Clarity in life helps with any project—personal, artistic, professional, educational. Knowing where you want to end up helps you achieve your goal and success. If you don’t have clarity, it’s hard to even realize you’ve succeeded in the first place.
Ideals like, “I just want to be happy,” while a great sentiment, is a vague generality.
You can’t thrive with vague generalities. I’ve had goals like this for years. One of those goals was, “I want to travel and write.” As romantic as it sounds, it also left me feeling dissatisfied and stuck in many ways.
Why you need clarity in Life
This dream played a central role in my life. The problem being, of course, what does it mean to travel? What does it mean to write? In six years I moved to three different countries and worked as a teacher.
It was a fascinating yet expensive way to live. Travel was definitely involved, though as I found out, living in a country is far different than visiting it. Writing only happened, too, but only some of the time.
While being a teacher was an amazing cultural experience, it’s still a job. You might have caught on, but teaching takes a lot of time and doesn’t pay so well in most places.
As it turns out, I didn’t spend a lot of time sightseeing and splurging on local cuisine. I spent most of my days on trains, in classrooms, or studying the English language. So whenever I moved away, I had regrets about not “traveling enough” while I was there. There were always things I’d never gotten around to doing.
Teaching in other countries was a path I’d wanted to explore fresh out of university. From the start, I’d never intended it to be my career. I just wanted to explore the world.
“Travel while you’re young!” they told me. So I jumped right in. Sometimes without any kind of plan at all. When you have several years of experience in one area, it’s easy to keep going. It dawned on me that I should start focusing on my main priorities at some point, but I fixated on my lack of experience. What else was I supposed to do?
Despite my adventures, I felt like I was never making progress in life. I was constantly broke. My budget often hovered around $30 a day (or less). I made it work, but I also sacrificed a lot.
With vague plans for the future, a better life was out of reach. Instead, I focused on the present and hoped one day it would be different.
Retracing My Steps
Apart from writing and art, I wasn’t sure what my main priorities were. I had no career planned. After all, I had several different ideas about what I’d like to do if I could. Conflicting desires frustrated me because I’d never prioritized a long-term goal.
If I were serious about teaching, I’d have gotten a Master’s degree in education. I didn’t want to be a teacher forever, though. I wanted to do something else with my life, like write and make art. I’d gotten into teaching without any kind of exit strategy.
“Find a job and make art on the side,” is the advice for those with a liberal arts degree. If you do this, you must retain a firm grasp on your creative aspirations. Otherwise, you risk the currents of life sweeping them away.
Creative endeavors demand motivation and dedication. It takes courage and commitment to accomplish your goals. If you forget that, you’ll flounder.
Drowning in uncertainty
In lacking clarity, I let procrastination sneak up and take over.
Unchecked daily routines bred complacency. I was tired. I spent all day devoting time and energy to others. When I came home, I just wanted to turn off my brain and relax.
After all, it’s hard to force yourself to write, paint, or learn an instrument after work. It’s harder when you lack a clear idea of what you’d like to do with the time you have.
Despite trying to remain true to myself, I felt stuck and confused. I thought I had done everything right along the way, but something was wrong. I just didn’t know what.
I consistently undervalued the importance of clarity. If you’re not looking for it, it’s hard to see it as a problem in the first place. Once you notice how generalities and uncertainties hold you back—you find it everywhere in your life. Creative projects, work projects, relationships…
I didn’t know what exactly I wanted, just that I did—or didn’t—want some things.
Something had to change. I looked for solutions. I dreamed of countless possibilities that always seemed out of reach. Instead of taking time to reflect on how I wanted my life to be, I depended on the suggestions and opinions of others.
For my unconventional lifestyle, I figured that the internet was my best hope. I investigating all my options. None of them seemed quite right since everything either took a lot of time or wasn’t interesting to me.
In wanting an immediate fix, I neglected to think about what kind of person I wanted to be in five or ten years. Don’t overlook the importance of how you want to live your life. Think about what’s important to you.
Hungry for short-term solutions, I went for an easy-sounding alternative. I spent my savings and had to borrow money to pay for the course (a few thousand dollars…).
