Clarity

  • The Truth About Clarity and Motivation

    truth about clarity and motivation blog post

    I wish clarity and motivation were good friends, but they’re usually more like casual acquaintances.  When we lived in Texas, we always looked forward to seeing another couple at our mutual friend’s house. It was only a few times a year for the annual holiday party and summer cookout and sometimes Thanksgiving. We always said that we would get together, but we never followed through and made plans. It was that extra hurdle of commitment to a plan that just didn’t happen and it became a friendly joke.

    Many women believe that they’ll be motivated to take action when they understand why they do what they do.

    It makes sense and works in many situations, like in school or work or even baking. You watch a video to learn how to fold in the dry ingredients and why it’s important for the recipe instead of wondering what to do or why it’s important. Now that you have the information you can mix the cake more confidently and it’s much easier to start and get the cake in the oven.

    Unfortunately, with human behavior clarity rarely leads to motivation for meaningful change. The irony is that when you mix in emotion, associations to past events, habits and the busyness of life, what could be clear becomes opaque very quickly.

    Clarity

    Clarity requires deeper awareness of your experiences, interpretations of them and your ability to take thoughtful action.  And blending understanding and knowledge are the main ingredients of clarity.

    Understanding

    Understanding ourselves takes a bit of time. Reflection, education and experience are the necessary ingredients for understanding. I think of understanding as located in the gut, it’s more on the emotional, felt level of experience.

    Knowledge

    Knowledge comes from our experiences, training or information gained from others or our own experimentation. Knowledge is what we think of as being in our heads. It the logical or even observable part of our experiences.

    Action doesn’t come from understanding or knowledge. There is a way of understanding the world around you and making sense of it in relation to your own experience. The role both play in life is extremely important. Understanding and knowledge are the foundation of how you perceive yourself and make sense of your life.

    They help you to contrast where you are and where you want to be, which is generates clarity.  But that’s not what gets you moving.

    Motivation

    Motivation is energy to take action on what you desire. You’re either moving toward something or avoiding an outcome you don’t want to experience.

    Emotion, personal history and habits are all parts of what motivates people. And the good news is that you can change your habits and establish new ways of being with yourself.

    For a lot of people, the desire to stop negative thoughts and feelings is what gets them moving. It’s that old saying, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

    The best way to start generating motivation in your life is to do something that feels better than the negativity you experience when you don’t take action. When you do this at least three times a week you’re more likely to make it a habit. Motivation is easier when you do things that feel better often enough for it to become a habit that supports your well-being.

    Building Momentum

    Momentum starts to build and becomes associated with a positive experience of feeling better the more you take action. It feels better to move toward something you do want instead of avoiding an experience you don’t want.

    Waiting for clarity before you tak action can lead to stagnation and feeling stuck.

    Everybody gets stuck at some point in life. Things happen, circumstances change and work and life are busy. Often, it’s a matter of just keeping up with the everyday tasks of living. Getting the groceries, getting to work, getting the kids to do their homework, etc. During times like this clarity helps.

    Thoughtful Action

    Take time to thoughtfully, mindfully what your experience tells you and what you need. This helps you decide on your direction. It’s the most important part of the recipe. The cake needs flour of some kind to be cake like or it’s something else, maybe delicious, but not a cake.

    Knowing what you want and moving in the direction you need to be is thoughtful action. If you don’t,  motivation will be a difficult fight. It will often take the form of being busy, but directionless and eventually it will be a burden. When this happens people often say, “my motivation is zapped!” It’s misplaced energy and needs to be replenished with clear intentional direction.

    The irony is that movement – acting – is what helps you to become clear.

    It’s a risk.

    There’s a likelihood that you’ll make mistakes.

    You’ll probably fail – at first – until you learn more about what you need to do.

    It’s all okay and part of the process of understanding what you need, for.

    Many of my clients think that being motivated requires inspiration as the catalyst. That they will experience a positive energy boost that propels them to take action. I wish that was the case a lot more often, but it’s not.

