The CLEAR Method

There are four sections to this webpage:

Why and How to Do CLEAR (immediately below)
Pick Your Style of CLEAR!
How to do Each Part of CLEAR


Why and How to Do CLEAR


The CLEAR method is to spend an average of one hour a week in each of five areas:

C = Capacity-building: building time, money, energy, skill, etc.

L = Live your mission and happiness fully

E = Empower others: help them to help themselves

A = Add to the stability of your life-support systems (your community, the environment, your political system and the economy.)

R = ‘Ripple Effect’: personally pass on the CLEAR method to a few others, supporting them.


Capacity-Building. Everyone understands the wisdom of making financial investments: You invest now so as to have more money in the future. In the same way, investing time to build your capacity (your skills, savings, free time, and physical energy) will give you ongoing benefits. That’s why it’s recommended that each week you spend an hour trying to remove the greatest obstacle to your effectiveness.

Living your mission or greatest fulfillment. While many people willingly spend time on what they enjoy, not as many risk searching for and living out their greatest personal fulfillment.

Empowering others personally. So often we get used to the people who are part of our lives, and unless they are our children, we are not usually in the habit of asking “How can I most effectively empower this person?” But empowering others can also take place through volunteer work that involves personal interactions.

Adding to the world’s stability, through changing your own lifestyle and through “non-personal” volunteer work. This stabilizing of your life-supports systems is investing in your future, and the future of the next generation as well as the rest of humanity.

Ripple Effect—passing on the CLEAR method, mostly through personal contact. Helping the chain reaction take place, with doubling and redoubling of the numbers of participants in the program, gives the personal contact approach and the personal lifestyle change broader and broader impact.

Together these five components form a powerful unity. They become “a solution that generates other solutions.” If you leave out any one of the five, you have a less than optimal lifestyle. If even a few people did CLEAR each week and stayed committed, the number would gradually grow and the positive effects would build and spread. That’s why we consider doing CLEAR to be a worthwhile, wise and loving use of time for almost everybody.


Pick Your Styles of CLEAR!

There are at least three different styles of CLEAR. Each style has a different impact on how you live your life.

“Plan and Do” This is the simplest style. On paper or in your personal organizer, list the actions that you plan to do that are stretches for you, and do them during the week.

“Awake and Respond” In this style, you make stretches by being aware of the people and situations around you, and you do actions that occur to you, that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. For example: “I first keep reminding myself to notice what’s going on. Then I happen to notice that someone around me did something nice. I then compliment them when ordinarily I wouldn’t have.” Another example: “I remind myself to notice what’s going on. I notice that my back and neck muscles are tight. I push myself to do some stretching exercises or yoga.” The Awake and Respond style makes you more aware and responsive in your relationships with others and to your current situation. It’s more spontaneous than the Plan and Do style.

“Path Management” In this style, you ask yourself periodically, “What is the best, most loving use of my time right now?” Then you do the action and count it as CLEAR when it’s a stretch.

Using the CLEAR method to change your lifestyle and the world is both a slow and fast process. You took several years or decades to establish your lifestyle, so give yourself several years to change it. That’s the slow part. What speeds up this approach and makes it very powerful is passing it on to others: If many people who are making many slow changes pass CLEAR on to others, the CLEAR method spreads quickly, and all the individual changes add up to rapid change on a global scale.


How to Do Each Part of CLEAR

What follows are details on each area of CLEAR. You can visit the CLEAR Actions Menu for specific suggestions. The general idea, however, is that if you spend an hour a week working at the best, most loving use of your time for each of the five areas, then you’ve done your CLEAR for the week.

Doing “C”

The first category, Increasing Capacity, can mean either increasing your efficiency (your ability to do more) or making room and space in your life to do more. The question to ask yourself is, “What can I do this week that would increase my effectiveness at any of the other four CLEAR areas the most?”

Sometimes there is one obstacle that affects all of the CLEAR areas, and at other times the obstacle just affects one area. For instance, if you are stressed, it will probably affect all areas of CLEAR. So stress reduction would be the thing to focus on. But at other times, you might be thinking in terms of one CLEAR area, for instance, empowerment. Then the question becomes, “What thing can I do this week to increase my capacity to empower others?”

