Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring Cleaning

With Spring finally here, it’s a good time to put some effort into cleaning, clearing, and de-cluttering – both our outer and inner lives. If you’re like me and have a tendency to hold onto things beyond their usefulness, there is probably a drawer, a closet, or even a room that houses stuff that might be happier in a new home.

Our living spaces will be more harmonious if we get rid of the things we have outgrown, don’t care about anymore, or don’t have any more use for. The self help shelves in bookstores are crowded with how-to books about simplifying and organizing, and there are great workshops on the subject offered in our area. The main ideas to focus on are desire, patience, and follow through. We must be the ones who can’t stand the clutter anymore, not a spouse, roommate, or parent, although they can certainly help with the project! When the time is right, we will know it. Then we must show patience. The drawer, closet, or room didn’t become a wreck overnight, and it won’t get fixed in a jiffy either. But persevere and remind yourself of your intention for the mission. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed – do a little at a time, and be ruthless about getting rid of things that no longer have usefulness, meaning, or entertainment value. If you can’t let go of something, put it in a box, tape it up, and see if you can go a year without opening the box. If you can, then you can probably give or throw the contents away eventually.

Our inner lives are just as important to de-clutter, but may be a bit harder. Most of us carry around old beliefs, grudges, thought patterns and emotions that no longer serve our best interest. When the old patterns of responding to people don’t work anymore, it’s time to open our minds and hearts to new ways of being in relationships. One of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves is to forgive. Old wounds continue to plague us only as long as we let them. When we forgive, we make a conscious decision to stop carrying around anger, shame, rage, sadness, or hurt, and to stop seeing ourselves as victims. We forgive and let go, not to say that it was okay that someone hurt us and not to give them permission to hurt us again, but to affirm that we are disengaging from the relationship and taking away their power to affect us. Easier said than done, but a powerful way to regain control of our emotions and change our situations. It may be necessary to work with a coach in this process, and there are many good ones in the area who are trained to help people finally let go of their connections with the people who have hurt them.

It’s so easy to stay stuck in old patterns of behaving, and to blame the other person for not changing. As Dr. Phil says, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” There is a lot to be said for taking the high road in a relationship and changing your own behavior, thoughts, and feelings because you want what is best for you and your partner. Again, easier said than done, but well worth the effort.

As you begin the spring cleaning process in your inner and outer lives, remember that you don’t have to do it alone. Spouses, friends, coaches, therapists can all lend a hand to help you live your best possible life.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Making a Difference

"What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." Jane Goodall

Do you believe Jane Goodall's assumption that what you do makes a difference? Do you think it matters how you live your life? If your answer to those questions is 'no', then you will lead a different life from the person who answers 'yes'. I'm not passing judgment on which of those lives is better or easier or the one to aspire to, but I do believe that they will not resemble each other much.

If we believe that our actions, thoughts, and feelings make a difference in our small world and in the bigger world, we assume responsibility for them. We create an 'ability to respond' as my friend and colleague Marcia Walker says ( We choose to respond to people and circumstances with thought and intention, rather than react because our emotional buttons were pushed. We think about the consequences of our behavior and we take others' feelings and needs into consideration. In other words the difference we choose to make is one of spreading Love, even to those we may not feel so sure deserve it!

If we don't believe that what we do makes a difference, then we cruise through life on a 'pass'. We do what we want when we want just because it feels good to us. We leave havoc in our wake, hurting feelings, mangling relationships, being accountable to no one. Personally I think that if we weren't supposed to hold each other accountable and support each other on our journeys, then God would have put us here one at a time. but here we are all on this planet at once, called upon to learn, grow, and live together.
What kind of difference do you want to make?