Are you surprised at the title of this post?
I was when a friend of mine suggested it to me one day this week when I mentioned how I want to simplify my life. We were talking about how I felt disillusioned by someone I knew when she remarked “there’s so much clutter inside your head that I don’t know how you can see anything objectively.” At first, I didn’t know how to respond but then I realized that there was probably truth in her statement. When I asked her to explain, she responded by saying that my mind was filled with so many contradictorythat she said it must be oppressively crowded inside my head!
That’s when reality hit… I realized that I am a hoarder of beliefs – what I mean is that new ideas and opinions enter my mind (like buying new clothing for my closet) and none ever leave. As such, I carry around a motley mismatched collection of childhood learnings, adult beliefs, truisms from experience, and “truths” imposed on me by others. Maybe you are like me – you take in new ideas but don’t make room for them by discarding beliefs that no longer serve you well. By now, there is so much clutter that it is difficult to distill things objectively into knowledge and truth. It is time to take inventory of what I keep in my head!
I know today that there are NO RULES OF LIFE (outside of legal or societal norms) – except inside my head which means that anything can be removed from my belief inventory without consequence. To de-clutter my life, I realize that I must first discard flawed beliefs and childhood “rules” that no longer apply. To do this I compiled two lists: the first is the list of “momilies” (things a mom tells you) that I ingested growing up (that now contradict what I know t0 be true) and other beliefs I can abandon; the second is the list of beliefs I choose to embrace. This inventory exercise helped me to separate what I can discard (the first list) from my reality and experience beliefs.
List #1: Momilies…
- The Golden Rule – “do unto others as you’d like them to do unto you” – a motherhood and apple pie servitude that is a good idea, but it can imprison those who are “givers” in life. I have held on to this belief for far too long and it has bitten me many times. Most of our society does not adhere to this “rule” and instead opt to walk all over those who upheld it. It is an altruistic but unrealistic rule intended for an ideal world. I let it go.
- Think of others before yourself (Girl Scouts remnant) also called “The more you give, the more you receive adage” – This is one of the cornerstones of organized religion and enlists people to servitude (which works for some people). After years of giving unconditionally and getting doormat treatment in return, I’m ready to let this belief go. In reality, we must give first to ourselves, and if there is anything left over, then give to society and others. Certainly giving can be virtuous and good for society – but should never at the cost of one’s best interests or self-preservation. The truth is that we should remember the airline practice: Put on your own mask first before assisting others!
- Share and share alike. Another motherhood and apple pie teaching that works to discourage narcissistic children, but it doesn’t apply in adult life. Not every child in a playground will share and this makes the idea of sharing inequitable. The takers of the world quickly learn how to take advantage of those who do share. In our capitalistic society of “grab as much as you can while you can”, anyone who follows the share and share alike will be quickly left behind.
- Life is fair. I have no idea why this misguided idea was still stuck in my head. I can only surmise that it resembled truth while growing up in a family where everything had to be absolutely equal (even to the extent of cutting up two fruit cocktail cherries to be equally divided among 5 siblings). Life is not fair or equal – and it never was. I banish this one from my head!
- What goes around comes around (or the rule of Karma). Okay, I cannot completely let go of this one – even though it is unproven and may be “new age”. If you are like me, you have seen many people cheat, lie, steal and otherwise mistreat others to get ahead in life with few negative consequences. However, I still believe that one cannot cheat and pillage others indefinitely – without Karma “what goes around comes around” catching up. Call me naive.
- Money can’t buy happiness. What a bunch of bs it was to believe this one! Money buys comfort, relief from stress, financial freedom and independence. While this may be a good adage to guide kids careers towards service, it simply is untrue. Just look at the family struggling month-to-month to pay a mortgage or feed their loved ones – and then suggest that money doesn’t buy happiness. Quite the contrary – a lack of money can definitely result in stress and unhappiness.
Since childhood, I’ve also amassed a surprising amount of new (and often conflicting) beliefs that took up battle with the misguided beliefs above. In light of the realities of life, I am willing to discard the unrealistic beliefs above. In so doing, the mind battles will diminish so that peace and kindness can prevail inside my head!
List #2: Truisms that I will keep
- Don’t give away anything that you might need someday (especially money!) When I had employees, I paid them the highest and most generous salary I could afford (far above the industry average) because I believed this was fair and the right way to run a business with high ethics (they were doing the work after all). This was an altruistic and misguided choice as my employees abandoned me when the workload lessened, joined my competition, and I was left with a business without financial reserves.
- Trust, but verify. This Ronald Reagan adage is a prudent way to protect your own interests from pillage. I discovered the truth of this following a financially damaging divorce where I trusted the wrong people (without verifying) and I will pay for the oversight for years to come.
- The best investment is you. This truism delivers a guaranteed high ROI. School children should be taught self-preservation and self-love first. With so much negative thinking in our society today, a healthy self-image can be difficult to keep up yet it is a pre-requisite for success in life.
- You are the best you’ll ever have – and that more than enough. You are whole, complete, and perfect just as you are – and deserve to be accepted and loved unconditionally just as you are. In life, the only love you that you can be assured of reciprocity is from yourself. Everyone else is a risk.
- A mother’s love is unrivaled. I would never have believed how much love I could have for my children and no matter their behavior, I will always love them unconditionally. I would never change the experiences of the past because they are the rock of my life.
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. I know that this defies the Disney or “Dream the Impossible Dream” wishful thinking, but if it is too good to be true, it usually is 99.9% of the time. Sure it can be fun to dream big, but believing people or promises that contradicts our intuition usually bites us. Everywhere we read about ripoffs, opportunists, cheats, and yet we so often hope that we cad defy the odds in spite of our intuition telling us otherwise. We need to trust our intuition to tell us the truth and listen — instead of listening to people who make promises to which they cannot deliver.
- If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it is yours, if it doesn’t it never was. This is so true in life. While typically applied to unrequited love, it also applies to friends, jobs, opportunities. When WE love someone or something, it can be difficult to let go of the wish to keep them in our life. The only person or situation where we can be assured that will come back to us in love is oneself.
Clearing out the clutter between my ears is my first step to simplifying my life. It is a journey I am ready to take this year, what about you?
p.s., My bookshelf find: See you at the Top by Zig Ziglar is going to be a keeper! Zig opens the book with several chapters exploring the 15 steps to a healthy self-image. He asserts that success in life starts a healthy self-image but due to an overwhelming abundance of negative beliefs we hold about oneself (imposed by others over many years), we have a lot to overcome. See You at the Top is definitely a book that I will keep in my collection – one can never have too many positive reinforcement books on a bookshelf!
Wishing you a clutter-free week!