Are you confused about what your life direction is? Maybe you’re trying to decide a major. Or maybe a career. Maybe you feel lost and distanced from community and fulfillment.
In 4, easy steps we'll transform "I'm confused" into "I found clarity".
Finding clarity and direction in your life isn’t difficult. You first have to accept that growth will always be found in progress instead of the destination.
4 Easy Steps To Gain Clarity And Focus
You’re Not Alone
" We suffer more in imagination than in reality" - Seneca
It’s so easy to feel like you’re facing confusion about your relationships, or career, or just life in general, alone.
We imagine that our struggles are singular and unique only to us. And we close ourselves off to the community around us who are the only ones who can help.
This spiral of confusion and doubt affects so many people. I talk to people every single day who feel lost or hopeless because they don’t have an exact map of the future.
And that’s perfectly ok! You don’t need a detailed destination and map to live a free and fulfilled life. All you need is a little guidance that will clear the fog and set you on course.
This idea of “having our life together” stems out of cultural perceptions that have been instilled in us since we were kids… “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.
We were taught to look towards the future so much that we forgot how to find true peace and connection in each moment.
A Lack Of Clarity Creates Chaos
Transforming confusion into clarity is more about the process than the destination.
A fulfilling life will always be about the perpetual progression that leads you and others towards growth.
The big struggle is that most of our lives are filled with chaos. Everything in our life is begging for attention. Relationships, work, chores, senseless notifications…
Until we can begin to discern what is valuable from the chaff, we will never find clarity and remove confusion.
This 4, step confusion-to-clarity plan is broken into 2 parts:
Remove the distractions
1. Slow down and relax
2. Close the open loops
Practice in the open
3. Leverage core values to dramatically change your life
4. Start a project to gain momentum and vision
Remove The Distractions
1. Slow down and relax
2. Close the open loops
Our lives are plagued by distractions. Most of the time our confusion actually comes from distractions instead of a lack of direction.
Clear direction is usually right in front of us, but so many distractions keep us from following a defined path.
1. Slow Down And Relax
"Presence is experienced in a participative way, outside the mind. The mind by nature is intent on judging, controlling, and analyzing instead of seeing, tasting, and loving." - Richard Rohr
First, realize that life isn’t going by as fast as you think. You have plenty of time to continue to discover who you are and what you want to do.
Nothing will be lost if you don’t figure out what you want to do soon. You will still have the ability to enjoy relationships. And you will still be able to do crazy dangerous things you shouldn’t tell your mom about.
Your life won’t all of a sudden get better once you find a direction. Your life will get better when you can seize the present moments before you and make the most of them.
I used to struggle with slowing down. And I still struggle with it. I was so consumed with what I wanted to do in the future that my relationships suffered because of it.
If you become consumed by confusion and finding direction for the future, you will only neglect the presence in front of you.
You will miss out on opportunities for growth, community, development, peace, and joy.
So, take a deep breath. Relax.
You have plenty of time to figure out what your future direction looks like.
Don’t allow the future to destroy how you interact with the present.
Take time away from work. And take time away from obsessively thinking about why you’re confused and what to do about it. Take a walk, have dinner with a friend, get lost in a story.
Take a break from worrying. Slow down and relax in the present moments around you.
In this process you’ll find refreshment and fulfillment that was lost in confusion and worry.
Slowing down will give you a platform to begin finding direction in your life.
2. Close The Open Loops
"The mind wants a job and loves to process things. The key to stopping this game is, quite simply, peace, silence, or stillness." - Richard Rohr
An open loop is a psychological phenomenon discovered by Bluma Zeigarnik. Open loops (called the Zeigarnik Effect) state that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
Open loops are the unresolved tasks that replay themselves over and over again in our minds.
The laundry needs to be done. The kids need to be picked up. I have a meeting tomorrow. I still have to pick up a wedding present.
We carry these open loops throughout our days and weeks. And they pile up. They consume all of our mental and emotional energy until we’re drained and exhausted.
We carry so many open loops with us that they cloud our vision and create confusion and chaos. And then we shape our actions and decisions off of a false sense of reality that is being choked out by unresolved tasks and storylines.
Open loops can be exhausting!
The key to removing them is to expose them for what they are and let them air out.
I’ve created a note on my phone that contains all of the open loops that present themselves throughout the day. If something I need to do comes to mind, I write it down. Then, I begin to plan how I’ll tackle it.
I either set a reminder or a calendar date of when I’m going to get it done.
Then, these small tasks aren’t piling up and consuming my mental and emotional energy.
I used to constantly feel confused and unmotivated until I realized that I had hundreds of open loops constantly replaying themselves in my mind. And those small tasks were causing incredible frustration for me until I started to write them down and tackle them one by one.
The chaotic power of open loops is found in their ability to constantly repeat themselves as they float around our thoughts and are continually unresolved.
Start writing down the open loops and small tasks that keep replaying themselves. Develop a game plan to tackle a few each day.
This will help you remove the confusion that is being created by distractions.
Learn more about tackling open loops.
