The Craving for Clarity

I noticed a new pattern of conversations last week. In all the meetings I had with associates and others in business, whenever the subject of credit crunch, recession or the euphemistic ‘cut backs’ (which for some reason makes me think of hedge trimming – sort of neat and green) came up, one theme came through loud and clear.

The desire for clarity. People are concerned about the downturn in the economy. But when you listen to them, its clear that they are more concerned about the uncertainty it brings. If we all had crystal clear knowledge of the extent and timescale of the downward trend, it would all be easy. We’d know exactly what action to take to sail through tough times. Trouble is, when there is less clarity, we have more options and therefore more choices we could make – but we have no clear indications of which we should take.

We’re told that we should cut back on spending, sit tight and ride out the storm. Then we read that companies that do so seldom thrive, but those that have taken risks and used recessionary times to expand have come out of the other end ahead of the pack. “Focus!”, we’re told – its critical. But wait! We also need to diversify to make sure our sales don’t suffer.

Last week I heard all of these opinions at some point or another and that when I realised that its panic that causes the problem. Everyone has a view but no-one really knows how to respond to the changes in the economic state of the country. We’re all just guessing to a large extent and therein lies the real problem.
Clarity is what we crave in order to reduce our choices and and increase our chances. Its easier to manage when we simplify the activities being completed but that’s not an easy thing to do. We feel compelled to work faster, harder and smarter. In fact, perhaps all we have to do is pause for long enough to make some clear decision.

I’ve just started reading David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” in an effort to make my life simpler and my time more productive. He points out that until we learn to manage our actions, we can’t control our productivity and stress levels. And further, that clarity of thought is what helps us to make better decisions on the actions we take.

The trick is not to seek clarity in the media, or from associates or colleagues. We have to learn to trust our intuition to some extent. Get to the essence of the problem, work our which actions will potentially give you the best outcomes, and then roll up your sleeves. That way you’ll spend less time worrying about what’s going to happen in the next couple of years, and more time focused on what actions you can take to be effective.

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