A few years ago, I brazenly gave up on resolutions and opted instead for a word that would be my guiding principle for the year. Coming up to 2020, I had initially chosen celebration as my word. But the longer I lived with it, the less I liked it. I know too many people whose experiences in 2019 made that word feel cheap and tone-deaf to the realities of our world today.
I struggled for a while. Then I heard myself tell someone that my word for 2020 was vision. I reflexively recoiled because it was trite and predictable. I immediately went back to the proverbial drawing board to reconsider what I would choose for 2020.
Nothing sounded right to me. I went through so many words that I can’t even recall all of them. I was putting pressure on myself to identify my guiding principle and feeling unsettled with how I would start the year. Then, it occurred to me that the searching was a key to my dilemma. And I finally saw it as plain as day:
This year, I will invite, seek, and practice clarity. Not that I’ll be 100% successful – I’ve no such delusions about who I am. But I will think before I speak so I bring clarity to the conversation. I’ll ask questions rather than opining so I can hear what clarity others have to offer.
When I attempt to communicate and find myself failing, I will lean into clarity and ask the listener what I can do to make myself more clear to them. And hopefully I can do this by using empathy to put myself in their position for a moment.
When I hear myself becoming frustrated with someone else, I will step away from my impatience and ask questions that allow me to focus on creating shared meaning. That is, after all, the entire point of our communications with each other.
And when political discourse starts to take its inevitable destructive turn, I’ll remind myself that letting others speak with clarity is a critical part of understanding our differences.
But there’s more
What else is required of me if I’m in pursuit of clarity? I think it includes recognizing when I’m in a situation where I will not be heard and taking my leave from it. I think it includes letting go of the need to change an opinion of someone else. And I think it includes being present to the needs of the person or people I’m engaged with so that I respond to those needs in the moment.
As odd as it sounds, I think clarity isn’t always about being clear, myself. But it is also about giving other people the space to be clear for themselves. I’m really good at this as a coach, but don’t always make a habit of doing it outside of a coaching session.
A toast to 2020
Clarity. In 2020, I will seek clarity as often as I can. I hope your 2020 is filled with celebrations, moments of vision and clarity, and more love and laughter than you expect. Happy new year!