What is Clarity?
Definition: Clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.
Compare and Despair sometimes precedes clarity…
Originally, I intended to do this blog on a common theme I encounter as a coach and human being, Compare and Despair. By this I mean the tendency that most humans have to compare themselves to others — to friends and family members whose lives seem happier, easier; to colleagues or even strangers who are experiencing success in areas where we painfully strive; to anyone who appears to “have it all” while we struggle daily to survive. I am guilty of all of these, and the list could go on for this entire post. I am quite sure I am not the only one who looks at social media sometimes and thinks, “Wow! If only my life looked like that…” Can you relate??
As mentioned in my last post, Beyond Abundance, the past three months have seen huge transition in my life. Mid-December I quit my job as a massage therapist, had major surgery with unexpected complications, and entered into a long-awaited and serious romantic relationship — all in the span of three days! Everything happened so fast, and over the past several months I’ve followed paths that were unexpected, life-changing and emotionally complex. Clarity eventually came on the other side, but not without serious struggle.
Compare, despair, and other obstacles crept in…
As the months progressed, I recovered from surgery and reveled in the experience of loving and being loved. I spent a lot of time on inner work, analyzing and sharing with my partner, David, those aspects of myself that had previously kept me unable to find success with romantic love. We had the opportunity to go deep quickly, and we spent long hours in conversation and just being together.
And yet, even as love bloomed I let my mind get sidetracked worrying about the things in my life I wasn’t doing, or that I wasn’t doing “well enough.” I let myself go down the path of feeling insecure, insufficient, and watched myself fall into compare and despair mode. Two areas where I saw this play out were in my writing and coaching.
Since 2016, I have been working on a memoir about my solo hike of the John Muir Trail. Just after my return, I started taking writing classes through The Narrative Project. With the help of a great instructor and peer critique group, I churned out an entire rough draft in the first year. Then it was on to revisions, and fear and the unknown slowed me down for nearly a year, even though I was still taking classes. I felt uncertain and scared, fearing my material wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t a good enough writer. I was certain I’d never get close to publication status since I couldn’t even figure out how to edit. Writing the rough draft had been so easy compared to editing! I felt like I was “behind” other writers in my various writing groups who were fast approaching publication while I stayed stuck in uncertainty about how to move forward. I compared myself to others in a way that felt personally frustrating and collectively unsupportive of my writing friends.
Late last summer I hired an editor, and we began working together. Slowly, I started to face my fear of editing, both emotionally and structurally. I thought I’d be editing up a storm (as my Mom would say!) during my recent surgery recovery, but I continued to stay in avoidance mode. Eventually, I got sick of my own procrastination and felt courageous enough to embrace my fears, dig in to the process, and commit to learning to edit. I started to trust the relationship with my editor, and, perhaps most importantly, honor the time frame that we were creating together and stop worrying about anyone else’s time-table. Soon we were moving forward, momentum continued to build, and I felt stronger and more confident with each edited chapter. Now I feel clear on what needs to happen, on a moment by moment, day by day basis, to complete this revised second draft and move one step closer to publication.
My recovery time was also supposed to be a time when I would lay out my programs for my Hike Your Best Life Coaching Program. I completed my Health and Life coaching certifications this past summer, and was half-way through a year-long Mastery program to further enhance my skills. I intended to be all ready to start working with clients as soon as I was back into hiking mode and the weather was conducive to hitting the trails.
But that’s not what happened. During the initial months after surgery, I found myself unable to focus on how I saw my business coming together. Uncertainty again led to paralysis, which led to comparison with my fellow mastery students. I felt left out and left behind. I stayed up with my course work, but shied away from putting myself out there with what I knew to be my best business model, coaching clients while exploring local trails in and around my hometown of Bellingham. I knew from past experiences with clients that what I wanted to put together was unique and special, yet I remained trapped and couldn’t seem to move ahead. Again, fear and comparison teamed up to keep me out of action.
My fear certainly feels legit. This new business endeavor represents an entire career shift. I’ve put a lot of expectations on myself as to how I plan to serve my clients once I pull things together. While I carry a strong vision of programs that I know will make a difference, getting into action has continued to bring pesky and repeated fears to the forefront. Not dissimilar to with the editing, I finally got tired of my own procrastination, and have recently moved into action.
New Insight, finally
I stopped comparing myself to other students and coaches, switching my focus instead to listening, learning and showing up for the powerful coaching conversations offered through my program. I embraced the excitement of coaches in action, inspired by their business models and successes. I boldly created and committed to a strategic plan of action with an expert in the field. I also hired my own coach, realizing that I needed someone to help me clarify my goals, identify my blind spots, move past my obstacles, and step powerfully forward into my role as coach. I stepped back to honor my own process and timing in the creation of my coaching business. I finally declared a big YES to being in action.
For the sake of clarity, let me do a quick recap of how I believe I’ve moved from paralysis to clarity in these important areas of my life:
- I recognized that I was playing the Compare and Despair game and consciously stepped into celebrating other’s successes instead of bemoaning my own apparent lack there of;
- I got away from other’s timelines and focused on my own timing, trusting what was right for my journey in each of these areas;
- I consciously celebrated Choice about time spent in the early phase of recovery. I reframed guilt about not getting “enough” editing or business work done to gratitude about the opportunity for personal and relationship growth;
- Related to this, I got good at focusing on the NOW. It’s impossible to NOT have clarity when one is completely focused on one’s current situation;
- I took a realistic look at where I was in these areas of my life and asked “Is there really anything wrong with my life as it is right now? Can I accept myself as I am in this current place? In what areas do I want continued improvement? How can you make that happen?”
- I asked for help when I couldn’t get beyond my own roadblocks by hiring an editor and coach. When the student is ready, the right teacher appears!
- I embraced all the changes, challenges and opportunities of the last several months and where they have led me to now;
- And perhaps, most importantly, I consciously decided to focus on what makes me authentically me. When it comes right down to it, I can’t be anybody else, so why spend time and energy trying to fit into another person’s model that seems superior to who I am?
The Big Takeaway…Action leads to clarity!
I kept trying for the reverse. I wanted clarity in my life BEFORE I took action. In each case, even finding love, Action preceded Clarity. That, my friends, is a far more satisfying way to do life than going down the road of compare and despair to find clarity.
What action can you take today to move yourself one step closer to getting in action with what you really want in life? Leave a comment below and let me know.