The upside of clarity

In a coaching conversation, the first response to a challenging question is rarely the most significant. Or honest.

We’re masters at presenting the best version of ourselves. This is especially true of professionals. We feel it’s expected of us and we play the part accordingly.

In response to the question, “How’s everything going?”, we tend to give an enthusiastically positive answer 90+% of the time. There are lots of reasons for this: we want to believe things are going well, we’re conditioned to be positive in most high-performance cultures, we don’t want to be getting into the weeds with everyone we speak with etc. etc.

So if we want others to believe we’re ‘doing well’ and we want dearly to believe it ourselves, what happens when on occasion we, inevitably, are not doing so well?

Are we creating problems for ourselves by ‘staying positive’? Are we doubling down on our delusions, widening the gap between our reality as we feel it and our reality as we present it?

These are important questions, which we rarely ask.

In the field of process improvement, the foundation of progress is understanding the “as-is process” i.e. what exactly is happening right now. Until there is clarity on what is actually happening, all attempts at improvements are based on hunches, biases and conjecture.

Similarly, for us to improve our decision making, performance and overall well-being, we need more clarity on how things really are. Non-judgmental reflection can help us gain a deeper understanding of our circumstances and raise our awareness of our relationship with those circumstances.

Perhaps the reason we mostly avoid such work is that we find the prospect to be uncomfortable, despite the fact that we rarely, if ever, regret overcoming that resistance.

Maybe then, instead of chasing more sophisticated ‘solutions’ or operating in the delusional realm of where we should be, we just need a little more courage to slow down and open our eyes more clearly to what’s right in front of us?


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *