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Living On Purpose

Archive for July, 2009

Un-cluttering Your Life

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

clutterHave you noticed that the order of your life is reflected by the clutter around you? If your emotional life is messy, usually your physical life is too. Clutter isn’t just about extra stuff; it can also be about emotional issues.

One of my clients, Clara, is in the midst of a divorce. She has a full time job and is raising her two children as a single parent. Although we’ve coached around several topics, today Clara shared her growing frustration with the amount of clutter in her life.

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“I have always been a neat-nick,” she said. My mother’s motto was, ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ And that’s how our house was run.”

She paused and said, “Now my house is a complete disaster. It’s as though the order of our house was symbolic for the order of our marriage. As the marriage got messier, so did the house. In fact, it’s not just my house; it’s my car, my desk…it’s everywhere.”

As she described the piles and disorganization, everything felt heavy and overwhelming. She said she felt claustrophobic by both the physical and emotional stuff that surrounded her.

“When the kids came along, our entire house felt crammed,” she explained. “We were so busy, that piles became entire corners of rooms; there was no time to sort or create systems for order. My house feels like one of those fun-houses at an amusement park where the walls appear to be moving and closing in on you.”

“What would it feel like to open up some of the space in your house, and where would you begin?” I asked.

“In my bedroom,” she answered. “It is the messiest space and tends to hold the most emotions for me.”

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As we talked, I realized that the level of emotions she had were clearly tied to the amount of clutter there was and the emotional toll it was taking on her. I asked, “How would it feel to have your bedroom space cleaned and organized?”

Clara sat there for a minute imagining how it might look and feel. “It would be very powerful for me to reclaim my physical and emotional space,” She said.

“What are some ideas on how to make this happen?” I asked.

“I could clean my bedroom next weekend when the kids are with their dad,” she said. “I’ll start with the bookshelves and a corner of my room that is just stacked with stuff. I’ll put on my favorite music, grab a diet soda and attack ‘the pile.'”

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Clara’s ideas started gaining momentum. “I’ll invite my friend Molly to help sort my clothes. I’ll get rid of anything that doesn’t fit or look good on me.” She continued. “Last, I’ll clean out the bookshelves and the stacks of paperwork and decide what to keep, trash or give away.”

“What will your room look like when it is completed and when will you finish it?” I pushed for accountability.

She described what she called her “everything in its place” room and said it would be done before our next coaching session in two weeks. Just seeing the emotional lift in her mood was worth it. It will be interesting to hear about her experience de-cluttering the physical and emotional areas of her life.

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Coaching Challenge: If you’ve ever been labeled a “packrat,” or you find that your clutter is driving you crazy, it’s time to gain control of the stuff in your life. List what areas need cleaning up (house, car, office, files, etc.). Select one area in which to begin. Describe how that area will feel with no clutter and brainstorm ideas to move you toward this vision.

If you struggle with clutter, enlist the help of your friends or even a professional organizer. It’s amazing how much easier it can be to keep things orderly once you have a system. Be clear about the project and the time you are willing to commit. Include what the final results will feel like, what resources you will enlist, the steps you will take, the time-frame, and how you might reward yourself if you need some motivation.

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Overcoming the Negative Voice in Your Head

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Most of us internally hear an ongoing stream of messages that we hear (sometimes unconsciously) that direct our lives. This voice can be a composite of things you tell yourself, and the messages you have heard throughout your life from parents, teachers, caretakers, friends, etc. The messages can either be positive or negative, and if you listen to and believe them, they can direct your life.

My client, Tony, looked exhausted. He had been sick several times over the last year and was now recovering from the flu. “I’ve always been a healthy person,” he said. “It’s frustrating being sick and it’s impacting my business. I’ve had to cancel appointments and feel my business may fail as a result.”

Tony normally pushed himself. His workload was easily enough for two people. It’s no wonder his body revolted occasionally and got sick. How else could it force Tony to get some rest?

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“How many appointments would be ideal during the month and how many are you handling right now?” I asked.

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“Fifty appointments per month would be good and I am doing about 70 per month now.” He said. “I just don’t feel like I work hard enough. I could do more and don’t want to let anyone down. What if I limit myself to 50 appointments per month and lose clients? My business might fail.”

I introduced the concept of the Saboteur – the voice inside your head that constantly gives you negative messages. If you aren’t listening, the messages get louder and more panicked. “Don’t try something new. You will fail and look like a fool.”

Once I pointed out the Saboteur’s voice, Tony and I took one of the statements he had taken as truth and began to question the validity of it. “Are you working hard enough?”

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“I’m working hard enough to be worn out and sick most of the time.” he said. “Maybe I’m working too hard.”

“Describe to me what your Saboteur looks like. Who gives you these negative messages?”

“I imagine an old, mean woman who points her finger at me. The messages come from a place of concern, but they quickly turn into criticisms and warnings. If I waiver, her voice gets louder and more insistent. Sometimes she is talking so loudly that I can hardly hear anything else.”

“Are these messages valid for you right now?”

“No. I am working hard – probably too hard – and it’s making me physically sick.”

“I’m going to act like your Saboteur and I want you to talk directly to me,” I explained. I stood up and put a mean, grumpy look on my face and pointed my finger at Tony. I said, “You don’t work hard enough and don’t deserve the clients you have.”

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He laughed at my personification of his Saboteur, but then he got serious and mad. “Quit telling me what to do. I am sick because I always push myself. You have unrealistic expectations. Shut up and go away.” There was so much power behind what he said, as though it had needed to be said for a long time.

He said it felt great to finally stand up for himself. His homework was to write a paragraph describing his Saboteur, notice any time she sends him messages and write what he’d like to say back to her. He also agreed to acknowledge the Saboteur messages he receives and determine how he would face each one. His idea was to post a STOP sign on his desk. Each time he looked at it, he would remember the power he has to stop his Saboteur from running his life.

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Coaching Challenge: Write a paragraph describing your Saboteur. When you hear your Saboteur’s voice, listen and write down the messages you receive. Determine the intent of the messages and verify their veracity. How do they impact your life and drive your decisions? By simply being aware of this voice, you gain power over the messages and have a conscious choice to accept or deny their intent.

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