I am a die-hard Steve Martin fan. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him do stand-up in a white suit with a foot-long fish going through his head. He still makes me laugh out loud (most recently on Letterman just last week). One or another of his lines or bits from the early days comes to mind when I least expect it.
The other day, I heard some kind of expert on CNN say, in answer to a viewer’s what should I do with the rest of my life type question, “Well, first of all, John, get clear about what you want.” Like that’s the easy part!
Immediately in my comedy-drenched mind’s eye was Steve Martin in his white suit doing his bit as a millionaire businessman standing in front of a placard on which is written the title of the seminar he is about to convene: How to Become a Millionaire. The pointer he holds directs our eyes to #1 in the formula: “First,” he says, “Get a million dollars.”
“Getting clear” may be the first step in finding your way, but that’s the hardest part. It just doesn’t happen with a snap of the fingers or a presto or a bolt of lightening. And it usually doesn’t happen in the middle of the night when your head is on the lumpy pillow and you are tossing and turning with fear and anxiety. Nor does it just show up when the alarm goes off in the morning, even after a restful night’s sleep.
Sometimes people force clarity because it is so painful to be in a state of not knowing. It is painful to be confused. It is not socially acceptable to be stuck. Your family and friends get impatient with you. It seems easier to just say you are clear about what you are going to do. Then the people around you will feel better and get off your back.
Clarity, like wisdom, emerges over time – usually after a fair amount of pain, confusion, trial, error, and circumstance. Why people think they should be able to “get clear” all by themselves, and are so proud of themselves when they do (as if that’s the point!), remains one of the “sad wonders” of the world, in the book I keep intending to write.
Here is a proposed alternative. Why not let a little pressure off yourself by accepting the fact that life is hard, decisions are challenging, and that you are evolving day by day? You are a work in progress . . . maybe even a work of art in progress, but you don’t have to say that out loud. You are going to do the best you can with the education, experience, gifts, talents, values, and preferences you have, and you are not going to do anything ridiculous or dangerous just to make things more interesting. And you are going to get help with the questions and the answers before you make any serious mistakes.
True clarity is an exquisite thing. It usually emerges gradually, almost imperceptibly, from a deep, sustained, organized conversation with someone who can help you focus on the most important questions and help you to answer them for yourself. This kind of clarity produces peace in your heart and mind, and a light, ebullient energy that says, Yes! That’s it! Now I can take action! This kind of clarity produces implicit motivation, patience, determination, and unwavering commitment. It’s actionable. Think about that.
True clarity, like eventual wisdom, is the point. Eventually your questioning will not be about what will happen, but a self-assessment of what has happened. Whether it was good or bad or satisfying or not will be your call. If your current pain and joy do not a clear compass make, get some help from someone who can help steer you in the right direction.
Bonnie Bell, MA, M.Div., is Principal and Director of Career & Life Coaching at Bell Investment Advisors, which she owns and manages with husband, Jim Bell, CFP®, President and Founder. Located at 1111 Broadway, 16th Floor, in downtown Oakland, the firm has been offering customized investment management, financial planning, and career and life coaching since 1991. www.bellinvest.com 510-433-1066
Bonnie Bell, with husband Jim Bell, CFP® , owns and manages Bell Investment Advisors, Inc., 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630, in downtown Oakland. The firm has been providing personalized financial planning, investment management and career and life coaching services since 1991. www.bellinvest.com 510-433-1066
Published in Piedmont Post on November 17, 2010