Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Clarity? Yes please!

Written by: on April 18, 2024

This has been an intense week. After a long week at work and the end-of-semester writing assignments, I was grateful to have a light, enjoyable, and practical reading.

The general idea behind Clear Thinking is that our subconscious responses are often counter to our better judgment.[1] Parrish uses the first half of his book to identify enemies of clear thinking and the second half to give strategies to engage in clear thinking.

Parrish spent time working for a government intelligence agency, joining just weeks before the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks.[2] On top of his career in national security, Parrish is an entrepreneur, a podcaster, and author.

In Clear Thinking, Parrish describes 4 instinctual defaults that hinder our ability to think clearly. They are listed below with a quote summarizing each:

The Emotion Default: “You experience anger, fear, or some other emotion, and feel compelled to act immediately. But in these moments, the action you’re pushed toward rarely serves you.”[3]

The Ego Default: “Our ego tempts us into thinking we’re more than we are. Left unchecked, it can turn confidence into overconfidence or even arrogance.”[4]

The Social Default: “The social default inspires conformity. It causes us to fall in line with an idea or behavior simple because other people do.”[5]

The Inertia Default: “Inertia keeps us in jobs we hate and in relationships that don’t make us happy, because in both cases we know what to expect and it’s comforting to have our expectations reliably met.”[6]

Parrish argues that when we are making big decisions in life, we use rational thinking to determine the best course of action. When we’re making decisions like university selection, marriage, and having children, we (hopefully) are quite thorough in our discernment. However, in the day-to-day, we act in our 4 defaults in ways that may be counterproductive to our larger decisions and goals. For example, we decide to attend a university, but when we also decide to stay up late the day before a test, we’re making a subconscious decision to have a lesser performance on the exam. We also decide carefully on our marriage partner, but then make daily decisions like making an impulse purchase without first discussing it with our spouses that might jeopardize the health of our marriages. The reason we make these counterproductive decisions is because of our 4 defaults. In an interview with Kyle Westaway, Parrish says that we should consider if we want to put gasoline or water on an undesirable fire.[7]

While we would all choose water over gasoline, we often can’t think clear enough to choose water. But not all hope is lost and Parrish gives several strategies for clear thinking, despite our defaults. For the sake of this podcast, I won’t go into all the strategies but will focus on my learnings from the 4 defaults.

When I worked in logistics, I was in an unhealthy work environment and I knew that I needed to leave. I was having panic attacks, working 60+ hours a week, and had my identity wrapped up in the approval of my colleagues. I sacrificed precious time with my young children and found it difficult to be present even when I wasn’t working. But I just couldn’t leave, I couldn’t even look for another job. I knew I could find another, or even better job, but I just couldn’t take the first step by actually looking for another position. It’s hard for me to understand why I was so paralyzed. I suspect both the emotional and inertia defaults had something to do with it. I got into an unhealthy cycle of stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, and a general sense of being overwhelmed. This caused a resistance to change, to seek out a new position, even though I knew I had to leave.

After over a year of deliberation, God finally made a way for me to be healed from paralysis and move forward. I wish I had read Parrish’s book a decade ago, but I’m thankful for the learnings that I can apply going forward.

[1] Parrish, Shane. Clear Thinking: Turning Ordinary Moments into Extraordinary Results. New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin, 2023.
[2] Ibid, vii.
[3] Ibid, 13.
[4] Ibid, 17.
[5] Ibid, 23.
[6] Ibid, 31.
[7] How to Turn Ordinary Moments Into Extraordinary Success – Shane Parrish, Author of Clear Thinking, 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_aoAWXtxFE&t=2897s.

About the Author

Christy Liner

11 responses to “Clarity? Yes please!”

  1. Julie O'Hara says:

    Hi Christy,
    Thank you for your post. While I was reading this week I wondered about where the Holy Spirit might intersect with all of this. Can you say more about how God might have been working even during the year of paralysis?

  2. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Great post Christy.
    I too had a very unhealthy work environment myself, but it lasted eight years, but it sounds like what you went through was pretty similar to what I had to put up with. Things we do, huh?
    I wonder though, for both of us, if we each read this book during that time, would we have been n=brave enough to put it into action and learn how to make correct decisions for ourselves, or (I will speak for myself here…) was I too beat down mentally to accept the help that Parrish is offering. Intersting thoughts! thank you for sharing.

  3. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Christy,

    In your area of expertise, how do you foresee yourself overcoming default tendencies towards counterproductive decision-making in your daily life, especially when those habits can be a hindrance to achieving a larger goals and values?

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Christy, As I read your post I felt like the beginning could have been mine. I too focused on inertia but it had to do with what I would do in the context of the position rather than needing to leave. I also think you are right that those small choices that Parrish says impact our ability to move forward become monumental influencers. Do you think that it is easier to not pay attention to our families because we sense their love for us is stable so feel safe, in a way, to not give them our best? That is a sad commentary about the peole who deserve the very best. I am just pondering.

  5. Debbie Owen says:

    Christy, thank you for this. I just decided – based on your post – to give this book to “Jane,” the friend described in my post. She had the same issue – a miserable job with no time to look for a new one. I’m glad you made it out!

  6. Graham English says:

    Thanks for your post, Christy. Thanks for your blogs this semester. You have inspired and encouraged me through your writing. What guardrails might to establish to help you in the future?

  7. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Christy! Thanks for sharing your paralysis testimony. My question is which of Parrish’s concepts would have best heped you during that season?

  8. Chad Warren says:

    Christy, related to Julie’s question, what specifically from Parrish’s work would have been helpful for you to hear or know during the paralysis season?

    • mm Kari says:

      Thanks for sharing, Christy. I will second this question. What would you have done differently in that difficult season if you would have had “Clear Thinking” available to you?

  9. Nancy Blackman says:

    Thanks for filling in the background on Shane Parrish. That helps connect some dots for me on why someone would write a book like this.

    Thanks for sharing a little of your work history and how debilitating that became for you. Hopefully, we all learn from past mistakes. May it be so for you.

    In order for you to preserve a healthy Christy (mind, body, and soul), what are some things you might put into place to help you?

  10. Akwese says:

    Christy, thanks so much for sharing your story. This birthed some excellent questions for me to chew on. While your example may have highlighted the inertia and emotional defaults, what default do you currently see most active in your day-to-day life, and what’s a small commitment you might make re safeguard to begin implementing over the summer?

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