I had doubts, but I lacked a clear understanding of what my values and goals were. Starry-eyed and hoping for the best, I charged ahead. I was desperate and it seemed like a great option.
Turns out it wasn’t that easy. It required a lot of skills and knowledge I didn’t have. Worse, it wasn’t how I wanted to live my life.
When you have clarity you know yourself, what you want to do with your life, and what aligns with your personal values. With these fixtures, it’s easier to make life decisions in both the short-term and long-term. Everything is going to take time and effort, it’s just a matter of what you’re willing to do.
How to find clarity in your life
There are many reasons we lack clarity. One assumption most people have—and I know I’ve been guilty of this—is that it should be obvious what we want. What good is the advice to follow your passion if you don’t know what that is? This causes anxiety because you’re second-guessing your passion all the time!
To understand your passions, you have to develop clarity in life. Luckily, even developing a little more clarity helps empower you. You’re able to make choices and find the determination to take new paths. Most of all, you’re more likely to succeed because you’re sure of what you want.
We often take it for granted that we know ourselves. It seems like we should since we spend all day with ourselves. Usually, it turns out that we really don’t spend enough time on our own to figure out who we are.
You have to know yourself and spend time with yourself to develop clarity in life. Understand what you want, your fears, your values, strengths, and weaknesses. Once you know who and what you are, then you’ll be able to devote yourself to your goals.
Spend time with yourself
Think about your distractions: work, money, texts, emails, gossip, comics, videos, news, books, movies, TV. The list is endless.
How much time do you spend a day alone with yourself contemplating?
If you’re like most people in this day and age—not much. It’s hard to make time to do this when there’s so much going on in our lives. This leaves us out of touch with ourselves and we don’t know who we are, what we value, or what we like to do. We’re trying to survive and make it through the week.
How can you have clarity in life if you don’t know who you are?
Make time to be alone with yourself without distractions at least a few times a week. Meditation is a great way to slow down. It’s helped me find out a lot about myself and discover who I want to be. There are many other ways if you’d rather. Taking walks, letting your mind wander, journaling, sipping tea, or watching the sunset are other good ways to spend time with yourself. Find something that you like that allows you the freedom to think.
Evaluate your Self-beliefs
We cling to faulty beliefs about ourselves, thinking we’re one way or another. Often, it’s a mix of both. We fail to realize how we change and grow over time. Feedback from others, especially those we love and trust, influences our self-image. While it’s impossible to see yourself as others do, not everyone gives honest—or useful—feedback.
Unfortunately, it’s common for others to project their insecurities onto you. If you’re insecure already, this makes it worse. Negative self-beliefs are crippling. Often, there’s only a sliver of truth in them. People are more likely to complain and tear you down than build you up.
Of course, it’s important to listen to what others say. We don’t know how we’re coming across. But reflection and evaluation are necessary to weed out toxicity. Often people we love hurt us the most—even if that’s not their intention.
Over time, what we believe about ourselves traps us. This influences our behaviors and holds us back if we’re not careful. You need to reflect on your self-beliefs to see if their true or not. Don’t assume everything you think about yourself is true. Treat yourself fairly and be kind. Even if you don’t like how you act or live, you can change it!
Think of a role model and how you want to be. It’s important to have a path to follow when you’re trying to change instead of trying to not be a certain way. Think about the traits you want to cultivate.
And you find yourself behaving in a way you want to change, remind yourself you can change. Tell yourself, “I want to be a person who…”
This helps me when I find myself procrastinating or upset. Instead of scolding myself for bad habits, I reaffirm who it is I want to be. This helps me focus on what I CAN change.
Your negative self-beliefs—your insecurities and fears—are holding you back more than external circumstances or other people. When others reinforce these damaging self-beliefs, it compounds the problem. But you are a beautiful and valuable person in your own right. Put your effort towards improving yourself!
Anyone can change. YOU can change. Even if something is true about you now, it doesn’t mean it always has to be true. You’re capable of deciding how to act and how you want to live. Be proactive and take responsibility for your self-growth. In this choice, you’ll find empowerment.
