Going Neutral To Get Clear
Ever since I chose to work for myself life, I've had to deal with periods of crippling uncertainty and anxiety. Income, cash-flow, where's the next client is coming from, am I doing the right thing, am I doing the wrong thing etc..
At times, getting lost in mind-fog can be overwhelming stressful. In worst cases, leading to periods of depression and withdrawal. Ironically, at those times when I needed to be at my most confident and focussed.
I’ve been there many times. And it’s horrible. It’s a perfect storm of panic and stress that no-one should have to deal with. So over the last few months I’ve developed a simple exercise to help me, and my clients, halt the slide into anxiety; open up some fresh perspective and allow themselves the mental and emotional space to ‘notice’ things - ideas, people, resources etc. - that bring some much needed clarity and focus to a turbulent situation.
So if you’re feeling lost, anxious or unclear about anything at the moment, then I invite you try this out for yourself.
Going Neutral & Getting Clear | A 3 Step Process
The 3 stages below are imbued with several techniques designed to help you get neutral on any issue you’re facing. Subsequently clearing out the emotional decks to allow in some much needed perspective, and ultimately clarity on possible, plausible and positive ways forward.
The only rule for this, is your 100% honesty. So, pen and paper, or laptop open:
Step 1: Write as much as you can next to each of these questions:
1) What's the issue?
Be as clear, simple and honest as you can. I’ve found that framing it as a task is often useful. But do be as specific as you can.
2) Ask: “If I were to experience this task or situation differently, or from a third person perspective, what might I notice and tell myself?”
Have fun with this. Role play it out, but again be honest. It’s just you and you, so give yourself permission to be wide open.
3) “What are my choices here?”
Note: this is not questioning whether you have choices, but rather acknowledging that you definitely do.
4) “So, if I do have choices and this is possible, what are my next logical moves?”.
Feel your way into this answer. Try not to be too practical. Remember, at this stage you’re not hacking to a definitive solution, just pushing the perspective out as wide as you can.
5) Now ask: “What's going right in this situation?”
Tip: start general, and then go specific once you get some momentum. You’ll be surprised at what comes up, that the anxiety and turbulence may have kept hidden.
6) Now play, “I wonder what it would be like to...”
Fill in any and all ideas, even if they seem to exist outside the scope of possibility. Have fun, day dream and allow yourself the space to be as creative as possible around the issue.
7) Finally, “What resources might I have that I’m not seeing yet?”
These should now make themselves visible amongst the other answers you have written.
Write them down, and anything else that comes to mind.
Now spend some time reviewing what you've written, from both an intellectual and emotional perspective. It’s likely you’ll already be feeing better, and some immediate actions will have already presented themselves.
But when you’re ready, in a separate column titled ‘So, now what?’, list one or two actions / tasks that you can take, to progress each of the answers above.
Once you feel as if you’ve gone at it enough, the final step is to simply step back, prioritise that list of actions according to where you want to go from here, and how quickly.
I like to use this final stage as a way of pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little, by scoring each action 1 though 5, with 1 being ‘easy’ and 5 being ‘terrified'. And challenge myself to do the higher numbers first.
Take some time to reflect on anything that you've scored 4 or 5. These represent opportunities for serious personal growth. Or, aspects of your life that you could seek extra help with.
All insight and self-awareness is empowering, as long as we take the necessary action to resolve it.
To start with, I used this as my go-to “I’m going to be broke unless…”. tool. But more recently both my clients and I have been using it to solve a much wider spectrum of challenges and areas of uncertainty.
I hope you find or found it useful. Like all these tools and thinking processes, the key is to relax, be as honest as possible, and take as much action as you can.
Christian Burne is a transformation coach and therapist, based in Beaconsfield. Specialising in helping ambitious professionals break-free from life turbulence, and get back on their game stronger, happier and more confident.