Often it helps to think in terms of bottlenecks and obstacles. Continuing with the empowerment example, the next step would be to ask, “What is currently the biggest bottleneck or obstacle I have in empowering others?” Before you can answer this question, you must think of recent failures or struggles that you had as you tried to empower others. This requires both self-observation and recollecting recent events.

Once you’ve decided what the biggest obstacle is, you’re in a position to brainstorm on possible ways to address the obstacle. For example, if the biggest obstacle to empowering others is a tendency to rush in with a solution when the person wants to be heard first, the thing to do might be to learn and practice the skill of “active listening.”

Taking time to reflect will yield a much better result than taking a stab at whatever you think might help you the most. It will also yield better results than doing whatever form of self-improvement is currently being popularized. Also, some people tend to reduce every problem to their personal favorite obstacle such as ‘never having enough money!’ This low-quality thinking usually leads to the same ‘stuck’ place and emotions. That’s why it’s much better to take the time to carefully observe what’s going on (assessment) before deciding on a change (goal-setting).


Doing “L”

The CLEAR question for “L” is either, “What can I do this week that would be fully living my mission?” or “What will give me the greatest personal fulfillment?”

If it’s been a stressful week, the answer might not be something directly connected to your mission. It could be to relax by seeing a movie or taking a long walk. But in general, “L” is attempting something more significant, something directly related to what you love to do.

If you choose the right thing to do, you’ll often feel more refreshed or rejuvenated, but not all of the time. For instance, if writing is part of your mission, creative writing might be pleasurable for you, but editing and revising it can be hard work. Someone else might love acting on stage, but sometimes it’s work to memorize lines. Being in a close personal relationship might be very gratifying, but sometimes relationships are hard work. That’s why sometimes the hour spent on “L” might require a stretch. In the long run, however, it should increase your sense of fulfillment.


Doing “E”

The “E” question is “What is the best way I can help another person this week?” Empowerment can be done formally through volunteering, or informally with the people in our lives (co-workers, family, or friends) but in either case E involves direct personal contact.

E is usually best done in the context of an ongoing personal relationship.  Knowing someone fairly well enables you to be more precise in your helping, and you also are less likely to empower someone who will harm others.

Here’s one way to approach Empowerment: Think about people you know who currently seem to be having problems. Make a brief list of them. Then think of each personal individually.  Usually comes to me what would be an appropriate thing to do. At other times you might have to really think carefully and hard for “the best, most loving thing.”

You may be thinking, “This is what I already do all the time!” If so, that’s great! Why don’t you teach CLEAR to others?”  Another thought: “Are there people for whom you have a hard time doing this? In other words, you might easily fill up many hours helping people who you like, but what about people who you ignore or have a hard time liking?”

Later, you might want to read Make a Friend – Be a Friend – Lift a Friend Higher for more insight on empowering others.


Doing “A”

Of the five areas, A is probably most challenging for people to both understand and do. “A” means adding to the world’s stability. It means living a world-sustaining lifestyle and it goes beyond environmentalism to include sustaining other life-support systems such as the economy, the political system and the community. “A” doesn’t just mean doing volunteer work in any of these four areas. It can also mean looking at your lifestyle and trying to compensate for the damage you do or the imbalances you personally cause. Some of these imbalances can also involve “individual” life-support systems such as health, mind and relationships.

Once people understand that doing “A” means being fair in the sense of the Golden Rule applied very broadly, there are still many obstacles to meaningful action. Here are some that must be overcome:

1. People need to have an idea of what they’re doing wrong and what they can do right. Many of these are presented in the Ecological Lifestyle Assessment. While there are many other similar assessments and lists, the Ecological Lifestyle Assessment is organized into life-support systems and is based on two principles. The first principle is to put back at least as much as you take. For instance, to plant trees or to pay an organization to plant as many trees as you need to offset the damage you do through pollution and energy consumption. However, in information-based systems such as the psyche and to some extent personal relationships and the political system, the idea of putting back as much as you take is insufficient. In these cases an additional principle is to take a step toward a stable, peaceful state. For instance, in the case of a political conflict between nations, a step towards de-escalation and an offer to step up economic trade, along with an invitation to the other side to take similar steps will, with repeated steps, usually lead to a state of eased tension.

