All of my childhood, my parents generously reassured me of all of the things that I was “not”. I was not athletic, I was not a good singer, I was not an artist, and I was not good at math. (I’m sure they meant well? Maybe they were afraid I’d never make a living selling ceramics?) As children, we take what our parents say as the absolute truth and quite naturally, we become that.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized I never had to believe any of those things, and if I hadn’t, I may have pursued some things a little differently and with a bit more conviction.
A few years ago, I started running. I’m no marathoner just yet, but it’s no longer out of the realm of possibility and may one day make its way onto my bucket list. I decided that I wanted to start running, and I did.
It was incredibly hard at first. I’d run a few minutes and have to walk a minute, then try again. I’d make it an entire mile this way before quitting. The next time I’d get out for a run, it felt like I was torturing myself and I kept wondering why I’d decided to get into it at all.
I kept on running. I told myself I could do it, even though I was really horrible at it and it appeared I’d never really gain any traction. I worked at it several days a week. I slowly but surely saw progress and it motivated me on those days I really, really, really wanted to quit forever.
Eventually, I was able to run a 10K, and then even further.
I see this type of thing happen as it relates to people who are trying to organize their lives. They’re wanting to do a better job at managing their physical spaces, or their time, or maybe it’s putting a big picture plan together to set some goals and figure out how to tackle them.
It’s typically something like, “I bought a planner, but I only used it for a few days and then I quit using it.” Or they lost the planner.
Some folks will declutter their attic, or their basement, or maybe purge their closet from clothes they hadn’t worn in years, only to see those spaces fill back up again within months.
Commonly, those folks will say things like, “Well, I’ve always been this way. I’m not organized. I’m a pack rat. I’m a clutter bug. I’m a hot mess. I’m flaky, just ask my Mom. I can’t get my life together. My finances are out of control.”
This is a thought pattern that is so deeply entrenched that even when people are trying to make a change in their habits and behaviors, their long-held beliefs about themselves keep them from actually making the change stick.
And they quit.
It’s so easy to understand how and why people give up when they truly believe they just aren’t wired accurately. The truth, however, is that it’s just a story you’re telling yourself. You can decide you’re something entirely different, and if you tell yourself enough times that you’re organized, clean, an early bird, great at time management, always on time for meetings, never forgetting appointments, Superman, able to make time to work out/date your spouse/fill-in-the-blank, a rock star at personal finance (I’m not entirely sure about Superman but would someone please test this one for me and report back?) you’re eventually going to believe that to be true.
The next time you tidy up a space, or make some to-do lists, or start using a planner, and you fall of the “keeping my life together” wagon just a little, don’t abandon it all together and throw your hands in the air declaring yourself a failure in this area. Just begin again.
Okay, I got a little philosophical today. This calls for a nice, well-rounded, full-bodied red. I’m thinking we should try this Barolo.
As always, I love hearing from you, if you’ve got any great philosophical advice as well, please share it!
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