It's a Jungle Out There!


I’d like to expand on a reader’s comment on our last blog: Presto! The Team Compass...

“More and more it all boils down to clarity, doesn't it? Clarity and self-knowledge...perhaps one and the same. Everyone needs to follow their north.” -S.S.

I do think and talk a lot about clarity and intentionality with my executive coaching clients. What I haven’t spent much time exploring—at least out loud—is the tangled and often bewildering process of getting to that desired state of lucidity.

Very few of us know exactly where we are or where we’re headed all of the time. It can be uncomfortable, frustrating and demoralizing not to know which way to go.

Here are three tried and true pathways out of the wilderness of not-knowing.

Look At It

I learned to drive in a VW bug. Dad gave me some excellent advice at the time, which I’ve applied repeatedly. If you have engine troubles, pull over, pop the hood and look. The beauty of a VW engine is that it is mechanically simple enough for a teenager to troubleshoot—which I did multiple times. What was so valuable in Dad’s advice was the looking part. I’ve since added deep breathing and a few moments of mind clearing to enable unbiased observation of any problem, be it a frozen computer, an unintelligible insurance form or my own truculent teenagers (who are now learning to drive). 

Get Rid Of It

Creativity is messy. In our haste to get on to the next thing, we don’t take the time to put things back in their place. This is a skill taught in pre-school but most of us don’t tidy up until we absolutely have to. Note: someone made us put our toys away back then. Today David Allen, time-management guru and author of GTD, stresses the importance of cleaning up as a way to prepare space for the next creative session. In an ideal world we would do just that, all the time. What I have found in reality is that sometimes when I’m stuck (or working with a client who feels stuck), the most productive first step is to de-clutter the workspace. This doesn’t mean the entire attic and basement need to be tackled as well. But at the very least, clearing our desk of physical clutter does the same for our brain.

“Coach from a clear desk” was a mantra of one of my own coaching mentors. I follow that rule without exception.

Be With It

If nothing comes from looking at it, and you can’t get rid of it, give yourself permission to be with it. Make peace with being in a state of not-knowing. Confusion and uncertainty is a natural part of the meaning-making process.

This is a good time to go for a walk or run or take a long shower or hot bath. Allow your mind, heart and body to move in a non-linear realm. Your Eureka! will come when you stop hunting for it.

The thing is, if you arrive at clarity without having thrashed through the jungle first, you risk superficiality of purpose, of intention neither fully formed nor tested.

Let me know what strategies enable you to get to clarity.

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