Clarity in life means understanding both who you are, and who you want to be. Be thorough and precise in this definition. Live to be kind of person you love. Self-love is vital to your wellbeing and happiness!
While genetics influence some traits such as personality, they don’t have to limit you. Your genetics are not an excuse. Think creatively about ways to improve and become the person you want to be!
You’re capable of learning new skills and abilities. Humans are adaptable creatures. Imagine who you want to be and live like you’re that person. This clarity in life helps you make decisions that move you forward.
For example, if you’re introverted, changing doesn’t mean you have to love being around people all the time. It means accepting yourself and working within your limitations. Friendliness is a skill. You don’t need to talk to everyone all the time! You can learn to enjoy social outings and talking to strangers. Focus on building strong relationships with others and treating others with compassion.
Thinking about your future and what you want to achieve is important for longterm happiness. As is a healthy dose of the past and present. But the future can be overwhelming since it’s so vague and far away. Many people don’t make careful plans and instead, fall victim to worrying. Try to frame it as an opportunity!
Humans spend a lot of time worrying about the future. This causes anxiety. And it’s easy to take the present, everything you don’t like, and all your fears and insecurities and project it on the future. If you don’t like yourself, your body, your life, or your job, then it’s too easy to assume things will always be like this—or get worse.
Realize that things change. This is both relieving and scary. That’s why it’s important to take steps to protect ourselves against future threats. With the confidence you can overcome future hardships, you’ll have more peace of mind in the present. That’s why we need to take start making small changes in our lives today.
Progress takes longer than we’d like, but small steps add up over time. Be wary of getting caught in the here and now. It’s too easy to project your situation onto the future. It never serves me well when I’ve done this. If it’s a happy thought, well I’ll be disappointed later. If it’s a depressing thought, well… definitely does not help!
Because the future is undefined, it’s easy to jump from one conclusion. We project past or present circumstances on the unknown. But there are so many possibilities—good and bad! You have to work towards them or else the desire of others will control you and your life. Clarity in life means knowing what you want so you can focus on long-term goals.
Wanting things now instead of working towards future success is the norm. Imagine, though, how much better your life will be in two or three years if you take action today. I can make a whole list of things I would be so amazing at if only I had practiced once a week for the last three years. It’s a lot of time I missed out on!
We often run out of time in the day to do everything we want, but it’s important to think longterm. Writing 300 words a day per year is 109,500 words—which is longer than the average full-length novel. It’s more words than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for comparison.
The future is a huge jumble of possibilities. Luckily, we’re able to work towards the future we want. It’s not going to be easy. Expect disappointment and the unexpected. But if you develop clarity in life now, it’ll help you navigate the tumultuous times.
Take your time
You’ll satisfy many important goals by spreading out your time. Think months and years instead of days and weeks. The most successful people are not necessarily special in terms of raw talent. The key difference is their dedication and persistence. Because they have clarity in life, they know what they need to do first. They’ve developed systems to advance their goals because they know what they want.
One thing people often fear is that if they do one thing they can’t do another. That’s not the case usually. There’s a lot of time in our lives. If you’re determined to be both a scientist and an artist, well it’s definitely possible. Leonardo da Vinci was a brilliant polymath.
If you want to be great, be great! There are ways to make your life work for you, but it’ll take trial and error. That’s why knowing what you want is so important. How can you achieve these things if you’re unsure?
Developing clarity in life also means making choices. So while you can have many different things in your life, you can’t have it all. It’s important to realize possibilities, but you have to accept that there are natural limits. Time, location, money are some limiting factors.
Decide which choices are the best to pursue at this point in your life. Which ones move you further along your chosen path? There will be sacrifices you have to make. Clarity means knowing what you’re willing to sacrifice and what’s too important to lose.
Limitations can be frustrating, but at times they’re also important for our lives and well being. Too much of anything is overwhelming—including choices.
For me, this painting illustrates this concept. When I go paint shopping, I’m so overwhelmed with all the colors. They’re so beautiful! There are too many colors to choose from, and of course, I want them all. Even if I had that much money, mixing some colors with others turns into a muddy mess. And having too many colors in one painting confuses the eye.