    What I’ve found is that moving toward what you want, truly want, with understanding and knowledge you’ll make decisions that lead you to what you need and want in your life.

    Conclusion

    It’s difficult to get started and take the risk of stepping into the life you desire, but don’t know yet.

    As you gather more experience of moving toward and receiving what you desire, your experience of motivation changes from negative associations to positive.

    Taking action is the fuel for clarity and motivation. It helps you to understand what is really important and needed in your life.

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  • 3 Foolproof Ways to Breakout of Decision Fatigue

    Recently I had lunch with a friend at a new sandwich place and it was just the type of place I love and the sort of place where decision fatigue sets in.

    They offered familiar sandwiches and salads with just a bit of a twist that made them interesting. It was busy and there was a big variety of choices. We had to let several regulars order before us because neither one of us could make a quick decision.

    We finally got our lunch after about a 30-minute wait.  There were so many phone orders ahead of us in addition to the full tables. The conversation turned to both the delicious sandwiches and our decision fatigue.

    We were both in the midst of last minute get away plans, not so much an adventurous vacation given we would be doing the same thing, but in a different location – just the realities of pandemic life!

    And that lead to us talking about all of the other decisions we make every day. From what to wear, to when to go to the grocery store or place a delivery order, to what’s the topic for the next blog, to giving permission or not for the kid’s sleep-over, to considering charitable giving before the end of the year and on and on. There were a bunch more we identified in the span of about 3 minutes.

    We both were at the point of emotional exhaustion listing them, let alone living it.

    Decision Fatigue

    Decision Fatigue happens when we make too many decisions in one day – or even in one hour – and we feel mentally drained by the process. Sometimes it can make prioritizing tasks, thinking through problems, remembering details and controlling impulses more difficult since the volume of choices made puts a strain on the brain.

    Women on a daily basis, more often than men find themselves in the position of not only making decisions for their own needs, but also those of for their families, business and other community commitments such as getting together with friends and family, volunteering, church, major household purchases, etc.

    It’s not that women find it harder to make decisions, but rather women make more decisions. In addition, the decisions we make usually have an immediate impact on our lives and those around us as well. Those two factors, volume and speed are a big contributor to decision fatigue.

    Here are 3 foolproof ways to ease the burden of decision making, so you can breakout of decision fatigue.

    1. Prioritize Tasks

    One of the best ways to relieve decision fatigue is by making a list of the tasks that need to be completed – both big and small – and then deciding which of them – big or small – need to be done first.

    Here’s an example:

    I often make a “master list” of things to do. This could be a DIY home project or even a fun activity like holiday decorating.

    I remind myself that the list will be big, but it’s okay since I’ll break it down.

    Then next step is to break the “master list” down into bite size chunks that I complete in a shorter amount of time.

    When I get things down on paper or in a document the details aren’t swimming around in my head anymore. I’ve done the task “brain dump” and can look at it more objectively from an action taking standpoint. This includes  the logical steps to completion and what can I realistically accomplish in the time I have.

    The last part about realistically accomplish, is very important since it’s both practical and a self-compassion practice at the same time. Biting off more than you can chew often leads to overwhelm which leads to decision fatigue, so take smaller bits and you’ll be more comfortable and make progress too.

    2. Consider What’s Really Needed

    Another great way to relieve the burden of decision fatigue is to think about what’s really needed.

    When decisions are many there’s a tendency to speed up the process and that’s the fast track to decision fatigue. The faster you make decisions the faster your tension will be relieved, at least that’s the hope. But this perspective only considers short term stress. I’m guessing what you want is longer term relief too.

    Here are 3 questions that can help you take a moment to make a better decision:

    1. Is this an immediate need?
    2. Is it “nice to do” or it “needs to be done” right now?
    3. Do I need or want help with this decision?

    These 3 simple questions can help you increase your awareness of your needs, the needs of the situation and ultimately leads to more thoughtful decision making.

