“Nothing in the world can bother you as much as your own mind, I tell you. In fact, others seem to be bothering you, but it is not others, it is your own mind.”~Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Do you ever feel confused about what to do and unsure about how to find clarity?
Maybe an unforeseen event, like a layoff or breakup, knocked you into a mental spin. Or perhaps you’re muddling along, with no clue where you’re going.
Confusion can leave you helpless, indecisive, and afraid. And not knowing what to do only adds to your mental chaos.
I’ve been there, lost, irresolute, and undecided in life. But, amid my mid-life confusion, life-changing trauma blasted all that mental mess aside and made way for a greater worry—leukemia.
Yet, surprisingly, cancer guided me toward mental clarity and calm.
But don’t despair. You don’t need a tragedy to create inner lucidity. Because here’s the three-step method that I discovered to transform confusion into mental clarity.
Slow Down for Mental Clarity
Your first step is time.
A few months before my leukemia diagnosis, I anguished over a career shift. Well into my forties, I heard an invisible clock ticking and pressured myself to make the perfect decision.
Instead, I only stressed myself. The confusion never left me, and I never arrived at any conclusions.
Then leukemia halted me physically, forcing me to slow down. Self-isolated, with a weakened immune system, I found myself with an abundance of time. And I used that time to sort out the mess in my head, a mess that suddenly seemed futile.
I learned that important decisions require contemplation, and contemplation requires time. Only the space to reflect will sort out your mental ramblings.
So, be kind to yourself and give yourself the time to get clear on what’s clouding your head.
Depending on your situation, you might need a full day in a relaxed setting to analyze your options and weigh the pros and cons. You could take a week or two alone in a meditative, spiritual, or agnostic retreat vacation. Or you can take a sabbatical.
The greater your decision, the more time you’ll need.
Be an Observer
When you distance yourself from your thoughts, you can better decipher your mind’s turbulence.
Because physical space isn’t enough. You need more mental space, too.
Often, as you multitask your hours and days away, you fill your mind with busyness. And a monkey mind only tightens your mental bind.
So, your second step to mental clarity is to begin noting and observing your thoughts without judgement. How? With mindfulness, which is excellent for both mental and emotional clarity.
To prevent my mind from wandering to dark places during my frequent hospitalizations, I practiced deep breathing exercises, focusing only on my breath. And that breathing technique forced me to stay present.
I made fast progress into mindfulness and spotted repeated thought patterns. I realized my confusion didn’t stem from my indecisiveness over a career change. Instead, it masked a profound dissatisfaction with how I was living life. I lacked direction and purpose. So even if I had changed jobs, it wouldn’t have eliminated my mental chaos.
When you observe your thoughts, the key to clarity is to note them for what they are without criticizing yourself. I noted my thoughts as “fear” or “worry” or “dissatisfaction,” which helped me to understand and accept them.
Once you let go of your internal critic and accept your present mindset, you cut through your haziness to reveal your true mental and emotional states.
Once you step away from thoughts, you realize you and your mind are two separate entities, and you don’t have to believe it.
When this realization sinks in, you can untether yourself from the thoughts that hold you back.
You’re not confused because you don’t know what to do; you’re confused because you’re telling yourself limiting stories about what you can do. Deep down you know what you want, but limiting fears, beliefs, and assumptions are making you question yourself. And many have no basis in reality.
For example, you might strive for perfection because you fear making mistakes. And perhaps you fear making mistakes because you’re convinced others can love you only if you’re perfect.
The ultimate step is to challenge your beliefs to achieve both mental and emotional clarity.
When considering a career change, I dismissed writing as a possibility. I kept pushing that solution away. And I never questioned myself.
Yet my battle with leukemia gave me time and presence of mind to challenge myself.
And what did I discover?
I never considered writing as a career change because I didn’t believe in my capabilities.
Because I didn’t believe in myself.
Only then did I understand my confusion: the lack of self-examination created all of my mental and emotional upheaval.
With no judgment and no shame, I accepted that limiting belief, hidden in the corners of my mind for ages. And I realized it wasn’t true.
So, I let it go.
Are you telling yourself you’re a failure or that you’re not good enough? You won’t know until you begin with some thoughtful questions.
To help you challenge yourself, try this 4-question technique from Byron Katie:
“Is it true?”
“Can you absolutely know it’s true?”
“What happens when you believe that thought?” (what are your reactions or emotions?)
“Without the thought, who would you be?”
Your answers will most likely surprise you, but also free you from stagnating beliefs.
When you create space, live in the present, and question your confusion, you will discover mental clarity.