3 Ways to Think Clearly in Cloudy Times

“I just didn’t realize how much I took my ability to think clearly for granted before this.” she sighed. I could feel through the screen on our Zoom call how much the fog of this season was discouraging her perspective about her leadership. 

Many of us would raise our hands with her – we can easily take for granted many things, including our ability to think clearly. It is when we are NOT thinking clearly or feel stuck in a fog that we feel how precious that clarity really was.

If you’re feeling a little foggy or stuck today, here are some questions and steps that can help:

1. What is stopping you from thinking more clearly?

Naming what is filling that fog is the first step toward clearing it. It could be many things: relational tensions, physical pain or illness, financial struggle, anxiety, and in general most of 2020 right now. 🙂 In this season, most leaders are navigating multiple factors like these all at the same time. However, we don’t always take the time to name what is happening and identify the way it is impacting us. 

Step Toward Clarity: Grab a pad of sticky notes and write down what is making up the fog for you currently – one item per sticky note. Put them up on a wall or on your desk. Pray for the Lord to give you a word or a verse for each item, and express to Him that you want to bring your thoughts captive to His thoughts. As He gives you a word or verse for each “fog item,” put a new sticky note on top of it with the word or verse He gave to you for it. For example, your fog item might be “Anxiety about my ability to lead through this.” and a verse to put on top of it could be Joshua 1:9, Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

2. What are your big questions?

Our brains have a remarkable capacity to process information, but depending on circumstances we can really find our brains spinning around a certain issue or topic. Like music in the background, our questions can “hum in the background” of our days taking up energy and clouding our ability to focus on what is in front of us. It is critical that we recognize the big questions we have right now and determine what we must do with them. Allowing them to loop in our minds without attending to them will exhaust us.

Step Toward Clarity: Using a piece of paper or your favorite checklist app, title it “Big Questions I Have.” Jot down each question that you have on this list without worrying about if they can be answered right now or not. The most important thing is to see the questions on paper or typed out in front of you. After you feel like you’ve gotten your questions out, take some time to pray and offer them up to God. Ask for Him to give you wisdom, knowledge, patience, and grace for these questions. Ask for Him to help you attend to these questions in His way. Give yourself some time to hear from Him, and then return to the list and begin attending to the questions as He directs. Invite a trusted friend and believer to look at your list of questions and provide their insight, as well. We need perspective, and He is gracious to give us Himself and each other.

3. What needs a time out?

If you have found yourself saying, “My brain is on overload.” or “My mind can’t stop racing.” it means that something is in need of a time out. You do not have an endless capacity for input and information in a day. You are a precious human being with limits. Today, you have endless opportunities to connect to data, information, thoughts, articles, research, opinions, etc… And while those have value, too much of a good thing is… well, too much. If you’re feeling in a fog, it might be a good indication that something needs to be put in time out. You might need to take a break from podcasts, social media, or devices- limiting inputs is a valuable way self-aware leaders can protect their energy and clarity in difficult seasons.

Step Toward Clarity: Do a quick inventory of your inputs (podcasts, social media, email, books, etc.). Which ones leave you feeling more clear and more refreshed for what is ahead of you each day? Which ones are typically helpful but are actually distracting you or giving you more to think about than you can handle right now? Is there a rhythm you can put in place to help you put a pause on your information intake each day? Try pausing specific things each day to see how it helps create more margin for you to process what you need to focus on right now.

Conclusion

If you’ve been feeling a little bit foggy lately, you’re not alone. We are all navigating through uncharted territory. To begin thinking more clearly, we need to name what is creating the fog for us, attend to the big questions we have, and be willing to put limits on what we are taking in. As we give all of these things over to the Lord, we can be encouraged that we are not on our own to navigate the fog, and that He is able to strengthen the clarity of our minds each and every day.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to  his own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

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