    3. Reacting vs. Responding

    So much of the time we react without thinking and this is a big contributor to decision fatigue. Step 1 – prioritizing and Step 2 – focusing on needs both help to slow down that process so you can mindfully choose how you want to respond to what’s being asked of you. This shifts the dynamic.

    You get out of the rapid-fire making decision and into a comfortable way of being. When you know what you need (your family too) there just aren’t as many decisions as possible to make.

    It’s like you don’t need to  consider choices because you already know the answer before the question is asked. This is a major shift from reacting to thoughtfully responding and that’s what being in alignment is all about.

    Conclusion

    When you move out of what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls, human doing and into human being, it’s a place where day to day decisions no longer seem stressful. The you have a reservoir of calm and well-being you can draw on when your stress level rises and you start do feel the emotional exhaustion of decision fatigue. Your confidence increases as you clearly know what’s in your best interests respond in kind.

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  • How To Create A Reservoir of Inner Calm

    5 steps to create a reservoir of inner calm

    5 easy steps to create a reservoir of inner calm

    This article gives you five strategies on how to create a reservoir of inner calm which you can draw from when stressful situations arise. Since we can’t control when stress spikes, we can plan what to do when it does so when your patience is in short supply, you know just what to do.

    How many situations that test your level of patience in a day? If you are like most people, you have likely lost count, but this article will teach you how to ride out the calm in the eye of the storm.

    The secret to staying calm when you are in a state of stress is to hold your immediate reaction, even if it’s for a brief moment to regroup. The secret here is to rehearse. Your brain will do what it can to protect you by either fleeing, fighting or freezing, as if the treat is a mortal one. But that’s not what we’re talking about right now.

    Everyday stress like, traffic, work deadlines, your child can’t find the charger to his Chromebook and you needed to leave for school – ten minutes ago – we all have countless examples! Times of everyday stress are when you can safely hold your immediate reaction, so you can thoughtfully choose your response.

    Reservoir of inner calm

    All you need to do is start to build a reservoir of calm and use it as needed. It doesn’t need to be filled before you start. If that was the case it would never happen because the everyday stressors do not stop for anyone.

    There isn’t a finite supply inner calm. In fact, you’ll keep adding to your reserves as you grow in your ability to create space between you and the effects of stress.

    Here are five ways you can increase your reservoir of inner calm.

    1. Increase your emotional mastery

    Emotional mastery is the ability to identify what you’re feeling, what happens when you feel it and then take action, so the emotion moves through you instead of getting stuck.

    The practice of emotional mastery is what builds resilience. It’s your guide for what you need to feel better. It takes the work of thinking about it and strategizing your plan. You already know what helps you and you can do it right away and the byproduct is inner calm.

    2. Begin a daily mindful practice

    Being present with the world around you is grounding. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of life and lose yourself. For many of my clients, this is what prevents them from moving forward and reaching their goals.

    When you are feeling alone and out of control, it is important that you take time out of your day to meditate, be quiet and disconnect from “doing.” Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has often said that we are more like human doings than human beings.

    A daily mindfulness practice can be as individual as you are. It might be sitting quietly for five minutes or an hour or something in between. Or it might be walking and practicing your awareness of the birds, the sunlight on the tree leaves or the breeze on your cheek. It could also be doing something where you lose yourself in the process, like in a creative practice – drawing, painting, quilting, knitting, etc. The point is to disconnect from information coming into your being and connect with your internal sense of yourself.

    3. Challenge negative thinking

    Everyone has negative thoughts that creep into their head throughout the day, but it is how you deal with them that matters. When you feel yourself moving down the road of negativity, it is time to take a step back and identify the emotion that sparked those thoughts.

    By challenging negative thinking, you will begin to use the thoughts to help you shift your perspective. Even if you’ve felt this way for a long time, it is possible to regain your inner calm and peace.

    4. Limit negative influences

    “You are a product of your environment,” is a common saying for a reason! It is important to surround yourself with people and in environments that encourage growth and positive thinking.

