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Why do we keep sabotaging ourselves? Why do we keep making bad choices when, in retrospect, the right choice seems so obvious? The answer lies in clarity. Discover how to gain clarity in life and stop getting in your own way.
Awful decision-making in action
The other night, my boyfriend and I watched John Huston’s 1979 classic Wise Blood. Hazel Motes, the protagonist, is adrift. He returns home from World War II to find his home in shambles (literally) and his family gone without a trace. Now that a road has been built in his small southern town, everyone’s fled for the city. Resigned, he heads to the city as well. A fish out of water, he dons a black hat which causes everyone to mistake him for a preacher. This infuriates him.
Finally, he caves in and decides he will be a preacher. Only he’ll be a different kind of preacher. One who leads a “church without Christ.”
This is both an attempt to rebel against a troubled religious upbringing and to carve out an identity in a world where he feels he serves no purpose.
As my boyfriend says, as charismatic as Hazel is, his behavior becomes frustrating. All he seems to do is make bad decisions. At one point, he pitches his church idea to a crowd of indifferent spectators. Out of nowhere, a man named Hoover Shoats upstages him, captivating the crowd. Hoover, unlike Hazel, is a skilled salesman.
Rather than recognize that Hoover would make an excellent business partner, though, Hazel’s pride gets the best of him. In fact, throughout the movie, his pride and stubbornness cause him to blunder one opportunity after another.
Often, we’re our own worst enemies. We miss amazing opportunities staring us right in the face. We ignore our own gifts, running off in some inane direction.
In my grad writing program, I completed a collection of short stories. One of my professors was convinced that his friend would publish it. And once I was published, he said, all sorts of teaching and writing jobs would open up for me.
But instead, I was convinced that my sole priority was to pay the bills. Meanwhile, I put all my dreams on hold. Plus, from my one year of experience as a TA for a freshman composition class and a brief stint as an unpaid film critic, I was convinced that teaching and writing non-fiction weren’t for me.
So I spent hours each day looking for waitressing jobs on Craigslist. Even though I was a terrible waitress. Plus in a city of aspiring actresses and models, landing a job at a good restaurant is actually quite tough. All the while, I occasionally made changes to my manuscript.
It wasn’t until years later that I finally got the courage to send the manuscript to my professor’s friend. At which point he’d already moved on.
Looking back, what I SHOULD have done is obvious. But at the time, I was stumbling through life in a haze. What I lacked was clarity.
How to Gain Clarity in Life and Master Your Goals
Uncover any limiting beliefs that are holding you back
If I’d been honest with myself, I would have recognized that a deep-seated fear was blocking me from sending out my manuscript and really going for it. I didn’t think I could handle the rejection, so instead I distracted myself with other things. I also bought into the lie that I couldn’t possibly make money as a writer.
You could also ask yourself, “Am I letting my pain (or fear of pain) mask my true desires?”
For Hazel in Wise Blood, all his decisions are an attempt to lash out against his hurt, burying his cravings for love and approval and perhaps even connection to a higher power. It’s appropriate that blindness is a motif in the movie. Blindness = the opposite of clarity.
Explore all your options AND give yourself enough time
Often, we lack clarity on our goals because we aren’t considering all our options. For instance, for those of us building a website, attracting traffic through SEO is an elusive goal. But are we fully exploring ALL the ways (keyword research, link building, guest posting, etc.) we can gain visitors? Are we giving ourselves enough time to rank in Google’s search engines? I know I’ve fallen short in these areas.
We hear these stories of people achieving big results in our field, experience a burst of inspiration, and then get deflated when we don’t achieve the same results right away. The truth is, it takes time. And what worked for someone else might not necessarily work for you.
Identify allies who can assist you on your path
In Wise Blood, Hazel turns down a promising business partner because he’s convinced he can hack it on his own. In the same way, I didn’t take the advice of my professor or anyone wiser and more experienced than me for that matter. I thought I knew best.
I think it’s pride, combined with this silly notion of the “self made man” (or woman) that makes us resist asking for help or refuse good advice. But the truth is, we all have people who can lend a helping hand. We just have to be open to their suggestions.
So make a list of anyone: former teachers, classmates, etc., who you think could be potential allies in helping you reach your goal. Come to them with clear, specific questions, preferably at a moment where you’re not desperate.
Once I sent out a bunch of emails with the word “help” in the subject line and something along the lines of, “I need a job. It doesn’t matter what.” Not surprisingly, that didn’t yield any fruitful results.
Make a list of talents you’ve been neglecting
Often, we’re just as blind to our own talents. For me, not only was I not taking advantage of my fiction writing skills, but I wasn’t pursuing all the other avenues in which I could make a living as a writer: copywriting, editing, non-fiction ebooks, etc.
So explore not only your talents but the areas in which you can utilize these talents.
Also, talents are not limited to a typical vocation or hobby. They can manifest as personal qualities such as an ability to empathize with others or to mediate conflicts.
Ask yourself what you CAN do
Years ago, I got fired from a job. A job I despised, but nevertheless, I was upset. I called my friend. “I worked so hard to get this job,” I told him. “Let’s be honest, though,” he replied, “you can always do more.”
It stung a little at the time, but it’s so true. This doesn’t necessarily mean working harder, but exploring new angles and approaches.
Personally, doing this exercise has given me clarity in so many areas where I felt like I was lacking certain tools or knowledge. As it turned out, I already owned courses and books and had access to articles that would point me in the right direction.
Doing this exercise also motivated me to schedule an action plan for publishing my first novel!
It’s never too late. Even if you’ve made poor decisions in the past, you can always turn things around.
For me, with all the opportunities afforded through self-publishing and blogging, there’s no better time than now to succeed as a writer. Best of all, the power is entirely in my hands. I don’t need a code to pass through a gate keeper.
Need more guidance? I highly recommend that you check out Brian Tracy’s program The Power of Clarity. You’ll learn how to gain control of your time, discover your special calling, and stop spinning your wheels so you can focus on what truly matters.
Tell me: In what areas have you felt stuck? What helped you to gain clarity?