A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life.

Are you lacking direction in life? Not sure which way you should turn?

Do you have a big problem with no idea how to proceed? Like whether you should quit the job you hate?

Or perhaps you’ve lost your job and have no idea what the hell you should do next?

Maybe you’re simply having a bit of trouble processing difficult emotions?

Whatever it is, dear readers, fear not – for I have something that can help you formulate the ultimate solution (no promises).

Introducing the CLEAR model! An outstanding structured approach for decision making and problem solving in everyday life!

(Is it just me, or did that sound like a 90’s television commercial?)

Let’s get into it.

The CLEAR model stands for:

C – Clarify what the problem is.
L – Look for information and ideas.
E – Evaluate options.
A – Act on your decision.
R – Review how it is working.

Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.

“Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?”

A great question Bob, thank you for asking. The answer is… I stole it of course!

We pilots are taught it as a way to deal with problems we might encounter outside our normal day-to-day operations. It achieves this by providing a series of defined steps to work through in order to (hopefully) achieve a safe outcome.

As the brain is a single channel processor that can only do one thing at a time (yes multi-tasking is a myth), this helps prevents it from being overloaded during periods of high stress and/or workload. (And I think we can all agree that it’s a time of high fucking stress Bob!)

The problem with high levels of stress is it may overload your very simple single channel processor (I know it does mine), which can result in one or more of the following:

  1. – Tunnel vision (or fixation) – focusing on one input to the exclusion of other vital data.
  2. – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.
  3. – Slowing down of your decision making or, in the extreme, inability to make any decisions at all.
  4. – Impulsiveness – the desire to restore control makes you leap into action too early.

I think you’ll agree those aren’t very helpful responses Bob, especially for pilots.

“But why, exactly, do you think a model designed for flight crew to problem solve on the flight deck of an aeroplane would be of any use to me?”

Another great question Bob! I asked myself the exact same one and let me tell you the answer I came up with: Why not?

But don’t just take my word for it Bob, let’s examine a working example completely unrelated to the realm of aviation. Let’s examine how we might apply the CLEAR model to someone who is dealing with depression and/or anxiety – hardly the sort of problem flight crew look at solving on a aeroplane I think you’ll agree!

The Clear Model As Applied To Depression:

1 – CLARIFY

People who are depressed will often state I am depressed or I am anxious. However no one is depression, no one is anxiety. These are merely things one experiences.

One of the big problems many people with mental health issues have is this kind of identification. They believe it is part of who they are. But this isn’t true.

Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.

A much more accurate thing to say would be, ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ This is a very significant shift in terminology that can help you to step back from your emotions.

If you want to go a step further by introducing some deep Buddhist wisdom (and I know you do Bob) you might say in third person, ‘James is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ So as to introduce the idea (and reality) that you are not your ego. That the I is not me. (Wow, my simple single processor is on fire!)

Anyway we could go on about how to properly clarify the problem but I don’t want to bore you Bob. At any rate, I think you’ll agree, we’re off to a winning start!

Let’s continue.

2 – LOOK

Observe. Simply be with whatever it is that is arising. Obviously this will work best if you can find somewhere quiet to sit without distraction. Yes Bob, that means you’ll need to put away your phone.

Once you have, be sure to take a few deep breaths and settle yourself. Maybe run through a quick body scan – place your hand on your heart if that helps – and then simply sit and observe.

Remember you’re not trying to achieve anything at this stage. You’re simply trying to observe what is going on from moment to moment. Run through your five senses if that helps. Use this time to gather information about what your emotions really feel like within the body.

If a thought arises, simply note it then come back to feeling your bodily sensations. Ultimately you want to go toward your negative emotions so you can observe them in fine detail.

Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.

This won’t be easy of course, especially if you’re new to the game of meditation but I promise you the long term benefits of having such a practise whenever faced with difficult emotions will pay off handsomely.

Anyway I’m sure you don’t need me to run through a meditation routine with you on here. You get the point Bob. Sit and look.

Next!

3 – EVALUTE

This is the part of the session where we introduce some curiosity. Maybe you can ask some questions such as, What triggered my emotional state today? What was it that caused my reaction? What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings? Moreover, what emotions am I trying to avoid that I need to feel? What are those feelings trying to tell me that I don’t understand?

After asking these question sit back and see what arises. I find this kind of exercise extremely useful for deriving insight whenever I have a reaction to something I don’t fully comprehend.

