Our Internal Clutter

By: Lynn Cutts

Meanwhile, our days are crammed with too many commitments, a lack of clear goals and priorities, uncompleted projects. We spend each day running as hard as we can just to stay in place. Nothing ever feels done.

Sound familiar? Well, you're not alone. Millions of people are in the same boat.

OLD TAPES. We carry a lot of old emotional baggage around with us. It's as if we have a constant film loop running in our heads that replays everything that ever went wrong in the past (but omits all the good stuff). That spat we had with our college roommate, the guilt from a careless comment we made to a friend, the hurt from not having a date for the Senior Prom. things like this clutter up our thoughts and distract us from more immediate and important issues.

WORRIES: Another source of mental and emotional clutter is worry, plain and simple. We lie awake at night, what if-ing ourselves into a tizzy. We construct dire and improbable possibilities, then treat them as if they were real. We create scenarios which paralyze us with fear. When we worry, we are projecting ourselves into the unknown future, instead of taking care of business in the here and now.

GREMLINS: Let's not forget all those little voices in our heads. Call them Gremlins or call them negative self-talk, those negative messages we send ourselves repeatedly clutter our self-confidence, our will to go on, our courage to change. Those voices are the ones that tell us we can't, we shouldn't, we're not smart enough, hard working enough, brave enough. They clutter our lives as surely as those piles of paper hiding our desk tops from view.

COMMITMENTS: We also contribute to this unnecessary mental confusion with our attempts to have it all and have it all right now! Our To Do lists are so full that there is no way we'll get to a tenth of all those tasks. We've cluttered our schedules with so many events, we don't really care about that there's no time left for the things that really matter, such as ourselves, our loved ones, or chocolate.

NO CLEAR GOALS: Our plans are just as cluttered.

We're too busy to set clear goals and determine priorities. We put stuff off because we are so busy, until suddenly it's been put off so long that it's become an emergency. We waste our energy putting out fires instead of preventing them. We don't know where we're going, or why, because we don't have the time to stop and figure it out.

UNFINISHED PROJECTS: We have too many things going at once to see any of them through to completion. We leapfrog from one project to another. We start in on one thing and work on it until something else comes along. So we drop the first one and start the second, only to drop that one when yet another one seems more interesting. Soon our uncompleted projects clutter our minds and our storage space.
So what's a person to do?

BE AWARE: The first step in dealing with anything is simply to become aware of the problem. Start paying attention to the mental and emotional clutter that fills your head. Tune into your self-talk, your old tapes, your worries. The more you notice them, the easier it is to change them - or just get rid of them.

LIVE IN THE NOW: Look at those negative emotions and old tapes you're carrying around from the past, and let them go. That was then, and this is now. You have grown, and the times and situations are different. And notice what you're worrying about. How likely is that to happen - really? Instead of wasting your time and energy worrying about the future, start planning for it. Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

IGNORE: Those little voices in your head (Gremlins) are going to be with you the rest of your life. If you engage in an argument with them, you will usually lose. Instead notice them, then simply ignore what they are saying. Banish them to another room. Take a walk to clear your head and focus on now.

SET GOALS: If you have well thought out, clearly written goals for your week/year/life, you'll have a much easier time knowing what to do each day. You'll stay focused and on purpose. It will also be easier to . . .

CHOOSE: Start to make conscious choices about what you put on that To Do list, about the projects you start, the commitments you make. Learn to say "No," not just to others, but also to yourself. If you're not passionate about something, or if it won't serve your goals and your purpose, don't let it in your life.

ELIMINATE: Finally, what can you let go of? What are you doing/thinking/feeling that isn't serving you? Pare your life and your commitments down to manageable levels. I'm not suggesting you quit your job, get a divorce, and move to Tahiti. But do you really need to be on two committees, the HOA board, and the softball team? Do you really need to volunteer for overtime at work? The world won't stop if you let a few things slide.

If you follow those six life changing steps, you'll eliminate 85% of the internal clutter in your life. (A life without some clutter simply isn't possible. We're human.) You'll be more focused and less hurried, more confident and less worried. You'll have more time and energy. Just imagine how great your life will be then!

NOTE: You are welcome to use this article online in electronic newsletters and e-zines as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the "about the author" info). If use of this article is desired in print, you must first contact Lynn Cutts at .

Copyright 2005 Lynn Cutts

Motivation
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