to be blown away. Similarly, our mind needs winnowing and sieving at regular intervals.
Clarity deals with how to communicate, learn, and grow. It impacts the ability to perceive, think, feel, learn, and evolve. When you are clear about what makes you happy and productive, you will also know how to have that. Less the confusion, more the clarity, easier and more successful does life become. But the first step to getting clarity is accepting the fact that you are lacking it; there is distraction and confusion; there are doubts that overwhelm. Once this acceptance has happened, then comes the willingness for change, followed by commitment to change.
If you want to make better decisions, you need to have clear vision. For this clarity:
1. Declutter regularly, discard the frivolous: Extract the worthy from the worthless, the essence from the fringe. Our mind gets 60,000-70,000 thoughts per day, 50 per minute, according to the lab of neuroimaging at an American university (South California). According to another study (National Science Foundation), 80% of these are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts. We cannot control the entry of random thoughts into our minds; what we can control is which ones get the privilege of our focus. As blogger Eric Barker says, “You can’t control everything that goes on. But you can define which projects get funded with your attention and action.” Consciously stop giving attention to things that have least or no contribution in what makes you happy.
2. Identify the significant: Every day or at least once a week, write down in a log/journal, what is your yen – what makes you happy, what are you passionate about. Yen statements are about musts, and not should or perhaps. For example: For me to enjoy a movie, I must have a good supply of popcorn and Diet Coke. If I can’t get these, the experience of watching the movie feels incomplete.
3. Mute notification and distractions: With that ‘ping’ sound regularly breaking your thought process, distraction becomes uncontrolled. Such jerky processes rob the full efficiency you are capable of, and thereby, steal your happiness and satisfaction. Keep all such sounds muted; if it is vital, the sender will certainly call. With outside distractions out of the way, your progress towards clarity in given situations would be uninterrupted and efficient.
4. Visual Appeal: A picture is worth a thousand words and much more impactful, even if it is just in your mind. Paint a picture of what you want, either on a canvas, or in your mind. That picture will give you clarity about what you need to do to achieve that, and what you need to dispose of. You want a particular position in your/another company/institution? Picture yourself seated on that chair. Feed the dream; the passion will burn away all that is trivial, and like a ray of light, illuminate the clear path to achieve it.
5. Accost your No ways!: My friend Shyla is always emphatically declaring statements about how she could never get up early in the morning, push her clients to pay for her services, be firm with the errant house-help, get her wardrobe sorted, and so on. So many never and no ways! Picking up the jumbled wardrobe issue, I led her backwards from her, “never”, to, “why not!” As it turned out, this was something she always wanted, but her mind tricked her to believe that she could never, because of the hard-work and time it would take. Due to the fears of failure/humiliation/disappointment/extra effort, we push several desires into the never-box and consciously feed our brains to keep them locked there. Release those desires and see them soar.
6. Few minutes for self-talk: Every day, fix a quiet time when you are undisturbed and explore your thoughts. Weed off mental clutter and distractions. Just 5 to 10 minutes would be enough if practised regularly.
7. Eat right, sleep enough, and insert a few short happiness moments in your daily life: These go a long way in de-stressing the mind, increasing its sharpness to focus on clarity. Little things that give you a burst of joy, break the drudge of monotony. Sing a song, listen to a favourite number, dance a little jig, whistle a tune, chat with a friend, doodle on the notepad, take a short walk, read an article like this one! There are umpteen things you can do to pep up the threatening yawn. Such kicky acts clear up the loaded mind.
Shed the unwanted, challenge the incessant train of thoughts that clutters your mind and get clear picture of what matters.
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