The easiest way to get clear about something is to take action. Act, fire before you’re ready or even just take aim. It’s a bit counterintuitive but it’s solid advice; if in doubt, do something!
Many people spend time searching for motivation, asking themselves ‘what do I want?’ This is a great question to ask yourself often. It’s great to recalibrate, to choose what it is that you are creating on your life journey, and to know your ‘motivation’. But as I have found, it is through an experiment or after a result that you discover what you really want. So, the cycle of clarity starts with action, followed by clarity and then motivation (shown in green) and not – as is commonly assumed – the other way around (blue).
As George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” It is through this cycle of clarity that we actively participate in the creation of our own life journey. Finding yourself is passive, while creating yourself is active. Gustav Anderson, The Modern Nomad, has a lot to say about the wrongness of hoping to find yourself out there somewhere. His story is a very cool narrative around the idea of creating yourself.
The cycle of clarity starts with action, followed by clarity and then motivation.
And that's the thing at the core of success. Step up to the line, run into the fire, face down the fears and do something. But here’s the thing, the rah-rah motivation of ‘just do it’, just doesn’t cut it for most of us. Shia LaBeouf says it well in his piss take of a modern performance coach or motivational speaker.
In her book The Willpower Instinct, Dr Kelly McGonigal does a ripping job of showing us how to get over ourselves. The one-sentence summary from the team at Four-Minute Books says, “The Willpower Instinct breaks down willpower into three categories and gives you science-backed systems to improve your self-control, break bad habits and choose long-term goals over instant gratification.” One of my favourite quotes from Dr McGonigal is that “Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort.”
A former sports psychologist at the Australian Institute for Sport, Dr. Mike Martin, once explained to me that there is a division in performance psychology between cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). I know I will get in trouble for the simplification but CBT is about battling your demons through therapy and self-talk. ACT is about finding the next actionable thing you can do and doing that. Maybe, we will see a blending of these two schools of thought in the future. The thing is, the CBT model is kind of established in our world. The ACT model, however, needs more exposure. Here's Mike explaining the two schools of thought and why he uses ACT with his elite athletes and top performers.
Creation is also about your mindset. Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindsets will help you to appreciate the difference between trying to be the best and getting better at something. Trevor Ragan from Train Ugly, a US-based basketball and volleyball coach, does a great job of summarising Dweck’s research in this short, easy to watch video.
It is important to remember that you don’t get clear in theory, while you do get clear in practice. Eric Ries, in his book The Lean Startup, explores the idea of a minimum viable product. In essence, an MVP is about getting something 100% out, as opposed to 100% right. Live testing, and clinical trials are part of the science of experimentation, and many breakthroughs can be found on the other side of a failed experiment.
You don’t get clear by thinking and waiting for motivation, you get clear by acting. Action precedes clarity.