Instead, picking a limited palette that suits my desired outcome. I can mix yellow and blue for the greens instead of using 8 different tubes of green paint. This creates unity and adds depth and variation to the colors. In limiting myself, I create value by focusing on the important points. Plus, limits inspire creativity. We’re able to find new solutions because there are boundaries to push against!
In living, you’ll discover more about yourself and your life. It’ll open more possibilities, worth exploring. So don’t be afraid to start. By realizing what your priorities are, you’ll be able to best decide where to focus your time and effort. In focusing on what’s most important to you, your life goals, and your values, you’re able to find the best path to take. Sometimes this means limiting ourselves to get the best results.
Choice and responsibility
This doesn’t mean deciding and sticking with one thing no matter what, even after learning you hate it. Dreams involve sacrifice and hardship but provide a deep sense of satisfaction. This doesn’t mean you stick with something your whole life without question.
It means the opposite. Clarity in life means you understand how you want to live and decide if what you’re doing helps you live that way or not. It means you’re able to make the choice to change because of careful consideration. This allows you to take responsibility for your own life.
From time to time, you need to reevaluate yourself and your path to make sure they align. If you wander off course, you’ll find yourself wondering how you got there. Everything changes. As you grow older, you may discover transformation in your dreams. That’s wonderful. When this happens, though, we need to make sure that our choices reflect who and what we are.
If you don’t make your own choices, someone else will. If you’re afraid of losing out on something, you’ll lose out on everything. Subjected to others and the world around you, dissatisfaction will devour you. Deciding not to act is a choice in and of itself. This course invites anxiety and feelings of powerlessness. Whereas making choices empowers you even in difficult situations.
Clarity in life means knowing what want, and what you don’t. You have to entertain the possibilities and make a decision on what’s best for you. Someone is always going to want something from you. By knowing what you are and aren’t willing to do it sustains general happiness.
So when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to, because it takes you away from your goals and values. Say no. Instead of leaving a vague answer, state both your answer and your reason firmly. This is for your benefit too, because you’re able to see why or why not some things don’t align with your vision.
Saying no is pretty difficult. In the professional world, it’s common to think saying yes all the time is necessary for success. This wears us out though. It’s a drain on energy when you have to spend time on meaningless tasks.
You don’t need to let people walk all over you to succeed. At times, it’s necessary to do something you’d rather not. But that doesn’t mean doing it all the time. It definitely doesn’t mean doing it if it goes against your values and dreams.
Base decisions on your future vision
By developing clarity, you’ll have a map for making decisions. Setting boundaries for yourself and others helps you keep your dreams as an anchor in your life.
Fear of missing out, fear of being rude, and wanting to be accepted are all reasons we struggle with saying no. It’s important to say no—to both yourself and to others. This responsibility comes with freedom.
Just because you say “no” once, doesn’t mean you have to cut that possibility out forever, either. Sometimes it means waiting until you’re ready when you have more time or money. There are many valid reasons to say no.
In knowing ourselves, our goals, and our values, it simplifies the whole process. There are good reasons to say no—and bad reasons. Saying yes is not always better. If you say yes all the time, frustration with plague your life.
Focus on your dreams
By choosing what you want, you’ll also be able to choose what you don’t want. If something doesn’t bring you closer to your goals, think about why you’re doing it. At best it will use up your time, and at worse, it’ll carry you further from your path.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be agreeable and try new things, but you be careful with your time and energy. There are limits. Set up boundaries and guidelines to help you. Keep your goals in your mind and check-in daily to make sure that you’re on the right track. Always consider the outcomes to see how it aligns with your personal values and goals.
Dreams come in all shapes and sizes: professional, personal, health, fitness, social, and familial. Every single day, your life should be one step towards your dreams—even if it’s just an inch. Otherwise, it’s a distraction. It’s up to you to keep your life on track, which is why clarity helps you recognize this. Every day, you can decide if your actions and decisions help or hurt your long-term vision.