3 Powerful Questions to Unlock Clarity in Crisis

Do you feel pressure to emerge from crises a wiser, better leader? Are you tired of feeling like you’re falling short of your self-improvement expectations? What if you had different expectations about the kind of change that’s realistic when you are stressed? Let’s look at a better framework to help you effectively clear through the clutter to get at the clarity YOU need.

A quick glance at social media today highlights well-intentioned experts who provoke leaders toward self-improvement and radical development, laced with the warning that not doing so will assure failure. Sorting through the jumble of competing advice and forcing it to fit our situation is ineffective. Neuroscience reveals that when our body is under stress, our brain reverts to a state of fight or flight making it unrealistic to commit to making big changes. 

Instead of forcing yourself to take radical, big steps forward, let’s look at three simple but powerful questions to reduce stress and activate the brain to unlock clarity even in crisis.

Here are 3 powerful questions to help you navigate a crisis with greater clarity. 

  1. What do you need to stop doing? What do you need to eliminate to improve your well-being? Take out your red pen and start identifying what you’d be better without. A good way to decide what belongs on the “stop” list is to notice when, where, and how you lose energy most quickly. It might be an activity, behavior, habit, or a person. Consider the hindrances to your life as a leader and identify what you have within your control to change. Whether your list is short or long, identifying these energy drainers is a step toward clarity.  
  2. What do you need to start doing? Write a “some day” list. Add to it anything that would make you a healthier person and a healthier leader. These could be things like exercising regularly, eating better, moving about more throughout the day, or seeking professional help for emotional support. Maybe your list includes restorative travel or spending more time with loved ones. Include small things and big ideas, too. Thinking about “what could be” helps you see the future with greater clarity.  
  3. What am I capable of doing right now? Once you’ve answered the previous two questions, your next step is to choose one item from your list to act upon. It’s less important which list it’s from and more important that it’s going to have immediate impact. Be careful not to choose something you think you should do. Pick one you want to do and are capable of doing right now, even while you are stressed. This action step is crucial to develop clarity for all the other steps you will take in your future. 

Asking these three self-reflection questions removes the expectation and pressure of radical progress and replaces it with a reminder to take a slower and gentler path towards clarity. 

Hopefully, you are all breathing a sigh of relief right now!

Philippians 4:9 encourages us with these words: 

“Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me – everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.”

I love the word “practice” in this verse. It encourages us to continue with what we know and have observed from Christ’s own life. The result is peaceful assurance of his presence, even in the midst of crisis. 

What is Your ONE Thing?

What are you going to put into practice today even while you are stressed? Comment below!

To recap, here are the three questions to begin unlocking clarity in crisis:

  1. What do you need to stop doing?
  2. What do you need to start doing?
  3. What are you capable of doing right now?


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Heidi Zwart

Heidi Zwart is a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach with a Master’s Degree in Counseling as well as multiple health certifications. For 25+ years, she’s helped people and organizations make healthy changes by infusing habit design with strengths-based solutions. Heidi authored “It Began in the Garden,” which explores our shared struggle for physical, emotional, and spiritual health. She lives on the south shore of Boston but is a Minnesotan at heart. You can reach her at www.heidizwart.com


  1. Jeannette Grace on July 22, 2020 at 6:07 pm

    I love the third question, “What am I capable of doing right now?” I am capable of identifying my energy drains. One that I need to be more cognizant of is attempting to control what I cannot control. It take so much energy and I know that if I hand it over to God, there isn’t any reason to worry.

    • Heidi Zwart on July 29, 2020 at 2:16 pm

      I love that you identified your energy drains, Jeannette! I relate to the struggle of of trying to control things outside of my control. Thanks for sharing!

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