Finding Clarity

forward-thinking leaders

“Activity is not the same as productivity. We need to figure out what the right things are.”

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

The answer is a little different for each of us, but most forward-thinking leaders just do something. Start something. Work on something. Read something. Get busy doing something. But is doing that “something” the right thing to do?

It seems our culture is completely wrapped up in busyness, and I believe much of that stems from a lack of clarity. Activity is not the same as productivity. We need to figure out what the right things are. Effectiveness means discerning and doing the right things. That is completely different from doing all the things. The efficiency of doing all the things rather than focusing on effectiveness to do the right things will only lead to overwhelm, burnout and futility.  

I heard a quote many years ago that haunts me to this day: “Unsure of our direction, we double our speed.” While we all get paralysis from time to time, many leaders have the bad habit of going faster even if they don’t know where they are going. When we do this, we are leading from insecurity. Eugene Peterson used to say, “A busy pastor is a lazy pastor.” We’re busy, our people are busy, our culture is busy. Much of our busyness is a fruit of our laziness to discern the right things and say no to everything else. 

At least once a day I say this crucial phrase to an overwhelmed coaching client: “Clarity up, overwhelm down.” Clarity and overwhelm have an inverse relationship. The simple act of finding clarity has the ability to clear the fog of overwhelm that can cripple our ability to make healthy decisions for our families, our churches and ourselves. Festering overwhelm slides into burnout, quitting or failing to seek intimacy with Jesus.

“Our busyness is actually a fruit of our laziness to discern the right things.”

From Outreach Magazine  Jesus Justice: Learning and Living the Resurrection

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or heading there, stop what you are doing and find clarity. So, how do you clarify? First, name the emotions you are feeling, the losses and wins you’ve experienced, and the tensions you are experiencing. 

Next, determine your direction (not your destination). Ask yourself, What next steps could take me in the direction God has asked us to go? Discern those steps and start taking them. 

Finally, get input from someone objective. It is natural to feel emotional about our lives and leadership because we care about people, but our deep care can blind us. At some point we need to get outside of our head and seek input from someone more objective (and less emotional) than we are. Find a wise friend, mentor or leadership coach. 

I want to leave you with five questions to ask to increase your clarity.

• Where are you thriving? Celebrate these areas with God and your team.

• Where are you struggling? Get on your knees and pray through these issues.

• What feels confusing? Name these things.

• What’s missing? Clarify gaps and longings.

• What are your next steps? Create a plan to move forward.

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