Living with adversity is hard, but a life without clarity is harder.
I have found that some of the “hardest” times in my life are eased by the single-minded clarity they bring to my priorities. When someone you love is sick, for example, you have energy to serve them in ways that you never thought possible.
During the few times a year when I travel for work, my wife says that she finds new levels of energy and motivation to take care of our 3 young children by herself. The job description of a parent becomes crystal clear when you’re the only one home.
Almost anything feels possible when the stakes are high and the mission is clear.
Of course, clarity doesn’t only have to occur during times of stress. Wouldn’t it be great to tap into this resource every day of your life?
Instead of waking up feeling stretched thin between the many things you’d like to do, should do, or could be doing— you would have a crystal clear vision about the things you will set your mind to do.
Maybe right now you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in life, working hard, but not sensing progress. Or maybe you just feel overwhelmed by the long list of expectations that you have for yourself.
Seeking clarity throughout your life can help. Here is what I’ve learned helps as I go on this journey alongside you:
Ways to cultivate clarity in your life
1. Create a list of priorities and let them shape your day.
Any clarity you hope to achieve in your life starts with understanding what you value most. Once you’ve done this, you can then begin shaping your habits and decision-making around those priorities.
When I did this exercise, I realized that there were three values that stood above the rest: growing in my relationships, having meaningful work to do, and taking care of my health. Everything good in my life flows out from those.
2. Settle once and for all the question of your life’s meaning/purpose.
This isn’t a religious blog, but you can’t help but touch on these topics when you try to talk about living your life intentionally and with clarity. It’s possible, of course, to live a happy life without any sort of personal faith, but my own journey has led me to believe that many people have an openness to connect with something bigger and greater than themselves.
My own faith hasn’t answered every question, but it provides immense clarity in the things I value. All I’m saying is this: if you’re open to the idea of exploring, don’t kick the can down the road forever. Now may be the perfect time to start seeking in earnest.
3. Decide on a small handful of daily habits.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to limit the number of habits that you consider essential. I start each day with 6 simple habits on my list, and I don’t consider my day complete until they are accomplished.
Most days, they are the very first things I tackle because I consider them more important than anything else I could be doing. This gets hard when there are more urgent items calling for my attention, but I’ve learned that I can best tackle the urgent when my foundation of important work is done first.
4. Decide the character traits that will guide you during uncertainty.
I consider it a good day if I can accomplish my 6 daily habits. But I found that I also needed a plan for the kind of person I wanted to be during the rest of my waking hours. I wrote down a list of the character traits I most admire and want to emulate.
Those 5 traits are a helpful place for me to return to in my mind when I feel stressed or uncertain. They often bring clarity to my next actions.
5. Strip away the excess and clutter from your life.
Now that you’ve done the foundational work of deciding what’s important, it’s time to strip away the excess and distraction. But the most important things to clear away are the good things that keep you from fully committing to the best things.
A good place to begin is to rid your physical environment of clutter, pare down your schedule, and consider if there are any goals or hobbies you need to prune back to free up energy for new growth in other areas.
6. Take care of your health and don’t dull your senses.
A lot of what I’ve talked about so far has been the mental preparation for living with clarity. But let’s not forget that we are human beings with bodies.
If you’ve ever experienced brain fog from bad sleep, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sleep and exercise are my 2 essentials for a clear mind. I’ve also found that if I go overboard on certain activities it has the same effect of distorting my ability to focus— that’s why I’m intentional about not overdoing any activity on a screen. Find out what works for you personally to keep your body and brain feeling sharp.
7. Take action on good enough rather than perfect.
The final step is right up there with the first one in importance. Once you have inner clarity on the life you want to lead, you need to take action. In fact, the times I lose clarity are almost always because I’m sitting around overthinking my next steps and worrying about the perfect solution rather than doing the real thing I already know I should be doing.
Once you’ve laid the initial groundwork, more clarity doesn’t arrive from a standstill, it comes when you take action on what you already know.
About the Author: Mike (and his wife, Mollie) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their weekly newsletter.