    When you cut out the negative influences from your life, you will feel a sense of freedom and weight lifted. By choosing to eliminate those who drag you down, you will be able to open up new avenues for personal growth.

    One very important aspect of this is to also ensure, as much as you can that your environment is calming. Home is a place of respite, but not always. Clearing your space (home, car, purse, office, garage, etc.) of clutter is very important. A fancy car is nice, but a clean car you feel good in is great. Same idea with your house, it’s wonderful if you have the resources to live in a picture-perfect space, but most of us don’t. Living in a house free from clutter and disorganization – helps to keep your reservoir of inner calm full!

    5. Remove yourself from the situation

    It can be easy to get caught up in stressful situations that seem impossible to escape. Not getting caught up, means establishing a boundary between yourself and the situation.

    It can be frustrating when you are removed from a situation that you are trying to change. But there are times when it is more beneficial for you to take a break or even realize that you’ve done all you can and you may need to make a different choice.

    Conclusion

    The goal of this article is to provide you with five helpful strategies to fill your reservoir of inner calm. You can experience less stress in your life so you have more time and energy for what you really want! Really, isn’t that a big part of clearing stress, to live a mindful and fulfilling life?

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  • 3 Ways Self-knowledge Makes You Emotionally Strong

    3 Ways Self-knowledge Makes You Strong

    3 ways self-knowledge makes you emotionally strong

    We are often blind to what our emotions are trying to tell us and they are the basis for self-knowledge. It can be hard to pay attention when your head is piled high with tasks, appointments, and the endless list of everyday worries that seem impossible to solve.

    Yet, when we pay attention and develop a deeper awareness, we have everything we need to make choices that move our lives in alignment with our needs and desires.

    It is impossible to say how much of this is a natural or an acquired ability, but it has been part of humankind’s evolutionary process since the beginning.

    We evolved to be aware of our environment and learn from our experiences to create a future full of purpose. This means that, without self-knowledge, your life will end up being filled with regret and regret leads to suffering. The longer you put off pursuing self-knowledge, the more times you’ll have to reinvent the wheel only end up making things worse.

    The process is simple. At the same time, it requires you to be patient with yourself. When you’re unsure, it takes time to figure it out what you’re feeling rather than making a snap judgement that isn’t really accurate. This is how self-knowledge makes you emotionally strong.

    Here is your 3 part recipe to increase your self-knowledge and emotional strength.

    Here is your 3-part recipe to increase your self-knowledge and emotional strength.

    1. Identify your emotions.

    When you are uncertain of yourself, introspection is the way to go.

    Identify the emotions you are experiencing at the moment. What is your gut feeling? Your breath? Your heart?

    Characteristics of an emotion include clarity, intensity, and pleasure or pain. If you don’t know what an emotion feels like, here are some examples for you to explore more closely:

    Anxiety – The immediate sense of irritation that may be present when faced with a particular situation.

    Disillusioned – The feeling that everything is not as good as it seems.

    Excited – A state of intense arousal, often with an accompanying sense of joy.

    Sad – A feeling of discomfort lacking clarity. It’s more like a vague melancholy.

    Anger – Clear sensations in your body signaling the need to take action and be defensive against certain situations.

    Joy – The highest and most enjoyable emotion experienced by humans. It is a state of permanent happiness and contentment felt after great success or accomplishment.

    It’s important to be as specific as possible with your emotions. This is one of the times in life where nuance matters a lot. Clarity about your internal state makes a difference. It’s too easy to get swept up in the immediate emotion put it in a broad category when really, it might be something much more subtle.

    Take for example anger and sadness. Many people become angry when they’re sad. They don’t want to experience loss and instead become angry as a way of pushing the feeling away.

    I’ve had this experience when I moved across country.

    I didn’t really want to move, in fact I loved where I lived and often thought, “man I love it here.” But, when it came time to begin the moving process, I started to pick out all of the flaws and justify why it would be better to live elsewhere. I pushed away the fond feelings for a place I loved as a way of making it easier to focus on the future.

