Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child, listen to the DON'TS- listen to the SHOULDN'TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON'TS - listen to the NEVER HAVES. Then listen close to me - anything can happen, child. ANYTHING can be. -Shel Silverstein
Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. -Lin Yutang
In my last post, I asked you to rate the items on your to-do list according to physical reactions in your body. Your negative items probably triggered feelings of tightness, heaviness, constriction, or "shackles on." Your positive items likely fell along the lines of freedom, expansion, and "shackles off." This does not mean that the path to your best destiny will always feel easy, comfortable, or safe. But the steps will always taste of delicious freedom and liberation. An obvious recommendation is to add more positive items to your life (Wow, brilliant coaching!). I have a feeling that if all of your items fell between +5 and +10, you would get everything done. And imagine how you would feel! But you never feel like you get enough done, right? So what to do about the items falling into the negative zone? How do you make room for what you love? I have 3 suggestions, starting with my favorite:
- Bag it! This is the simplest solution: Don't do it! I know you're cringing. You're saying, "But I HAVE TO!" According to Martha Beck, the biggest cause of depression (other than chemical) is the inner repetition of the story that we "have to" do certain things, that we have no choice. By repeating this story, we lock ourselves into mental prisons that keep us from living our best lives. The fact is, we lie to ourselves about what we really, truly, physically, HAVE to do. Last July, I read a blog post that still has me thinking (In the interest of time, I suggest reading items 7 and 8 in the article). In this Zen Habits post, Clay Collins urges readers to "aggressively remove everything from your life that you don't want to do." In case this unclear, he states that if you really want to live passionately, you need to aggressively eliminate everything that doesn't make you come alive! The thing is, we are terrible at telling the difference between "very real non-negotiables and fictional non-negotiables." Have you ever been sick for a day, unable to do anything but lie in bed, only to wake up and discover that the world did not stop? Let's learn from this: Do you really have to read every magazine/e-mail/memo/blog post (only this one, right?)/newspaper/piece of information that comes your way? Clean, cook, do laundry or grocery shop as often as you do? Accept every invitation? Keep your job instead of trying another? Did you send holiday cards because you wanted to or because you thought you had to? Do you have to finish something just because you start it? Do those photos really have to go into albums? What are you afraid will happen if you don't do it?
- Barter It! Ok, I'll give you this: There are some things that we don't enjoy that need to be done. But that does not mean that YOU have to do them. Some people feel funny about admitting that they pay people to clean their house or to mow their lawn. What a great way to free up time for what you love (unless you love cleaning or gardening). If these don't fit into the budget, what chores can your loved ones take on? If your job gives you a negative feeling, what components or tasks are most "shackles on?" Can you trade tasks with a co-worker? My neighbor and I take turns having each other's kids over to play so that we can do work or chores that are more easily done without kids (and our kids love it).
- Better It! So after you've eliminated or handed over everything possible, perhaps there are a few things left. What elements can you add to these tasks to make them more enjoyable? For me, almost anything is better when accompanied by a cup of coffee. Can you listen to great music or books while you drive, workout, clean? Are bills fun to pay when your nails are painted or your pen is gel? How can you use candles, fun paper products, friends, flowers, your favorite clothes, good smells? How can you alter your living and work spaces to add life to your activities? Do you really have to do a task the "right" way or only at a certain time of the day? Try changing the language of your thinking to give you a better feeling. You'll be amazed by the freedom in saying "I choose to..." or "I choose not to..." instead of "I have to..." or "I can't..." My high school Calculus teacher had us write "I LOVE CALCULUS" at the top of every paper. She assured us that our brains could not detect the sarcasm in the written words. Well, guess what: I wasn't great at Calculus, but I loved her class.
So my challenge to myself and you is this: List negative items (These could be tasks, activities, interactions with people, habits...) that you will bag (at least as an experiment), barter, or better. Please share in the Comment section below (only if you want to). I will do the same. Let's pull the shackles off!
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