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“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not” – Cal Newport
One of the scariest moments in my life was in November 2015. The day the hospital released my wife to go home with our newborn baby. As first-time parents, I thought, “Are we really being trusted to take care of another human being?” All my flaws and faults came to mind as I saw the many ways that this could go wrong. As we walked to the car I concluded, “Surely someone is going to come running out and tell us how this was all a big mistake.” The first challenge: putting the baby in the car seat securely. That would be the first of many other challenges and joys of parenthood that no book or advice could have prepared us for.
So many other thoughts flooded my mind as I processed this journey called parenthood. The one thing that calmed me down was getting clear on what mattered; creating a safe environment for our children to grow up in.
I believe clarity adds simplicity, sincerity, and strength to life. Anything that matters in life will require clarity if it is to be accomplished. Parenthood matters. Because it does, I am clear that safety is critical for the physical and emotional well being of our children.
Clarity matters in writing. Three things are clear to me when I sit down to write: encouraging, edifying, and educating. I must confess that I don’t always feel like writing. Ideas don’t always flow like water out of a faucet. In those hazy moments, I remind myself of what matters and it helps break me out of this cloudy state.
In life, clarity is a prerequisite to focus in anything you do. Andy Stanley once said, “Wherever focus is lacking, only random activity is left.” By nature, we tend to randomness. Scientists refer to it as entropy. I believe that the two-step process of defining what is important and eliminating distractions outlined in this post is the key to getting clear on what matters, sustaining focus, and keeping entropy at bay:
1. Define what is important
As I said earlier, when I write, encouragement, edification, and education are important to me. I encourage because I believe everyone is in need of it. I edify because my desire is that anyone who reads what I write will build a high-quality life. I educate because it is one of the cornerstones of a well-developed society. Through these three portals, I push the topics and words I choose and use each week. Without this, I would be in a perpetual mental fog. Clarity in life gives a clear thinking process and allows us to sort and remove the clutter in our minds.
If someone sat down with you and asked, “What is important to you?” Could you articulate it? Are you rich in haziness but poor in clarity as Newport once put it? Author Steve Maraboli stated that “it’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.”
Find out what is important to you and get clear on it. One way is to find out what stirs your passion. Next, remove distractions for they are an enemy to clarity and will keep us living below our full potential. As Newport encourages us, “Pursue clarity before pursuing results.”
2. Eliminate distractions
Distractions are like apps running in the background of our mobile devices. They kill power, slow down the phone’s processor, and increase the phone’s vulnerability to attacks. Distractions have a similar effect on our resources and we must eliminate them. Pastor Craig Groeschel calls it cutting the slack. He defines slack as anything that absorbs resources but creates little to no value.
What are you currently doing that fits Groeschel’s description? The goal is to become a terminator of distractions or slack. Three things are needed. First, perform a reality check of what you do daily and when you do it. You can call this an inspection or inventory of where your resources of time, money, and energy are going. Second, ruthlessly cut out anything from the inventory report that creates no value but is eating up your resources. Third, redirect those resources to what you define as important.
Distractions have a way of suffocating our values and keeping them from being expressed in the best way possible. Our ability to focus on what matters is consistently affected by the distractions we don’t wean ourselves from. Distractions keep us from being present and being our best selves. Eliminating them is a personal choice that will yield high returns in the future.
Final thought: Getting clear about what matters creates a path for continual growth and self-improvement. This is turn raises your quality of life and the effect is felt by those around you. Clarity ensures that you keep what is important at the front and center of your life while providing the fortitude to eliminate distractions, no matter how good they feel in the moment.
Keep on keeping on!