Our loyal blog readers will know that we previously reviewed the book Clarity: Clear Mind, Better Performance, Bigger Results. Written by life coach Jamie Smart, it focuses on the power of clearing your mind in order to better “focus, solve problems and succeed”. After reading the book, not only do I agree with its key message, I believe that it is a profound one.
Clarity is based on Smart’s own insights, supported by basic facts. After delving into it further, it becomes obvious that the concepts are based on a simple premise. For this reason, Clarity is accessible to anyone looking to improve themselves.
I initially started reading the book while on the busy underground in Central London. Immediately it had an unsettling impact on me in that I started to look at my surroundings in a completely different way. The whole premise of Clarity is that, as humans, we are prone to believe that what we feel is a product of our environment. But in fact, what we feel is driven by what we are thinking. It is your thoughts that dictate your reaction. If you are relaxed, your thinking will be free and your insights will be powerful. But, as Jamie writes, if you are allowing superstitious thinking and an overload of data to drive your feelings and increase your stress levels, this will restrict your innate thinking.
We feel what we think – it’s not a new thought but it is one we often need reminding of. Our external environment is not affecting the way we feel: we are. That means if you are thinking negatively, you need to ‘switch off your mind’ to get clarity of thought. With a core philosophy linked to mindfulness, breathing and the principles of meditation, the book further argues that if you let everything flood into your mind, there is too much information to make sense of. On the other hand, if you allow your brain to let go, you can shape your own world.
Smart uses many analogies in the book to illustrate his points. Among them, he asks the reader to imagine a frozen river – winter comes, ice forms in blocks and flows to a point where those blocks start to freeze together. Eventually the whole surface of the river is frozen. But all the while, the river still runs underneath. This is our ‘innate thinking’. The only thing that stands in the way is the superstitious thinking represented by the frozen surface. From this, we can deduce the importance of achieving the unfrozen thinking that will drive positive thought and, ultimately, positive action.
So how does this play into our view on leadership at Potential Squared? Overall, it applies on many levels. More specifically, it relates to our “I, we, winning” approach. If our river is frozen when we go into “I”, our version of winning will be frozen as well. That is why clarity is the first thing we start with. If you are clear on where you are going, and if you allow your thinking to be clear and free-flowing, then everything else works naturally from there. If we let thoughts stand in our way, we undermine our value as a leader.
The old saying then, perception is reality, rings true. While the concepts of mindfulness and meditation are taking root in sport, leadership and now management, the risk is that this approach will take some people out of their comfort zone. Even the best of us are struck with a victim-mentality. The voices of “when I have more budget I will be more successful” and “when I have more money I will be happier” are linked and unhelpful. The senior manager who believes that life will be easier when they are a director is surprised when life as a director is not easier after all. They do not even feel better with the increased salary. Their ability to feel happy and lead people is still based on releasing their innate thinking.
This book should come with a license because its impact has the potential to be so significant. Sure, it takes judgement to make decisions. But as a leader, if you grasp innate thinking, you’ll be making these decisions based on a much wider, purer and more thorough perspective. Clients and customers might not change, but your approach to leadership will. In this way clarity is not a short-term goal – it should be a permanent mindset.