Decision-making and the myth of Clarity

For the last several years, I’ve had an idea for a project that I can see in my mind but I don’t know how to act on it. It’s not for lack of motivation or conviction that the thing ought to be done. Rather I’ve had this unequivocal sense that I need to wait, like a hand is stretched out in front of me, like a mom who hits the brakes too hard and instinctively stretches her arm across the passenger seat. Kind of like that, but less frantic. It’s clear I’m to wait. It’s not clear as to why.

I’ve walked through all the familiar stages of new project things with this idea—talking, praying, brainstorming, and writing down notes and ideas. But progress doesn’t seem to come. Sometimes I wonder, Am I just being lazy? Am I procrastinating? Am I just plain scared?

That’s when the doubting starts to come in, the wondering if maybe this project isn’t to be done after all; maybe I have it all wrong or partially wrong. When next steps are unclear, doubt is often the most logical conclusion.

Many times we’re looking for guidance somewhere out there, a sign, a word, an encouragement, a conversation. We know God speaks to us through the Bible, in prayer, and sometimes through other people. But another regular way he speaks to me is the one way I have most often dismissed: through the voice that comes from within. The good news is I’m finally learning to trust that voice.

We can start down that road of doubt and questioning if we want to. But just because the doubts show up doesn’t mean we have to let them sit down. They won’t linger if they’re not welcome. Instead, when it comes to those unwelcome thoughts of doubt and discouragement, how about let’s point them to the door. 

God sometimes speaks in such a subtle and familiar way that it could be easy to miss. We look for fireworks or signals or confirmation from somewhere other than us. But he keeps on reminding us that he has made our heart his home, and that’s often the place from which he’ll make his voice heard. 

If you feel distracted and overwhelmed by a particular decision and are unable to think clearly about it, it’s tempting to think something is wrong with your process or that something is wrong with you. Here are two things you can release that can help you take your next right step:

Let go of your timeline.

One of my favorite lines of advice about decision-making comes from Marie Forleo, who points out that clarity cannot be rushed. It could be you’re anxious to make a decision, not because it’s necessary right now but simply because it’s nagging. This is understandable but in order to give yourself the space to receive clarity, you may need to let go of the expectation that clarity will come in a particular way or at a particular time

Much of the rhetoric around our work and life is that if you have an idea but aren’t acting on it, then it means you’re nursing some brand of fear, insecurity, or immaturity. We’re told we need to put our head down, drink more coffee, and get to work. But what about the work that grows slowly and takes years to form? For instance,

The ministry that needs darkness and time to bury its roots down deep into you...

The book that only wants to drip out of you, one slow word at a time...

The business that requires a solid, unrushed foundation...

Is the vision strong enough to carry your soul through the foggy right-now? And if it’s not, are you willing to listen to the still, small voice and believe it’s telling the truth?

If it isn’t yet time to make a decision or to move, practice the daily letting go of your timeline. 

But maybe the time has come. That leads to my second suggestion.

Let go of your expectation of certainty.

I do believe that clarity cannot be rushed. As you listen to your life and the Spirit’s heartbeat, the vision will grow as the work is done. You’ll begin to see it even though you can’t yet see it fully.

Proverbs 20:27 says, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly” (KJV). If you walk too fast with a candle, the flame will blink right out. You have to take slow, measured steps. So trust that voice that comes from within. If there’s a longing or vision growing within you that you can see even though you can’t quite see it, carry on. Walk slow. Listen close. And let that candle burn.


Emily P. Freeman

Emily P. Freeman is the author of the national bestsellers The Next Right Thing, Simply Tuesday and A Million Little Ways. As host of The Next Right Thing podcast, she helps create space for the soul to breathe, offering fresh perspective on the sacredness of our inner life with God. Emily and her husband live in North Carolina with their three children. Connect with her online at and on Instagram.   


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