So much of the time when we find we have too much stuff or feel overwhelmed, exhausted and depleted it is because we haven’t gotten in touch with our heart’s desire and set our goals accordingly. Joseph Campbell called it our “bliss” and famously suggested we follow it. If we don’t know what it is, the tendency can be to take a scattershot approach, trying too many things at once and buying supplies (aka creating clutter) for activities we aren’t really sure we want to do. Somehow in American life we’ve been taught that more is good and busy is better, but nothing beats taking time out for uninterrupted thinking and meditation to get heart, mind, body and everything else in order.
Sometimes you can’t predict when you’ll have a window of time to reflect, so keep your tools with you. At the least, a pad of paper and a good pen should travel with you wherever you go. Today I am sitting at a client’s house in San Francisco, waiting for a closet to be installed, with none of the usual interruptions of my home office. It’s a perfect opportunity to journal, meditate, plan my upcoming months and take care of phone calls, emails and reading that have backed up. I try to schedule at least one day a week to catch up and reflect like this.
David Allen, in his book “Getting Things Done,” calls this process the Weekly Review. In Brian Tracy’s terrific short book “Eat That Frog!” he calls it “Setting the Table.” Without some time each week to review your calendar, to-do list, in basket, take a look at the home, assess your clothing, check in with friends and family, there’s little chance you will be on a blissful path.
For me, a large block of unscheduled time each week allows creative ideas to come to the surface and I can even flesh them out and move them forward.
Case in point, today I had a breakthrough on a mixed media art piece I put aside for over two years (it also helped a lot that I was able to visit San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art while I was in the city for inspiration, another benefit of a nice block of down time).
I didn’t have the skills of meditation and good productivity principles under my belt when I was younger, and I drove myself nuts gathering clothing and equipment for a variety of sports, crafts and outings that never quite came together. That sort of frenetic “doing” (read “buying”) left me feeling guilty for spending a lot of money unnecessarily and for not following through.
For example, I bought all of the gear for snowboarding — ka-ching! — but didn’t really check in with myself to figure out that I hate the cold and I can’t stand the long winter drive to Tahoe with all the traffic and putting on tire chains. Water-color painting supplies and even a horse have also come in and out of my life on impulse. The older I get, the more I realize it’s OK to borrow and rent until I’m sure I have a burning desire to bliss out on a sport, hobby or career path.
What activities have made your heart sing and could you work them back into your life? Rather than run out and buy supplies, borrow or rent until you are absolutely positive you know you still bliss out on the activity. Not only will you not add clutter to your life, when you do make a purchase for the new career/sport/hobby, you will be sure it is the perfect computer/7-iron/paint brush for you. Taking time to figure out what you really want in any area of your life will help keep clutter at bay and ensure you get the most bliss for your buck.