We all profess to be clear thinkers. Seemingly quick to understand things (even when we don’t). Formulating opinions easily. Decisive in what we like and want. Quick to offer solutions to other peoples’ problems. On the surface, it’s hard to argue these examples of what appears to be clear thinking.
Clarity though is different. It’s not as quick. Clarity is foundational for clearer thinking to appear. It’s built on a foundation we don’t easily see in others. We do not focus on clarity often. Nor do we seek it during most of our busy days. Seeking clarity pushes habitual responses and quick opinions aside while it goes through a process before deciding anything. Leading us into clearer thinking with effort.
There are multiple components that are needed as we strive for more clarity in our thinking.
Preparation is key. Once faced with a situation, what do we know about the topic? Domain knowledge is critical for understanding, at a high level, what types of options might be available to consider. Or what is important for us to consider. Be forwarned – when we don’t know much about a topic – our thought process & subsequent choices will be quite weak and less effective. If we don’t know enough, where can we go to learn or who can we go to that knows more?
What are we trying to solve for is one of the first things we must address. For those individuals who demonstrate clarity of thought know that most of us never spend enough time thinking about this question. Being vague or unclear as to what is important and what is not, leaves us at a great disadvantage when trying to seek clarity. Forcing us to consider tradeoffs prior to choosing any direction or choice has great value. Helping to shield us from our own bias as we work through this process.
We need to embrace objectivity as we work towards greater clarity in our lives. Making everything we hear or see, at first, as being possible. Temporarily suspending judgment even when we don’t agree with another person’s point of view. Pushing emotion aside, we need to look underneath any explanation or point of view to see what led someone to share what they did. No matter how strange or radical it may seem at first.
Then we must think hard about the logic of each option discovered before clarity can appear. Yes, it could be confusing at first that something could be both red and white when all we know is that it can only be red or white. Why might this be? During these efforts, we may not understand something well enough and have to look further and harder for more basic knowledge before forming any opinion as to each option’s merit.
With clarity, building blocks begin to appear. For all options we are exposed to. A point of view becomes a possibility based on 2, 4, or more building blocks underneath it. Pattern recognition becomes easier to see what fits and what doesn’t. Discovering parts that have leverage and those that offer little to the tradeoff we are solving for. Possibly opening up our eyes to new combinations of building blocks never before considered.
Clarity then carries with it the ability to simplify explanations and options by distilling each to their basic core. When experiencing clarity, there is no confusion or complexity. The steps leading up to a choice can be easily shared and understood. For clarity easily explains relationships between objects. Not only for the option chosen, but for all options considered. Making it easier to understand why one option is stronger than another. Making choices seem simple when they really are not.
Clear thinking is the result of the process of seeking clarity. Very little in life happens by chance. Achieving clarity needs work, time and practice. It’s impact though could be huge in helping us make better decisions that lead to better outcomes as we continue our journey through life. Always understanding that no matter what, we will not always be right.