Thoughts on Focus, Clarity, and Figuring It Out

It is POSSIBLE that my workspace reflects my un-focused life more than I want to admit. From where I’m sitting I count five types of chocolates, five tubes of hand creme, six journals in various degrees of emptiness, and two Big Birds. 💛

Just since last week’s post, when I reflected back on January and forward toward February with my plans and good intentions, I’ve shifted a few gears. Before this new month had even started, I realized I wanted to let go of a couple of my intentions. They weren’t big things, exactly.

But perhaps for the first time ever in my years of choosing a Word Of The Year, I am actually noticing how my word—CLARITY—is related to what’s going on in my life and in my head.


The other day it occurred to me that I’ve been using Focus and Clarity more or less interchangeably, but I don’t actually think they are the same thing. In overly simplistic terms, to me, Focus is the action I can take. I choose to focus my attention, my time, my space (!!), my energy. Or at least I should. Clear the clutter. Get rid of the excess (except maybe the chocolates?). Cancel app subscriptions and e-newletters, “Unfollow” socials. Just because something seemed like a good idea at the time does not make it useful or helpful at this time. Choose wisely.

This is a practice, very much a “try, try again” thing. Don’t tell my Star Wars-loving family, but Yoda was wrong. This is not “Do or do not, there is no try.” This is: Try, and try, and try, and try…


On the flip side of focus, Clarity is the starting point and (I hope) the outcome of practiced focus. Clarity can help me see where and how to focus. And clarity may be the result, the clear vision of where I’m going… or at least of where I am.

Keeping my eyes on my own paper.

Nobody ever told me what a painful spiritual discipline this is.

It’s not that I’m so competitive; I’m not a “play to win” type. I’m barely even a “play” type. But I do feel—strongly, more strongly than is comfortable to admit—that I have failed to meet (my own) expectations. Sometimes this hits me hard; hardest when people I know share that they have Achieved A Thing.

Meanwhile I’ve spent (literally) two decades trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing, with little to show for it (in my own estimation), and no end in sight. This is more than a little frustrating. Embarrassing, even. I’m ashamed of myself—at myself. (Whoa, okay, I have not put that into words before. Ouch.)

This is not a plea for shoulder-pats or pep talks. But let no one ever accuse me of presenting only the “good parts version” in this space.

Figuring it out.

My instinct, when I hit this brutal Wall of Comparisonitis, is to Figure It Out.

I love figuring things out. I dig out all my personality test results (INTJ and Type 5w6, if you’re wondering about my tendency to overthink things). I sort through journal notes, and make lists of Skills and Interests, and puzzle over all the circumstances of my life that are helping and/or hurting my forward movement.

Then I brainstorm all the possible things I could do. Plan projects! Set up notebooks! Buy office supplies!

And I go deep into personal introspection. Evaluate. Analyze. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? If I could just figure out what my problem is, I could solve it, and then I too could Achieve A Thing.

Today I realized that if I took all the time I’ve spent trying to Figure It Out over the past 20 years, and applied all that time and energy to actually doing the work…

Maybe it’s time for a new approach.

“Maybe.” Ha.

It’s time. Because, speaking of Clarity: clearly, my way of Figuring It Out isn’t working.

What’s the opposite of Figuring It Out? Maybe quieting. Listening. Maybe (wait for it…): FOCUSING.

What does that mean for me right now? It probably means clearing my space so I can clear my head. It means dealing with the most pressing work (immediately: curriculum) and back-burnering everything else for now. It means the things I choose to add need to contribute to the focus, not just increase the collection of possibilities. It means rejoicing with my friends who are Achieving—then returning my gaze to my own paper with equal joy.

It mostly means finally accepting that my efforts to Figure It Out will not bring revelation… but that my commitment to showing up, open to receive and willing to risk, just might.

Stay well, friends. 🙏🏻

One thought on “Thoughts on Focus, Clarity, and Figuring It Out

  1. I deeply enjoy your writting, but this one really hits home. Thank you for your reflection.

    I hope you don’t mind me sharing your reflections on the Central Seminary page from time to time. Let me know if you do.

    Thanks again for your words, vulnerability and honesty.




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