There are, of course, many different kinds of meditation practises you could apply to dealing with such emotional states, but once again I don’t want to bore you Bob.

Moving on!

4 – ACT

Now this will depend on what responses you derived from part 3 of this exceptional CLEAR model and how bad you suffer from said emotional problems.

It goes without saying that the most obvious thing to do if suffering from any kind of depression or mental health issue is to seek professional help.

Are you a therapist Bob? No?

Worth a shot.

Anyway, the next best thing, if you can’t afford a therapist or don’t feel you’re ready to face your demons yet (I won’t judge – it took my simple single processor a long time to pluck up the courage and ask for the help it needed) is to talk to your loved ones.

You’re not burdening them by opening up. If they love you they’ll want to know. Trust me Bob. It burdens them more not knowing.

Aside from those very obvious actions the next thing you can do is practise self-compassion. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself, it’s ok. I’m here for you. Let me feel you. Whatever kind language speaks or works for you.

It’s important to state that you don’t fight depression or anxiety, you’re meant to accept it.

As Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Moving on!

5 – REVIEW

This brings us to the final part of this most astonishing CLEAR model. Review or reflect.

Some questions you might consider: How did that work out? What can I add to the practise next time that might help me? Maybe I can add journalling as a way to write down what arises during such a practise? Am I still suffering from the same issues and thought patterns that I have for years on end?

If that last one is true then maybe it’s time to concede that you really do need professional help. I strongly encourage all with such issues to do exactly that. At the end of the day all these tools are helpful at managing your mental health but if you have some deeper issues it’s imperative you seek the professional help you need. There is absolutely no shame in this. Remember it is never too late to get the help you need. Never.

That’s all from me today Bob.

I hope this helped.


OTHER SOURCES:

https://studyflying.com/clear-model-human-factor/

http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:clear

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

Thursday’s Top Tip

“How much more harmful are the consequences of anger and grief then the circumstances that aroused them in us!”

— MARCUS AURELIUS (MEDITATIONS)

The simplest, most common sense piece of wisdom that the vast majority of people fuck up on a daily basis is this: Don’t make shit worse than it already is.

For example, imagine that a global pandemic ravages the world turning life as we know it on its head (oh wait). Now imagine how much harder it would be if you spent your entire time wishing it hadn’t happened (ah shit). Wishing for a different reality (yep, fucked that one up). 

Or imagine that you’ve lost your job. Now imagine how much harder it would be if you spent your time blaming your employer for what happened. Pissing all your savings down the drain in anger. Instead of knuckling under and coming up with a plan. Instead of first accepting the hand you’ve been dealt and then putting in the hard yards so you come out the other side stronger.

It sounds simple, not making shit worse than it already is. However not making shit worse is about having the discipline to face your current reality as it stands. Having the discipline to first accept it.

This is why so many people fuck up this simple common sense piece of wisdom. They don’t practise acceptance (which is hard). They don’t first come to terms with what’s happened. Instead of pausing to have a think – instead of then making a measured response – they react rashly, caving in to impulsivity instead.

In aviation we have a saying: ‘When shit hits the fan, first sit on your hands.’ That’s not to say you should do nothing, but that you should do nothing initially. First sit on your hands and have a think so you don’t do anything stupid (like shutting down the wrong engine when you have an engine failure). To make sure you’re clear about what is happening and what your options are (Like Sully who realised they wouldn’t be able to make the runway if he turned back to LaGuardia or headed toward Teterboro).

There’s something else we use in aviation to help us think clearly when faced with any non normal scenario. I believe it works just as well in everyday life. It’s called the CLEAR model. (If you’re interested I wrote all about it here.) It stands for the following:

C – Clarify what the problem is. (Global pandemic has left me unemployed.)
L – Look for information and ideas. (Search for a new job or do an online course to gain new skills.)
E – Evaluate your options. (Apply for jobs or learn a new skill or binge watch NETFLIX.)
A – Act on your decision. (Binge watch NETFLIX.)
R – Review how it is working. (Enjoying NETFLIX. Will continue to watch NETFLIX until I hate myself then reluctantly look for a new job.)

I believe this is a useful model that helps you first sit on your hands and then gain some much needed clarity before making a decision. Because that’s what you need to do. First accept what has happened and then become clear about your options.

Hopefully this model can help you do that today.

Previous Top Tip

Tuesday’s Top Tip

You know how we’re always doing one thing but thinking about something else?

