Proactive people are clear about what's important to them and why. They cut through the clutter of uncertainty to make decisions and take action. Reactive people, on the other hand, allow themselves to wallow in a fog of uncertainty, forever reacting to events and circumstances that seem beyond their control.
When you live reactively, you do give up control, but you can never give up responsibility. To the degree that you fail to make decisions for yourself, someone else will come along and make those decisions for you, whether it be your parents, your spouse, your boss, the media, or societal conditioning. After a time you'll find yourself enduring a life you never really wanted... always working to fulfill someone else's goals and never your own.
Proactive people accept that it's impossible to avoid responsibility for one's results in life, so they jump in and participate willingly. Instead of living as mere statistics and playing follow-the-follower, they make conscious choices based on their unique values, beliefs, and goals. Consequently, they enjoy a sense of passion and purpose that is forever denied those who live reactively.
Here are 10 suggestions for creating more clarity in your life, so you can enjoy a life of meaning and fulfillment:
- Define your life purpose. Use the Discover Your Purpose process to create your personal statement of purpose. Whenever you're faced with a key decision, ask yourself which option best fits your purpose. In many cases the correct decision will become clear. As you continue using your purpose to make decisions, you'll gradually align the various parts of your life with your purpose, which will greatly improve your overall sense of clarity and direction.
- Set clear goals. When you have no goals, you're like a ship adrift at sea; the sea will toss you around aimlessly. When you have fuzzy goals, you're like a ship with a broken navigational system; no matter how hard your try, you'll only spin in circles. When you have clear, unambiguous goals, you're a ship with a destination sailing full speed ahead. Goals build clarity by cutting through the fog of indecision.
- Select your own experiences. Life is an experience, not an accomplishment. Some paths are more interesting and rewarding than others even though the destinations may be similar. Suppose you'd like to develop a certain level of fitness. Perhaps you could achieve it by working out in your home. But maybe you could also get there by training at a martial arts studio. Don't just focus on outcomes. Consider your experiential preferences too, so you enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
- Assess your values. Do you want your life to be secure or adventurous? Peaceful or courageous? Healthy or wealthy? Read Living Your Values, and use the List of Values to gain clarity about what's most important to you in life. Knowing your top 3-5 values will provide you with a much deeper level of self-knowledge.
- Create a personal accountability system. Assemble all your best clarity-building tools — your purpose statement, your values, your goals, and more — in one convenient place, and review them regularly to keep your life flowing in the direction of your dreams. Read the Personal Accountability System article to learn more.
- Keep a journal. When you record a thought or idea and read it back, you'll begin seeing it from a different angle. This perspective shift can provide a new level of clarity, as some ideas appear very different once you get them out of your head. Also, whenever a thought or idea has been recorded, you'll feel better about mentally releasing it, which helps you stay focused on the current task or project.
- Ask a friend. Since your friend is probably not as emotionally invested in your situation as you are, s/he will be able to see your situation from a broader perspective. If your friend and you have similar values, chances are your decisions will be similar. But it's often easier to make a wise decision when you aren't the one who has to implement it, so consulting a friend can help you gain certainty that your decision is correct.
- Embrace mistakes. Let go of the idea that your decisions must be perfect. The more decisions you make, the more mistakes you'll make. Often that's exactly what you need to do because there are many situations where the correct decision can only be recognized after a series of mistakes. Very few people find the perfect career or relationship on the first try. Clarity grows with experience, and experience comes from making mistakes.
- Recognize when you already have clarity. If you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time trying to gain clarity in some area, you may already know what to do, but you lack the courage to follow through. Don't go back to the drawing board and rework all your plans from scratch. Keep the decision in front of you, and work on building the courage to implement it. Start by admitting to yourself, "I know this is the correct decision, but currently I lack the strength to proceed." Listen to Podcast #2 and read The Courage to Live Consciously for further advice.
- Ride it out. Sometimes your life will be struck by events that uproot your sense of certainty. Even positive events such as moving to a new city can have this effect. Taking a few weeks to reorient yourself is very reasonable... several months for a major life change. But when you recognize that you're no longer in a necessary incubation period, it's time to set some fresh goals.
When you find yourself stuck in a fog of uncertainty, you can still make conscious decisions and plan your way out of the fog. However, that alone will not cause the fog to lift. Only after you get moving will you come to the edge of the fog, and then you'll be able to see much farther ahead. Clarity is greatest when you're in motion, not when you're standing still.