How to use Clarity Cards

I was talking to a writer this week, when she said this:

“Our call is only 5 minutes old and I already have the best takeaway. Clarity Cards are a tremendous exercise, connecting your intentions to a physical manifestation of it, writing it down. I’m 50 and now I have that feeling like it is the first day of school. That no matter where you are in life, you can always create these opportunities for yourself.”

Back in June, I shared a step-by-step post taking you through my Clarity Card process. Today I want to revisit that and share a case study of how it works.

What are Clarity Cards? It is an exercise where you get clarity on what you create and why, and you prioritize this amidst the rest of your busy life. At the end of the 5-step process, they look like this, a pyramid of 10 cards:


They look simple, but they have a powerful way of reframing not just your creative goals, but your entire life. I have taken hundreds of people through this process, and have used it myself for years. I have seen this exercise lead to profound breakthroughs for people, as well as practical ways to find more time and energy to write.

I have the privilege of talking with a lot of writers and artists. I wanted to revisit Clarity Cards again today because I’m noticing some trends in what I hear frequently; maybe some of this resonates with you:

  • They are juggling too many responsibilities.
  • They are making daily progress, but lacking a deep sense of fulfillment.
  • They have an endless to-do list that fills them with a sense of overwhelm.

So today I want to share a case study of how a client of mine — Elizabeth Heise — is working through Clarity Cards. She is the writer I quoted at the top, and we have been using Clarity Cards to help center her author platform in terms of the messaging and themes, as well as being sure to develop a strategy that supports all where she wants to put her energy.

You can start by going through the Clarity Card exercise here.

When Elizabeth went through it, this was her first draft of her Clarity Cards (shared here with permission):


In case that is difficult to read, here is a digital version:


What you are seeing here is her putting her biggest priorities near the top of the pyramid, and then other important responsibilities and goals near the bottom of the list.

The first thing I noted is that she added an extra row of cards, there should only be 10 cards, but she snuck in 5 more! That is fine for a first draft, but it illustrates how difficult it is to focus our attention on just 10 things when our lives are so busy.

The card she put at the top of the pyramid is really inspiring: “Being proud of myself.” We talked about that card and what it meant, and why feeling a sense of personal fulfillment creates a strong foundation for everything else she is responsible for.

This can make her feel better about her writing, her responsibilities with family, friends, and everything else.

Elizabeth had noted how it felt odd that her “family” card was in the bottom corner, when in her day-to-day life, they occupy the top three slots. So we discussed how if you are tending to your high priorities on the pyramid, this empowers you to truly show up to the cards lower on the pyramid. The way she framed it is as a “guilt eraser.” That she can put herself first, and that this makes her an even better parent. A better friend. Etc.

Another eye-opener for her was that “Inspiring others” fell higher in the pyramid than “Publish my book.” I mean, her book actually falls into the row that we will later cut from the pyramid!

This insight is huge. I love books — they are magical and powerful. But I appreciate it when an author can look beyond just the milestone of publication day. To consider what happens in a readers’ mind when they read. How they hold a story or inspiration or idea in their mind long after a specific book may have been discarded. How it can inspire subtle actions that they take in their lives.

Elizabeth is reflecting on that here, this idea that her work includes the book, but that the book is in service of a larger goal to inspire and help others. We will explore ways she can do that in her platform before, during, and after her book launch.

In order to get this down to 10 cards, we discussed how some of these cards could be grouped. For instance, “Building My Platform” and “Getting My Work Out There” could be combined. Potentially “Being Proud of Myself” and “Self-Empowerment” could be as well. There are several other possibilities we discussed as well.

This forced us to consider making each card more specific. For instance, “Friendships” is kind of vague. What is her intention in order to best honor her friendships? Was it a specific action, such as weekly get togethers? Or something else?

We also talked more about that idea of guilt which can hold people back. For instance, a parent can spend every moment of their time caring for their kids and still worry that they haven’t done enough.

To help resolve this through Clarity Cards, you can write the overall theme on the front of the card, and then a more specific intention on the back. So maybe the front says “Family” and the back says, “Have a sit-down family dinner 5 days a week, and a game night once a week.”

Clarity Cards can represent overall goals in your life — the big vision that includes everything of where you want to go. Or, you can look at them as representing a period of time. You can say “This version of my Clarity Cards focuses on the next 6 months of my life.” So your intentions can be more specific because of the context.

Your Clarity Cards can change and evolve over time. In fact, they should! You can redo them every quarter, or every year, looking at your life with fresh eyes, and making adjustments that speak to where you are right now.

If you create your own Clarity Cards, please consider emailing me a photo of them. If you don’t want to share the words on them, just flip them over so I can only see the backs of the cards.

Thanks again to Elizabeth for allowing me to share all of this!