Notes from the clearing #2
Changing the quality of your focus
As more and more people use the Very Clear Ideas process as a way to get clear on their projects, I keep hearing second, third-hand different theories of what the different questions mean.
So, I thought I’d explain a bit.
The first thing to say is — for using the process, I don’t think it even really matters what the questions mean. Or at least, I don’t think it’s important to think about their meanings when answering them. Just answer them and see what happens.
Each question is meant to be a prompt. And when answering them the most important thing is just to answer — without any filter. See what shows up. Actually taking the question for granted, just assuming it means something, is a good way to get in the mode of answering with no filter. Just — what does my mind throw up in response to this set of words? Whether it makes any sense or not.
The second thing to say is I didn’t really plan out that the process would be these seven questions. If you’ve been aware of the Very Clear Ideas process over the years, then you’ll know that this set (which, these days is the primary set of questions I use) is actually one of three decks. This is a kind of ‘universal’ set of questions. But originally there were two sets of questions — an ‘art’ set and a ‘business’ set. I still call on them sometimes. They can be useful to draw out slightly different answers. And they can be useful when talking to people who prefer a very artsy or very business-like vocabulary (“What feels like home?”, “What’s the vision?”, “What’s profitable?”, “What’s the heart of it?”.)
But after using these two sets of questions for about seven years, I sat down one day and very deliberately made an effort to ‘catch’ an even clearer set of questions. (Sometimes this is how I get clear on things. After months or years of trying to work something out, I’ll decide that I’m just going to solve it — and use brute force to do so. I sit down and just demand that the answer will show up. And I concentrate on it and basically refuse to go anywhere or do anything else until it shows. And, nearly always, that works.)
Between composing the first two decks of cards and the third, I also attended a very influential dinner in a monastery in Sopron, Hungary. The host, Barbara Kunz, has been leading vision processes for decades. And she has designed a totally immersive experience of a seven-course dinner, where each course represents a different way of looking (if you’re into that sort of thing, you’d say it was the seven ‘chakras’). Each course has its own kind of food, own music, own video backdrop, own activity… everything you can think of — and it gives you a chance to experience very deliberately and in isolation seven different approaches. First course — all about practicality. Second course, all about desire. Third course — rational will. Fourth — love. Fifth — creativity (you get to go into the kitchen and make your own dinner). Six — vision. Seventh — completion and celebration.
If you’ve been to a yoga class, you’ve probably been guided through these seven different ‘levels’ as being ‘mapped’ on the body (root chakra, sacral chakra, solar plexus, heart, throat, forehead, crown of the head….). And, even if you haven’t been to a yoga class, you’ve probably talked about trusting your gut, listening to your heart, having something in mind, speaking off the top of your head…And, sure, they’re just cliches. But they do each feel different. They evoke something different — and gives us a kind of a casual language to talk about different ways of looking.
It seems to me like there’s a kind of natural tendency to associate different kinds of thinking with different parts of the body — whether that’s very literal or very metaphorical. And it seems obvious that we’d associate the more practical things with being ‘closer to the ground’ and the wispy, vague, floaty notions with being up in the air.
So, with all this in mind, I tried to find the words that would most clearly evoke these seven different perspectives — firstly in line with the original sets of Very Clear Ideas questions, but also in tune with my experience at Barbara’s dinner (and in yoga classes and the like).
And this set of seven popped out pretty much fully formed.
And while I could write *forever* about what the different questions mean — or at least what I associate them with — the most important thing is what they say to you.
For now, all I’ll do is explain these seven pictures. (The limits of my drawing skills means I think they deserve an explanation…)
Whichever of the questions we ask, we’re always asking the same question: what’s the idea?
But, when we answer that question, how we answer will depend on the kind of focus we have.
And if you use different words when asking about an idea, then they tend to alter the kind of focus we have when we answer.
If you ask ‘What do you need?’ then the focus is quite narrow. (“I need something to eat.”)
If you ask ‘What do you want?’ then the focus is a little broader. (“I want something to eat that’s healthy and tasty.”)
If you ask ‘What do you demand?’ then you end up with even more information. (“I want something to eat that’s healthy and tasty — and it has to cost less than £8 and be delivered to my door within the next 17 minutes.”)
As we move through the seven questions, our focus becomes wider and wider.
A narrow focus has more power. A broad focus sees more.
You can feel the difference between ‘What do you need?’ and ‘What do you love?’ The first is focused, the second is broader. And ‘What do you live for?’ is kind of vast and expansive.
By working our way through the different ways of looking we get the benefit of the whole spectrum — from the power of narrow focus to the all-encompassing openness of a very broad focus.
When I think about what I love, it’s almost as if it includes the whole world — a wide-open view of what’s in front of me. But when I think about what I wish for, it almost goes beyond that — to include the unthinkable. The things that can’t proceed rationally from where I am right now — but actually I am attached to, despite not knowing how they might show up.
When I move from wishing to dreaming, it’s almost as if I let myself imagine that the idea has already been realised. I let myself see it. I’m still here in the present looking at a possible future, but the possible future is so immersive, it’s like it occupies my whole field of vision. I go from wishing for it (in words) to seeing it (in pictures).
When I ask what I live for, I move even beyond that. From clearly seeing an imagined future to ‘stepping into it’. Using my imagination to actually experience it. Not from some detached observer perspective — but with my whole self.
Being clear is a skill you can learn. Find out more at www.howtobeclear.com.