Building on my recent post about the art of saying “no” I wanted to write about the power of being clear on what we want.

A lot of us, especially when we’re young, want to do and experience all the things. We want to say “yes” to job opportunities, adventures, and hang times with people we love. But doing it all can become exhausting and leave us feeling depleted. We look around and see others doing all the things and we wonder, what am I doing wrong?

The answer: You’re not doing anything wrong. You just haven’t yet mastered the art of discerning what’s worth your time and what might have to get shelved for a while. Successful people say no to a lot of things. And it's not because they're picky, it's because they're focused. 

But how does one get focused when there's so much you care about? 

You get clear on where to direct your energy. Clarity, it turns out, more than happiness or anything else, is actually the key to living an awesome life because it informs the way we use our energy.

Maria Nemeth, one of my mentors and author of Mastering Life’s Energies, says that there are six forms of energy: Money, Time, Physical Vitality, Creativity, Enjoyment, and Relationship.

When we’re not clear on what’s most important to us, we use our energy in unfocused ways. We throw it at whatever shiny object or urgent demand comes our way and that lack of focus makes us feel like things are hard and constricted. We begin to experience energy scarcity, which sounds like,

“There’s not enough time.”

“I don’t have enough money.”

“I’m exhausted.”

In contrast, when we’re clear on what we’re trying to accomplish and how we want to use our different forms of energy, we are clearer on the actions we need to take. Life feels easier and a whole lot more spacious.

And how do we get clear?

Working with a coach is a great option, and attending a workshop on visioning, values, or goal-setting can be very supportive and illuminating. (If you don’t already know this about me, I’m obsessed with visioning and regularly run visioning workshops because I LOVE helping folks get clear.)

But, even at a more basic level, you can start to get clearer on your next steps in life simply by asking yourself on a regular basis, what is it that I really want?  It sounds simple, I know, but how often do you ask yourself that, actually listen to the answer, and follow through on that answer?

Mmm hmm. Thought so. Not so much. 

When you ask, “Hey Self, what do I want, really, in regards to…?” you’ll likely hear  a lot of mind chatter about how whatever you want is “unrealistic” or “impossible” or “selfish.” That’s normal. Allow yourself to peek underneath all that. What’s hiding under there, furiously shining its light through the fog? Write about it. Talk about it, either to a person or a recording device. Listen to what you’re saying. What truths rise to the surface? What have you been talking about forever and then talking yourself out of?

I recommend practicing this with low stakes questions, like “what do you want for dinner?” When faced with such a question, start by taking a pause and asking yourself. Listen for and acknowledge the answer. Then act on it, or if someone else asked you, truthfully communicate your answer.

Each time you make a choice that’s authentic to you and aligned with your vision and values, you’re building up your own personal power. And the more you practice with the small stuff, the easier it will be to make bigger decisions like taking a job, moving across the country, or choosing to make a big energy investment of any kind.

Sometimes people will be disappointed. That’s also normal. My friend’s dad used to say that if everybody loves you, you’re doing something wrong. Nobody ever did anything worth writing home about by being a people pleaser 100% of the time. Your power can make other people uncomfortable and that’s good to be aware of but don’t let it stop you from living boldly.

I want to acknowledge that if you’re living with mental health challenges, this practice may not work for you, or you may need to do some more healing before it yields any results. Depression and anxiety create thick walls between us and our truths and if that's present for you, definitely seek healing support from a psychotherapist or counselor, and perhaps some neuroplasticity work like DNRS