Like many people, it’s easy for me to get caught up in my aspirations for more — a bigger home, more money, greater success.
Author Greg McKeown starts by defining “the clarity paradox:”
- Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
- Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
- Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
- Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.
Then he suggests three ways to fight the clarity paradox … I’ve given an extremely condensed version:
1. Use more extreme criteria. Think of what happens to our closets when we use the broad criteria: “Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?” The closet becomes cluttered with clothes we rarely wear. If we ask, “Do I absolutely love this?” then we will be able to eliminate the clutter and have space for something better. We can do the same with our career choices.
2. Ask “What is essential?” and eliminate the rest. Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to eliminate the nonessentials. At once, we have the key to unlock the next level of our lives.
3. Beware of the endowment effect. Also known as the divestiture aversion, the endowment effect refers to our tendency to value an item more once we own it. Tom Stafford describes a cure for this that we can apply to career clarity: Instead of asking, “How much do I value this item?” we should ask “If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?” And the same goes for career opportunities. We shouldn’t ask, “How much do I value this opportunity?” but “If I did not have this opportunity, how much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?”