A Better Life Begins With Clarity

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

~ Arthur Schopenhauer

20-year-old Bobby Fischer played Grandmaster Donald Byrne in chess in 1963. After nearly symmetrical play from the two players, Fischer sacrificed his knight for a pawn. Two grandmasters covering the game said that Fischer’s mistake would give Byrne the win. They were wrong. Fischer’s tactical sacrifice opened up a devastating attack on Byrne, who resigned 11 moves later.

a boy playing chess
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

Fischer was an all-time great at chess because he saw opportunities that others couldn’t see. His clarity came from a superior understanding of the game. Applied to us, how might we gain the same level of clarity for our lives?

Clarity: A Timeless Attribute, A Modern Challenge

Clarity is derived from the word “clear,” which means having or feeling no doubt or confusion; unambiguous. 

One of the great challenges of life is simply knowing what to do. It’s not like we’re given step-by-step directions on how to live our lives each moment. This is especially obvious after big accomplishments, when we realize that life goes on. At the top of the mountain: “Oh, I guess I need to climb down now.”

We have to make a lot of decisions to make every day. We also have access to a lot of information about different ways to live and countless opportunities around us, and much of it conflicts. Information overload and unlimited options can turn anyone passive if they’re not careful.

When you have no clear objective, it’s easy to “succeed,” because anything qualifies. Facebook browsing, texting, entertainment, eating for pleasure, and sleeping in are all “successful activities” for a person without aim.  

Gaining clarity, however, is worth the effort. The best things in my life have come from having clear objectives: pursuing mini habits, my book and video course projects, my weekly newsletter, and traveling, to name a few. 

“Clarity affords focus.”

– Thomas Leonard

The internet and its drastic increase of both distractions and opportunities have made clarity considerably more difficult to maintain. Here is a simple question you can ask yourself to fight back and maintain clarity!

A Question to Ask Yourself

“What’s my current objective?”

This question is so good because it flexes to your needs in the moment. Upon hearing this question, you might ask or wonder, “Do I mean in this moment, in this day, in this week, or in the next 10 years?” The answer is YES. It includes all of those, but they won’t all apply at the same time. Your current context and frame of mind will guide you to the correct frame for this question.

Example: You have solid fitness habits, stable finances, and healthy relationships. Good job! What’s your current objective?

Given the stability of your situation, you might be inclined to keep it going, or plan to expand into other areas of interest like new hobbies, taking your health and fitness to the next level, or investing to prepare for retirement.

In other situations, you might be inclined to address short-term needs like where you want to travel next (and how you’ll arrange it), how to improve your diet, or finding a babysitter for Saturday. In yet other situations, like being on vacation, your obvious answer might be to simply relax.

Having clarity means knowing your current objective(s) at all times.

Watching TV is a valid objective, too. This isn’t a push to turn you into a productive and perfect workbot. This is a reminder that living life with purpose and doing things for specific reasons always beats floating from activity to activity without taking a moment to think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

If you decide that you are going to binge watch an entire season of Game of Thrones in one day… good! That’s an intentional choice to relax, take a day off, and recharge. It probably comes from clarity that you need or want a break. But if you end up doing it from boredom… not so good! That’s a passive, shame-inducing, and life-avoiding non-decision. 

How can you tell the difference? One way to know if you’re being intentional with clarity or drifting is that intentional people tend to think like a chess player—at least 3 steps ahead and with integration. Like a good chess player, an intentional person who desires clarity will have plans. Thus, each move you make will make sense in the context of your larger plans.

When you decide to binge Game of Thrones, have at least a barebones idea of why you need or deserve it and what you’re doing the next day. Bingeing Game of Thrones is fine if it’s a part of a larger plan. Remember, Bobby Fischer only sacrificed his knight because it was necessary to execute his larger plan to attack Byrne’s king. Otherwise, he wouldn’t trade the more valuable knight for a mere pawn. In the same way, bingeing a TV show isn’t as fulfilling or important as working on something meaningful, but it might be a helpful or even necessary part of your plan if you need the break!

The big takeaway: All good things start with clarity. I won’t say it’s easy to gain clarity, but it is pretty straightforward and worth spending time and energy to figure it out. Without clarity, you’re a leaf in the wind. With clarity, you’re powerful. Be powerful. Get clear on who you want to be, what you want to do, and how you intend to make it happen. 

Write your thoughts down. Brainstorm ideas on a dry erase board. Sit on your couch and think for a few hours. Do whatever it takes to gain clarity, because that’s where a better life begins.

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