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I’m a huge fan of Tory Johnson, the CEO and founder of Women for Hire and Spark & Hustle, best-selling author, and a regular contributor on Good Morning America.
Recently, I picked up her latest book, The Shift: How I Finally Lost Weight and Discovered a Happier LIfe, and this one line really stuck with me:
Clarity trumps willpower.
In our society, we are driven by results. Top athletes, businesspersons, and surgeons aren’t talking in the media about clarity. They’re talking about willpower, strength, the drive to thrive, the need to succeed. Willpower means getting up early, staying up late, getting things done, and being the very best in the world at what they do. Willpower is command. Success in this supposed highest form is a battle comprised of all male energy: very aggressive, forceful, determined, and even combative at times.
But clarity, this is something else.
Clarity comes from taking a deep breath. Clarity is identifying the options available to you, and taking the time to fully comprehend each choice and what they will mean for you in the short and the long-term. Clarity is about feminine energy, a graceful, peaceful energy, almost a faith. Clarity enables you to know with quiet confidence you will do what is right for you at each given moment, and progress steadily forward in that manner. Inevitably, clarity leads to success; after all, as Buddha said, drop by drop fills the bucket. Not sporadic gigantic rainfalls followed by long periods of drought. But steady, clear commitment to your goal.
Now, as regular readers of the FutureDerm blog know, I’m obsessed with a commitment to constant self-improvement. Which means, at least in part, understanding your true psychological nature. From most of the reading that I have done, my belief is there are two primary driving forces in life: Your ego, which protects you from danger and harm, but is constantly in fear-based mode, and your inner spirit, which is drawn to love and joy, but is not always aware of social norms and proprieties. I know that there are multiple variances on these theories — Freud for one has three driving forces — but I have found that many Buddhist texts and popular modern spiritualists like Eckhart Tolle and Martha Beck adopt this “social self” versus “essential self” theory that I have found works well for me.
Understanding that you have two sets of considerations, one exclusively fear-based and the other entirely joy-based, makes it clear that the inner struggle to success must be managed in both sectors. The social self, obviously, wants the title, the big salary, and the corner office. After all, this protects you from criticism from friends and family, gives you a hefty savings, and you will have more security at work. The social self will make you get out of bed and put your nose to the grindstone from dawn till dusk (and sometimes later). The social self is all of the Nike commercials: Just do it. And to appease the social self, you need to have the big goals, the five-year plan, the suit and the business cards.
On the other hand, the essential self gets something else: In 150 years, there will be all new people on this earth. Life is short. Seize every moment of joy that you can. Live a life that is joyous and fulfilling, even if it makes your friends and families raise eyebrows when you go from $200,000 a year in your miserable corporate job to $20,000 in your first year being an artist like you’ve always dreamed. The essential self is that little spark in you that says to cancel your meetings and go to the movies today, because you deserve it. (And you really want to see that new Ryan Gosling movie). To appease the essential self, you need to feel joy, connect with each moment, have faith things will turn out well, and do something that has a higher meaning to you than money, power, or status.
Why I loved Tory Johnson’s quote so much is because it reminded me that true success is not always willpower, strength, drive to succeed. It reminded me that there is another, quieter voice inside that needs to be managed. A voice that is fully aware that each moment you spend sacrificing is a moment you will never get back. A voice that knows sometimes sacrifice is worth it, and sometimes it isn’t, but you have to take the time to decide, each and every time, whether a choice is worth the consequences.
Willpower fades. What you are left with is your core self, your enigma, your heart, your spirit — whatever you call it, let that motivate you. When the money, power, and status have lost their luster (and they always do eventually), whatever is left is what truly motivates you. Those quiet reasons are your clarity. That is who you are.
You will find it is much easier to save money because you want to have security and freedom later on, not a beach house in retirement. You will find it is much easier to lose weight because you want to feel confident and beautiful and be around for your kids, not because you want to fit into that size 0 Narciso Rodriguez dress for a dinner date next Tuesday. You will find it is much easier to stick with anything if you just remember: Clarity trumps willpower. Have the patience with yourself to cultivate your inner voice, and you will find a new meaning of success.
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