2. On a certain level some people don’t really “trust” arithmetic: They don’t want to believe that their contributions to problems like air pollution or political apathy are really that bad. Stanislaw Lec has a wonderful response to this type of thinking: “Each snowflake in an avalanche pleads not guilty.” People also don’t believe that their individual contribution to the solution, their “drop in a bucket” is really worth making.

3. When some people take the Ecological Lifestyle Assessment and realize that they significantly contribute to between 20 and 40 problems, they sometimes become mentally overwhelmed or feel guilty.  (Tim Cimino: “When I first realized I was guilty of taking more than I gave, I accepted that it would take a long time to learn how to undo the damage I was causing. So I gave myself permission to feel good during the process, as long as I was making reasonable stretches to change the situation. We should accept that it might take years to unlearn habits that we formed over decades. If you make reasonable stretches then you can feel good about eventually undoing the damage you cause. Here again, a trust in arithmetic would help.”)

4. In some areas it may be practically impossible to completely undo the damage you cause. Try to accept that it’s a less than perfect world and that to do a large chunk is significant and worthwhile even if perfect balance is impossible. Perhaps you can do a little more in other areas to partially compensate.

5. People often feel that they are “specialists,” doing enough action in one area—their careers or volunteer work—to compensate for inaction in other areas. Therefore they reason that they may forgo many sustainable lifestyle changes. (Tim Cimino: “While there is some logic to this, one must be careful. First, I agree that it would be ridiculous for a specialist such as a brain surgeon to spend hours picking up litter on the side of the road since his or her talents are better spent saving lives. On the other hand, I don’t think this exempts the surgeon or any other specialist from additional effort. Instead I think they can barter with someone or pay them to offset some of the damage they personally cause, such as donating money to an organization that offsets their economic support of practices that amount to economic slavery of the poor in developing nations. For the same reason, I think that it’s fine for people to swap unpleasant tasks for more personally enjoyable ones—for instance, if you’d rather plant trees to offset the effects of your car, and I’d rather study and make socially responsible investments, maybe we can do each other’s less desirable actions. And so, while division of labor does boost efficiency, one must make sure that all critical areas are eventually addressed. Otherwise the Earth will go under like a business where the employees want to do only the tasks they enjoy.”)

6. The fruits of “A” are usually invisible and sometimes take decades to grow to the point where they can be noticed. If you make a change in any of the other four areas, the results either come directly back to you (capacity, mission) or they are soon visible (empowerment, ripple). In “A” your efforts go into the melting pot and remain invisible. It’s hard to get excited when you can’t see anything happening. This brings us back to trusting arithmetic.

Sometimes making a decision about your A action involves a genuinely real and complex choice. Who’s to say that it might not be better to volunteer for a certain organization that is both effective and working on a life-threatening problem, rather than make an effort to undo the damage you personally cause? There are no easy rules of thumb. For instance, in an hour you  can either plant five trees or write three letters to Congress on a bill that might leverage three hundred million dollars for hungry people in third world nations to farm for themselves. How can a person compare the value of these two actions? You’d have to estimate the likelihood of survival of the trees, the amount of carbon dioxide that they’d take out of the air, for how long the trees would live. Then to compare that to the likelihood of the bill passing, times the percentage that would actually get to the poor in the third world, minus the likelihood that the legislation would be overturned…

In the face of complex calculations like these, before giving up in frustration and despair, it helps to choose actions where there is a concrete and long-lasting improvement, in this case it would be planting the trees, yet don’t automatically avoid effort in the much more complex and corrupt economic and political systems since I know some effort is needed in all critical life-support systems.

Fortunately, some one-time efforts can have continual benefits. It may take only a couple of hours to turn some of your investments into socially responsible ones, or to find an energy efficient appliance, but the benefits will endure for years. “A” actions require a complete trust in arithmetic, in other words, a knowledge (nota belief) that small changes add up. It also takes maturity to accept uncertainty and not retreat into a simplified worldview.