Like ALWAYS.

You know how this is an example of mindlessness not mindfulness?

Well I have a little hack for you today.

And it’s going to sound silly but I swear it works. 

Here it is:

When you’re doing something articulate it.

You don’t have to say it out loud of course (unless you want other people to think you’re lunatic) – in your head is fine – but be clear about what it is you’re doing in any giving moment.

For example, I am sitting down to read. I am walking to the shop. I am drinking water. I am eating lunch. I am sitting on the toilet. I am writing. I am exercising. I am brushing my teeth. I am scrolling on Facebook. 

You get the point.

The beauty is, not only will this make you more mindful, it makes you more aware.

I am having another beer. I am having another chocolate. I am throwing away another piece of plastic.

The idea is not to stop you from indulging in negative habits but to simply make you more aware of them. This, in turn, makes you aware of what you should be doing. That’s often enough to steer you in a slightly better direction.

So that’s it.

Todays top tip is to simply say what you’re doing as you’re doing it.

It’s an awesome mindfulness hack.

You’re welcome.

Previous Top Tip

4-3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to my Mindset Mondays Post! The only weekly newsletter to kiss your mommy after filling up your stocking…

Following a 4-3-2-1 approach, it contains 4 thoughts from me (that you should probably ignore), 3 quotes from others (that you should definitely read), and 2 things I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that have helped me grow.

As always, I’ve finished with 1 terrible joke that’s so bad you won’t be able to help but laugh…

Let’s begin!


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Trying to create motivation is massively overrated. Trying to gain clarity is massively underrated. 

We all follow the herd to some extent. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing provided that the herd subscribes to high standards. However when the herd is not above blaming others or shirking responsibility, when the heard is consumed by fear or led by evil, you need to think very carefully. Because if you want to become the change you wish to see, you have to surround yourself with the right people. You have to put yourself in the right environment. Most of us vastly underestimate the influence others have on ourselves.

The greatest joy in life comes not from receiving praise or accumulating wealth, but from giving to others. Which, of course, is a form of letting go. Ultimately it’s about letting go of the idea that you need praise or things to be happy which is BS. It’s making other people happy that makes us happy.

Honesty is often about admitting you’re wrong. It’s important to understand thought that this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Because being wrong is the most ordinary thing in the world. The most dangerous people in this world are the ones incapable of seeing this. The most miserable people often fall into the same boat.


3 x Quotes From Others:

“Life laughs at you when you are unhappy; Life smiles at you when you are happy; But, life salutes you when you make others happy.” — Charlie Chaplin (Source: https://purplerays.wordpress.com/2020/12/03/life-salutes-you-when-you-make-others-happy/)

“If a man can reduce his needs to zero, he is truly free: there is nothing that can be taken from him; nothing can hurt him.”— John Boyd

“Life will present you with unexpected opportunities, and you won’t always know in advance which are the important moments. Above all, it’s the quality of your relationships that will determine the quality of your life. Invest in your connections, even those that seem inconsequential.”— Esther Perel (Source: https://jamesclear.com/3-2-1/refer?rh_ref=36174ee4)


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1) This Best Inventions of 2020 from Time Magazine. For a bit of fun in the build up to Christmas thought I’d share this list of random inventions. As they note, “Nominations were made from editors and correspondents around the world through an online application process. They were then evaluated on key factors, including originality, creativity, effectiveness, ambition and impact. The result? 100 groundbreaking inventions—including a smarter beehive, a greener tube of toothpaste, and technology that could catalyze a COVID-19 vaccine—that are changing the way we live, work, play and think about what’s possible.”

2 – For bit more fun this piece from Tom Whitwell: 52 things I Learned in 2020.


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

So we had a wee Christmas celebration the other night in which I ate a bit too much food (and drank a bit too much ale).

Despite this I couldn’t resist having a wee bit of cheese just before bed.

Needless to say this was a bad idea.

So when I climbed into bed next to my 37 weeks pregnant wife while groaning I said,

“You have no idea how uncomfortably full I feel.”

(silence)

I continued,

“I think I need a cheese-arean section.”


Thanks ladies and gentlemen. I’m here all week!

FYI I’m going to be taking something of a blogging hiatus in preparation for Christmas and the arrival of my second child.

Till the new year,

Have a very merry Christmas and an infinitely brighter 2021!

Love to all,

AP2 X


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 07/12/20