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A Clarifying Event is a moment of vivid foresight that is caused by a fearless acceptance of personal feedback. Clarifying Events can be a little terrifying at first, but if you can muscle through them, the epiphanies they spawn can be amazing.
That scene in The Matrix when everything slows down for Neo, when he finally figures out what it means to be The One, is a Clarifying Event. So is the scene in Alice in Wonderland when Alice discovers, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” In each of these cases, the forward path becomes clear to the character in the same instance that the character stops resisting feedback. Clarifying Events may be Quality Events, but they are not always. They do, however, unlock Quality Events by making the forward path clear. Clarifying Events are the mechanisms through which we accurately process critical feedback about progress toward our objectives.
To set the stage for a Clarifying Event, concentrate on creating the following three elements:
Clarifying Events begin with a world view that is in conflict with itself, as in, “I’m the smartest person in the room but I can’t get anyone to agree with me.” Conflict statements have to meet two criteria:
1. The first is, they need to be in the language of I. As in, “I’m doing a good job, but I’m not going anywhere.” Or, “I don’t carry grudges, but I have a number of frosty relationships.”
2. The second criteria is that the conflict statement must pair a belief about yourself with an outcome that doesn’t seem to follow from the belief. “I’m confident, but I tend to fold when dealing with Jeremy,” is another good example.
Bad conflict statements would be things like, “I’m confident, but I’m not confident around Jeremy” (two belief statements), or “I’m confident, but Jeremy’s a butterhead and won’t listen.” (Not in “I” language.)
The most critical element of the Clarifying Event is the decision to achieve a different outcome, even at the expense of a dearly held belief. In other words, you have to want the outcome badly enough to let go of that prized belief about yourself.
This notion about beliefs is important because beliefs drive actions. Until you let go of the belief, you will continue to return to the same way of acting because that belief will continually be driving you back there.
Picture the job seeker who says, “I’m a great candidate but no one will look at me.” This person is letting her belief that she is a “great” candidate cause her to do something — or maybe not do something. Because she holds this belief, she’s going to stick to sending out blind resumes and not using her parents’ connections. She feels that she should be able to earn the job on “merit,” so she is putting giving maintaining her belief more priority than landing a job. She can promise herself that she will work harder until she’s blue in the face, but until she lets go of her belief about her being a great candidate, she will not be able to do the things she needs to do to improve her odds of employment.
To move forward, she needs to forget about how good she is. Then she’ll start using her relationships and pressing her advantages!
Notice that at no time here are other people involved! The #1 reason people do not make this choice is because they blame outside forces for their problems — they misinterpret the feedback they get and make the wrong assumptions about cause and effect! Undoubtedly, the “great” candidate blames “lazy HR people,” “short-sighted managers,” or “a bad system” for her predicament. But when the conflict statement is crafted appropriately, HR, managers, and the process become irrelevant. The candidate works within her sphere of control, and focuses on herself as the lynchpin to achieving her goal of getting a job.
If you already had everything you needed to resolve the conflict, you would have already done so. Therefore, it must be that you do not yet have what you need, and that your next step will be to figure out what you need and to get it. If the Conflict Statement helps us adjust our Quality Event Objective, then Interim Needs are where we start to take stock of our environment.
This is what really separates Clarifying Events from short-lived flashes of insight: the acceptance of a discrete, interim goal that puts the resolution within reach. The interim goal could be developing a new skill or cultivating a new relationship. It could be obtaining a new resource, or adopting a new perspective. Whatever it is, it must be introduced to the situation before the conflict will resolve itself.
Basically, what this means is, if your Quality Event objective is too big, then shrink it. If you keep hearing that you don’t have the skills required for the job you want, stop arguing and find a different way to approach the conversation so you’re not always trying to defend your abilities!
Clarifying Events can feel bitter, so be prepared. When you shift your perspective, you let go of a previously held belief. As liberating as this is, it can also be embarrassing if you have been a powerful advocate for your old position and now find yourself facing constantly hearing “I told you so!” from friends and family. It can be difficult to redefine yourself. Not surprisingly, many people spend significant effort holding off on acting on the foresight gained in Clarifying Events until they can find an excuse to do so; that is, until they have a “face saving” reason for the shift.
Since you’re looking for work, we don’t have time to wait. If your moment of clarity comes as a bitter pill, have a glass of milk ready. Or a beer. Whatever it takes, just don’t waste any time accepting it.
Clarifying Events are required for anyone who desires to excel at something. Typically, they tend to come to us in flashes. However, they can be courted.
This is the final lesson on Mental Preparedness, so it’s a good idea to take some time to make sure that you’ve fully absorbed the Foundation and started to act on some of the principles that you’ve learned.
For homework, go back through the first 5 lessons of this Foundation and look at the homework assignments. Revisit them with Clarifying Events in mind.
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