Practice In The Open
1. Leverage core values
2. Start a project
Once you’ve taken the steps to remove distractions, you can begin the last two steps. These steps are about finding energy and practicing your values in the open (i.e. practicing with other people).
Most of us have closeted dreams. We’re afraid to tell people our goals and are scared to start because we realize we might actually have to follow through with them.
You’ll begin to live a clear life when you can move past your fear of what others think and begin practicing what you’re passionate about in front of other people.
3. Leverage Core Values To Dramatically Change Your Life
“Don’t aim at success - the more you aim at it and make it a target - the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself” - Viktor Frankl
Core values are the foundation that we base every single decision off of. Throughout our life, we begin to discover aspects of life that we truly value.
For example, growth is a huge core value for me. I value growth from all aspects of life. I constantly challenge myself and others to grow.
Core values are what you believe is required to have a life well lived. Core values are what you believe to be meaningful and treasured beyond yourself.
Here’s the disconnect: most people imagine themselves in the future with a glowing idea of the person they will be. But, they never do anything now to practicing becoming that person.
Who do you want to be in the future?
Do you plan to be an empathetic father? Or an influential leader? Maybe a service-oriented philanthropist?
You have to identify the traits of the person you want to become and then practice those traits every single day.
You will never become the person you want to be if you don't continually practice and shape yourself.
Finding your core values is easy. Follow the instructions on this sheet:
Once you find your core values, start practicing them in every single aspect of your life.
If you have a core value of respect, start practicing respect in your marriage. And teach your children how to respect others. And find ways to show respect to the cashier at the grocery store.
Start to full your life with the core values you resonate with and you’ll begin the transformation of becoming who you want to be.
Here’s The Plan:
- List out the core values that resonate with the person you want to become: the person you want to become is already inside you, you just have to practice those traits
- Memorize your core values: make a reminder, or sticky notes on your mirror, or go over them every morning when you wake up
- Begin practicing in front of people: this will help you find new ways to help and give value to others while drastically improving your mood and performance
- Allow yourself to fail: negative feedback is the only way to get better. Have a learning mindset instead of a losing mindset
Finding and practicing your core values is the quickest and easiest way to remove confusion and replace it with clarity.
Living your core values doesn’t require excess time or money. You can even practice your core values at work and essentially get paid to start your dream.
Practicing core values will help you constantly search for growth and a clear direction without having to decide on a major, job, activity, project, cause, goal, etc.
People get so consumed with feeling like they have to make a big decision about what job to choose or what to do after retirement or what to do in their free time.
Core values help you take a step back and examine what truly matters. They allow you to live a life of purpose and meaning without being attached to a dream, goal, project, or cause.
Time will reveal your next big thing, but for now, focus on what you value and start to live that out now.
4. Start A Project To Gain Momentum And Vision
“Get yourself a goal worth working for. Better still, get yourself a project. Decide what you want out of a situation. Always have something ahead of you to “look forward to” — to work for and hope for. Look forward, not backward” - Maxwell Maltz
After you’ve cleared the confusing distractions that surround you and identified your core values, you can begin looking for a project or movement you can begin working towards.
This step is the most open-ended. There is no guide that can tell you exactly which path to take. Most of the time, a clear direction is laid right in front of you once you clear distractions from your life and you begin practicing core values.
A few things to keep in mind with whatever project you want to tackle:
Your Direction Should Be Bigger Than You
Your life direction should be more encompassing than just your desires. Your purpose should be about how you influence people and grow with them to create a more fulfilling and joyous life.
Make sure that whatever project or direction you move towards you’re constantly serving people.
If you’re not sure where to start, begin by examining yourself. What talents and skills and passions do you have? Then, examine what good is happening in the world already. Are hungry people being fed? Are people being taught how to read?
You can begin to get a sense of your life direction by finding where your life overlaps with the good that’s happening in the world.
There Isn’t One Right Answer
Sometimes I wish someone would just hand me my life purpose and then I’d never have to worry again. But, that would remove what it means to be human. It would remove joy and struggle and union.
Understand that there isn’t one right answer. And you will never be able to “pick the wrong thing”. It’s all about constant development.
One of my friends in college panicked about choosing the right major. She thought that there was a right choice and she was going to miss it somehow. But, this is never true.
Start with a direction that energizes you. As long as you’re helping people and finding growth and energy coming from it, you’re on the right track.
Start With Small Steps
You don’t have to have a massive project as a goal you’re working towards. Start out with small goals and work your way up.
If you want to start an organization that aids in drug addiction, don’t start by trying to raise funds for a building. Start by mentoring someone you know who is struggling first.
You’ll become overwhelmed if you try to do something too big first. Small actionable goals will always win.
Discovery Is a Great Place To Start
Most people start without even researching what they want to do.
A great place to start is by discovery more about a potential future direction in your life.
Read online articles. Listen to podcasts. Read books. Interview local leaders.
Start by learning more so you can spark new ideas and motivation for your future direction.
Confusion comes from letting the past cloud your vision of the future.
If you follow these 4 steps, you’ll begin to transform “I’m confused” into “I found clarity”.
The process will take time and effort, but continue to grow and develop into the person you want to become and confusion will never cloud your vision again.