Doing “R”

Passing this method on to others is, like A, less popular than the other three areas of CLEAR. In one sense this is good, since you shouldn’t be promoting a program until you’ve had some solid results yourself. But you can still do some “R” actions right away: First, you can make weekly reports of your efforts and progress on our Results page. This will help inspire others to learn about the program and use it. Second you can prepare yourself to invite others. This preparation involves three things: 1) Understanding who to invite to participate, and who not to invite.2) Becoming able to explain the program’s main concepts and advantages. 3) Preparing yourself to either find a support person or be the support person for each person you invite. Let’s look at each of these.

Who to invite and who not to invite. You should first only consider the people you know well. From this group, you want to focus on the people who are not self-centered or who are not oppressing others. (Your support will be boosting a person’s power, so you want to boost the power of people who tend to help others.) If you have a friend who is who is very cynical or cautious, you might want to give them give them a sample of the program first, if you think they could be resistant. For instance, you could invite someone to use the Lifestyle Review add-on without mentioning the rest of the program. If they like it, then you have a positive experience to build on.

Making a strong presentation. You should plan what you’re going to say when you invite them. Probably the most important thing is to think about them and what would motivate them to participate. You can review the Benefits page, asking yourself what benefits would make the most sense to them. Another very important thing is to describe how using these tools have improved your life — the goals accomplished and also the ways you feel better while you’re doing it. You’ll also want to offer ongoing support and explain why that probably makes the approach work. Finally, you might explain why you are investing the energy in this approach. (Maybe because it’s a powerful way to do good; a long-term “insurance policy” for your quality of life; or a way to feel real optimism for the world?) Again here are the four things to cover when you talk to them:

  • the likely way it will improve their life;
  • the benefits you got;
  • your offer to support them and what it might look like;
  • why you are investing the time

Learning to be supportive. Another “Ripple” action is to learn to be more supportive. First, think of someone who wouldn’t be a good support person for you. Now ask yourself, “Why?” Maybe they are preoccupied with themselves. Maybe they’re not a good listener. Maybe they like to give advice. You don’t want to be like them, so can improve your listening skills with the Integrating Communication Skills add-on. You can also occasionally use the questions of the Many-One-New Goal-Attainment and Life Problem-Solving model to help people get some clarity on their situation.

To sum up, your CLEAR is good when you can look at your notes and see that you’ve gone beyond what you would normally have done; when some actions have been of very high quality; and when some of the actions seem to have been done with the right person at the right time. This is thanks to a little planning, ongoing support from your Buddy or support group, and especially to you commitment to make stretches in the five areas of CLEAR.



Are you imagining that people will do CLEAR their whole lives? Wouldn’t that get old or tedious?

First, we recommend that you take a “vacation” from doing CLEAR maybe one week in every four weeks, or two if needed. Second, there will be other superprogram formats and structures to give people some variety. For instance, if you want to do a superprogram in a game format with others, you can visit MissionBall.Org. Mission Ball uses the CLEAR method, but the game and team aspects make the experience different. We plan to design other superprograms and also encourage program designers to design even more formats.

It seems like showing off or being immodest for me to tell others about my actions for the week, and also to report what I did on the Results Page. It makes me uncomfortable.

First, for your own sake, when you set goals, you should have clear targets, usually using numbers such as “3 hours of exercise a week” or “2.5 hours of volunteering” and so on. But when you share with others, you can say “I met my goal” without saying how much it was. You can do the same on the Results page. For instance, you can say, “I researched charities to see which seemed best, and I made a donation.” People don’t need to know how much you gave. On the other hand, it’s very important to share your results and talk about your efforts. It helps others know that people are taking this program and plan seriously.

And if it creates a little pressure on others to do more good, that’s probably not a completely bad thing. It would be better if people operated from motives that were better than “wanting approval or to be liked” but if you think about the good that they do, say donate to a charity that supplies medicine to those in need, well it does some real good, even if people’s motives were not noble.


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