It all started out so simple: the clean slate of childhood with a large amount of time to play, the occasional job given by our parents and generally enjoying life. Then pre-school and – later – ‘proper’ school come into play and already some of us will either be made to feel that this is a huge deal, competitive, and generally less fun. At this stage, the first seeds of overwhelm and anxiety were being planted: especially if you were the type of child that (either from within yourself or because your parents and entourage made you feel obliged) wants to excel at everything. Some children are good at most things and breeze through this stage, but most are good at some elements and bad at others: Suzie may be good with numbers, but she is horrible at hopscotch; Carl is a whiz at building things, but can’t draw a tree if his life depended on it; etc.
At that early age already we become aware that some things involve a lot of work and struggle, and we all know how this story continues: it doesn’t get any easier along the line. Secondary school, high school, university and the professional world will gradually increase the external AND internal pressures as we grow into adults and progress through life.
Private life does not stay still either and from being a pretty much worry-free child with loving parents (and I can only wish that particular start on any child!) we gradually assume the additional roles of young adult, significant other, parent, friend, soulmate, teammate, moral supporter, etc. with all their complex emotional and practical demands.
At some point we will invariable find ourselves entangled in a web of obligations, requirements and demands, be they imposed upon us from the outside or by ourselves on the inside. Nothing to worry about really, if you are the sort of person who thrives on these. However, if the above has told us anything, we are not immutable statues, but people who grow and change over time – and what served us 10 years ago may just hold us back from taking the right decision now. What we learn and put into good practice today, could just become a burden sometime in the future.
The big secret about staying on top of your own personal and professional development is to keep a close eye on what serves you now, what is simply a remnant of the past and what could become something useful in the future. And that “something” involves EVERYTHING: job, people, relationships, objects, beliefs, feelings, … you name it, it probably could use the occasional revisit and consideration. Why is that? We keep accumulating new “somethings” over the course of our lives, and rarely let go of them because they have proven useful at some crucial time in the past. In itself, hanging on to those things might not affect you at all, but if you can avoid being overwhelmed by it sometime in the future, you should rather let go. Rest assured, things, beliefs and ideals will come back quickly enough if you really need them!
Beware: those “somethings” could also be negative beliefs, experiences, or objects. Just think about a moment when you have been hurt emotionally (maybe you were made to understand that you are not worth somebody’s attention) and how engrained that may have become with your self-evaluation? Not really worth keeping, right? And yet: it lingers.
If you have ever experienced a big breaking point in your life, maybe moving to a different country or adopting a child, or losing a loved one, you may have been in a position to either decide to make changes or have them thrust upon you by circumstance. While those instances can be traumatic, they can also be cleansing. Just look at a big move: when you pack your belongings into boxes, you’ll most certainly come across things (and we are only looking at physical objects right now) that you had forgotten you owned, or that you have not seen in a long time, have not used since you last moved, or even boxes you had not opened since the last move. Just imagine how much simpler your life would be right now if those things weren’t there: fewer boxes, less regret, no surprises!
I try to see those breaking points as opportunities rather than big disasters. Of course, there is a short term shock element to all of the above, but mostly things go back to normal very quickly. Why not try to make use of those moments where one thing has come to an end and the next one is still a little fuzzy? And think beyond the physical world: those are the moments when long-held beliefs and fixed ideas become unhinged and allow you to view them from new and unexpected angles. Old obligations might turn out to be just that: obligations without any true connection to you. Things you kept could just be ‘stuff’ you never got around to get rid of.
Once you let go of things that don’t serve you, you create time to think, to breathe, to feel. And also time to reconsider other things that might not serve you! It is important to take time for yourself on a regular basis, not just to evaluate your life, but to simply ‘be’ for a moment, without consideration of anything else. Be you, for your own sake! Make time to enjoy the simple moments and the results of your efforts, rather than live within the effort at all times.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.