    This process prevented me from acknowledging my experience of loss and the sadness I felt. Instead of letting go, feeling sad and being in the present I was misaligned with myself. In the end, it made the transition more difficult and take longer than expected to settle into the new location.

    2. Put your experiences into context.

    Make a short list of 3 moments of your life that made you feel strong.

    When you are doing this exercise, pay attention to the emotions that are present during each of the three experiences.

    What emotions were present for these three events? What characteristics did they have?

    Once you have this information at hand, it’s time to put them into context. As if you were explaining your life story to someone new, explain each of these three moments. This exercise requires a non-judgmental outlook – it’s just the observable information, not an evaluation of them.

    It’s helpful to make a note for yourself, on your phone, in a journal or a sticky note that you put somewhere so you can see it often. Reminders like this help you to keep the emotion and experience top of mind, so it becomes part of what you do during the day.

    This is another way that self-knowledge makes you strong.

    Make a short list of 3 moments of your life that made you feel strong.

    When you are doing this exercise, pay attention to the emotions that are present during each of the three experiences.

    What emotions were present for these three events? What characteristics did they have?

    Once you have this information at hand, it’s time to put them into context. As if you were explaining your life story to someone new, explain each of these three moments. This exercise requires a non-judgmental outlook – it’s just the observable information, not an evaluation of them.

    It’s helpful to make a note for yourself, on your phone, in a journal or a sticky note that you put somewhere so you can see it often. Reminders like this help you to keep the emotion and experience top of mind, so it becomes part of what you do during the day.

    This is another way that self-knowledge makes you strong.

    3. Determine what your future plans need to be.

    What would you do differently if you knew what your emotions were telling you?

    Simply imagine yourself in the future.

    If you know what was going on inside of you at the time, would this future change?

    Which ones?

    Why?

    What do you need to do in order to bring this future about, or how can it be brought about easier or faster?

    A word of warning.

    Many people think that they can skip over numbers 1 and 2 above and go right for number 3 to create a more aligned future. But it just doesn’t work that way. It would be a lot less painful and messy if it did, but it doesn’t.

    Alignment takes time and reflection to really know yourself and your needs. Don’t shortchange yourself by moving past this quickly. Most of us were never taught anything about emotions or feelings, other than being told what is “appropriate” to feel for someone else’s convenience. There can be a lot of unpacking judgements in this phase.

    Shaping your life into one where you draw on your sense of inner calm and self-knowledge makes you emotionally strong, so you can live your life in the way that is fulfilling for you.

    It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day drudgery of life and forget that we are all just one step away from creating our ideal futures.

    Conclusion

    No one is born emotionally strong.

    It’s a learned skill that you can master at any point in your life. The process is simple but takes time to know more about yourself with each step.

    1. Identify your emotions.
    2. Put your experiences into context.
    3. Plan for the future based on the two previous steps.

    Self-knowledge makes you strong and able to handle anything with clarity, alignment and grace.

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    It's your magic wand for stress!

  • 10 Ways to be strong, feel calm and have clarity

    Being strong, calm and clear are three ingredients anyone needs when they’re in the middle of challenging times.

    10 ways to be strong and feel and have clarity

    Hectic schedules, long work hours, health problems and the fast paced changes aren’t easy to handle. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are the keys to being strong, calm and clear:

    1. Breathe!

    Taking a few minutes out of every day to just breathe can change your perspective on everything around you. It puts distance between the overwhelming thoughts and emotions that may be distracting you from focusing on what’s truly important. 

    It delivers more oxygen to your brain that lowers stress and increases calming neurotransmitters for more clarity.

    2. Change your environment.

    This is a big one. When you’re around people you don’t want to be, a change is needed. 

    If your physical environment is stressful with too much clutter or noise, it can increase anxiety. Even at a low level they distract you from what you need to do. 

    Think about what you need to create the positive environment for yourself. Ask yourself, if this helping me or stopping me from doing what I need to do for my well-being?

