The beginning of a new year is a good time to start afresh, in many ways. Most people are familiar with new year resolutions, and at the same time are resigned that ‘they don’t work’.
One of the problems I’ve found with new year resolutions is that we try to cram them into our lives on top of everything else that we already have on our plate. Common sense suggests that we can’t pour more water into an already full cup.
I’ve found that when I stop obsessing about resolutions and goals, and simply clear out some clutter in my life, new and good things automatically flow in without much effort on my part.
Creating space, therefore, should preceed setting new goals. Even without the goals, the space itself invites new beginnings in ways we could never imagine when we try to make resolutions.
How do we create space in our lives so that we can start afresh?
Things are the easiest to declutter. Loads of articles have been written on how to do this so I will just summarise a few things I personally throw or give away:
- Clothes I haven’t worn in two years
- Cooking utensils I have never used
- Bags I haven’t carried in the past year
- Stationery I didn’t even know was there
And so on. Physical clutter being the most visible in our daily lives, just having more physical space will mentally calm you on a day to day basis. Also, when new and more important things come along there will easily be space to store them.
Activities are also quite easy to pare down, requiring a simple ‘no’ on your part when requests are made. Some activities I’ve phased out of my life:
- Invitations out of politeness rather than really wanting my presence
- Routines that are a matter of habit rather than useful function
- Requests for help which I’m not happy to oblige
- Anything that is neither useful nor enjoyable
Ironically, doing less actually helps us to live more fully. Instead of substituting one activity for another, try sitting still in the silence and solitude of your home without the need to rush off to complete another chore. Just try it, and you won’t need anyone to explain to you why you should do it. You’ll know.
Whatever has been weighing you down, sapping your energy, or depressing you rather than uplifting you counts as emotional baggage. What I’ve learnt to let go of:
- Friends who don’t have your best interest at heart
- Gossip about yourself and others that is untrue or just an opinion
- Memories of past hurts where the lessons have already been learnt
- Obligations that make neither party happy
For most of us, our default state is happy. Look at children and how they are naturally joyful. Once we let go of negative emotions, we make way for this natural happiness to come flowing back into our lives.
Any belief you have ever questioned as new information becomes available qualifies as an old belief, such as the belief that the earth is flat. Some beliefs I have questioned:
- Other people, like parents and experts, know what’s best for me
- Deviating from religious dogma makes me a bad person
- What’s good for the majority is good for me
- There are absolute definitions of right and wrong
When you clear your mind of old beliefs that no longer work for you, try not to fill it up with new beliefs. Try to admit only your own truth into this new space. Truth is not what other people think, but events and feelings that you have observed and experienced. (Note: Another old belief is that what’s true for you must be true for others, and vice versa.)
These are slightly different from beliefs in that they are guidelines we use for our lives, and often sound like slogans we repeat to ourselves compared to beliefs which are often subconscious. Attitudes I’ve come to realise don’t work well for me:
- “If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well.”
- “Money is the root of all evil.”
- “I must put others before myself.”
- “Life must have a purpose.”
In place of these, I’ve learnt to do some things for the sheer heck of it, to see that money can do a tremendous amount of good, to value myself as much as others, and to enjoy simply being alive and looking forward to what each day brings.
Happy new year!
“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential.” - Ellen Goodman
“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.” - G.K. Chesterton
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