Clarity tops every priority pyramid. It’s a personal goal that requires the culmination of many efforts, and it leads to a greater sense of purpose and a stronger internal compass guiding our actions. You can’t move forward without clarity, but to achieve it, it’s helpful to understand the underlying framework.
Last year, we spoke with Debbie Peterson, an Imaging USA speaker and author of “Clarity: How Smart Professionals Create Career Success on Their Terms,” about how to find and use clarity to build a more rewarding career (“The Keys to Clarity,” July 2022). To update the advice for 2023, we circled back to dive deeper into the framework that defines clarity. Peterson builds this framework with six parts, each represented by a letter in the word clarity.
C is for Curiosity. Be curious about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what the future could hold. It’s good to question your assumptions and ask yourself questions that can help move you in the direction you want to go. What could be next for you and your business? What interests you? What would you step into if there were no barriers to entry?
That last question is an important one. “You’re essentially asking yourself what you’d do if nothing was stopping you from doing it,” says Peterson. Allow yourself the curiosity to dream. You might be surprised where it leads you.
L is for Listening. Clarity is personal, it’s something inside of us. Listening to ourselves is important. But we should be open to listening to advice and feedback from people who understand and care about us. We have to discern who they are because we’re also surrounded by influencers who don’t always have our best interests at heart. They may be friends or family members who impose stories on us or push their sense of what we should do based on their experiences, not ours. Their opinions aren’t necessarily ours to carry.
A is for Action. Not just any action, inspired action. “Creative people often chase too many things instead of focusing on the right things,” says Peterson. “They love the newness of things, the bright shiny objects, but that can take us down a path where we’re easily distracted and overwhelmed.” Take productive action that moves you and your career in a well-defined, well-thought-out direction.
R is for Release. Let go of limiting beliefs about yourself and the emotional baggage from past experiences. You may still be carrying the scars from a bad experience with a client or a betrayal by a peer. That baggage affects your interactions with clients and peers, and it colors your thinking. “As we grow, there are things that are no longer useful to us, and we need to release them,” says Peterson. “Be aware of them and let them go.”
Release also applies to emotions that can hijack you. “We are only meant to experience emotion for a short time,” explains Peterson. “[Negative] emotion is a sign from your subconscious saying that what is happening is not aligned with who you are, and you’re meant to do something different.” Experience the emotion, absorb the lesson, and then you’re OK to let go of the emotion. It’s a process. You can’t just shove these emotions down. You need to experience them because there’s a lesson associated with strong emotions. Release what you don’t need, then look for the nuggets of wisdom that will help you grow.
I is for Intention. Ask yourself about your intentions for your business and your life. How do the intentions work together? If you’re not clear about what you’re trying to create, then you’re wasting your time. Build your career intentionally with the goal of becoming your highest and best self, and focus on your highest and best work. Doing so will help ensure that your efforts are applied productively.
T is for Trust. Trust yourself. “Self-trust is something a lot of us should strive to improve,” says Peterson. “Because we doubt ourselves. We seek validation that is external to ourselves. And that’s not helpful when you’re seeking clarity.”
If you have a spark, an inspiration for something you want to pursue, but you don’t follow up on it, then you’re disrespecting yourself because that inspiration came from you. Trust yourself. Trust your inspirations. The fuel needed to drive you toward greater success will come from within, so tap into it.
Y is for Yes to You. Put yourself on your list. Take care of yourself. Accept that you deserve the personal and professional lives you want and that you deserve to have harmony between the two. When you’re making informed decisions that align with your vision, accept that those are the right decisions for you and move forward.
Now you’re ready to put the framework into practice. Apply these principles to situations you face in your business, and you can achieve clarity of purpose, which gives you confidence in your decisions.
Here’s a scenario: You have a long-term client who doesn’t renew a contract. Their decision seems to come out of nowhere and throws you for a loop. Apply the clarity framework to guide your actions.
Seeking clarity is a journey, not a destination. The journey allows you to find where you belong and lean into it. If you’re feeling stuck or frustrated, run through the framework. Ask yourself what could be next. What is appealing? What would you like to explore? Get curious and allow your brain to go in that direction. Listen to the ideas that come through, take inspired action, release your misgivings, trust yourself, and say yes to your resulting conclusions. That’s how you build confidence in yourself and establish stability in your business.
Jeff Kent is editor-at-large.