    3. Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

    Realize that others may not understand your life as well as you do. 

    Maybe, you need time and space to understand your life too?

    The first part of being calm is to understand what’s going on within yourself. Sometimes we take our first impressions and the only impression. 

    Take for instance a feeling. When someone doesn’t hold the door open for you might be irritated at first.  You might quickly think that it’s rude and the person is a jerk. Which might be true, but often we don’t have the opportunity to find out. 

    When you find your feelings linger and you wonder why you can’t shake an insignificant situation, it’s probably something else, like feeling invisible, disrespected, unimportant or any number of other feelings that need care. 

    Understanding yourself is an act of self-compassion. Which leads more calm and clarity and knowing what you need in your life.

    4. Being strong comes from self-knowledge

    Each and every one of us has a reason to be here and a purpose. Seek that purpose. 

    You may not see the story line that made you who you are yet, trust it’s there and hang on to what you do know. Your life is unfolding in ways no one can predict. 

    As you go through life, it may not be what you expected it to be. If you followed the plan. Go to school, create a good career, find the right partner, have the kids or not and then you’ll have the life you dreamed of. But when it doesn’t turn out that way it,  is when many people begin to doubt that they’re on the “right” path. I don’t think there’s a right path, just the one you’re on. 

    Each path has lots of options and you can change your direction to a path that feels more in alignment with what you need. Sometimes it takes some exploring to find out which path that it. Take each day as it comes, make wise decisions and in the end, you’ll get to where you need to be.

    5. Build a reservoir of calm

    Strength comes from building your reserves of calm and clarity

    When you know where you end and the other begins it’s easier to not let the emotions of others upset you. Emotional boundaries aren’t about being unfeeling or lacking empathy, it’s about respecting yourself and others that you each have your own experiences. 

    Your self-knowledge along with the well-being habits are skills you can learn to keep stress low and reservoir of calm full.

    6. If something is bothering you, deal with it then and there.

    Don’t put it off for tomorrow. If you let the sun set on the problems that you have today because they will only create more mind-clutter. 

    Ask yourself 3 things: 

    1. How am I feeling? 
    2. What do I need?
    3. Which action do I need to take? 

    Sometimes your answers might be, “I don’t know,” and that’s completely okay. You might need to give it a few minutes and allow yourself some space to get clear. 

    The idea is to not let it linger and avoid dealing with something that needs your attention.

    7. Clear communication with yourself and others takes time

    Use it. Don’t talk yourself out of your ideas or accept less than what you need. Don’t settle for less than what you are for the sake of convenience. 

    Being heard and understood will help you to keep growing in your relationships – with yourself and others.

    8. Choose your words wisely and be sincere even when you’re wrong.

    Don’t try to manipulate yourself or others with your words by saying something different from what is in your heart. 

    When you’re clear it’s easier to speak how you would like to be spoken to, with compassion, sincerity and integrity. 

    Remember, personal integrity is a gift you can give yourself every day.

    9. Know what’s most important to you and cherish and protect it.

    No one knows exactly what will happen; don’t put your happiness in someone else’s hands. 

    Be responsible for your own feelings and trust that others can choose to be responsible for their feelings as well. 

    You job is to take care of your well-being.

    10. The simple things matter.

    A smile, a compliment or a walk through the woods can give you the energy you need to find inner clarity and inspiration. It’s the simple things that sprinkle the day with positive feelings and bathes your brain in feel good neurochemicals. 

    It’s important to take a step back and savor those moments. They are the antidote to negativity and false positives.

    Conclusion

    Being strong, feeling calm and having clarity are all possible. 

    When life feels overwhelming and your mind is cluttered with all the things you need to do, people you need to take care of and situations that need your attention it can seem impossible. 

    There isn’t a magic wand, but there is one thing that makes a difference – it’s your relationship with yourself. 

    When self-compassion becomes a priority in your life, it leads the way to more calm, clarity and makes you strong!

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    5 Minutes to Calm & Clarity Guide

    It's your magic wand for stress!