new year 1It’s that time of year when store displays shift from festive holiday decorations to tools for organizing. New year ahead, time to clear out the clutter.

When my closet or desk is in a state of disarray, I feel overwhelmed. It slows me down. I have to go through a lot of stuff to find what I need. Sure, I can still get things done, but I know the clutter impedes my progress.

The external and internal demands we explored last week are like the clutter. They slow down progress and leave us feeling overwhelmed as we work toward our goals for well-being. The clutter covers up what we really want. Gradually, it drains confidence and motivation.

Think about a well-being goal for the upcoming year. Notice what clutters the mind and tenses the body when you think of this goal – the external demands like cultural expectations, popular attitudes, peer pressures, outside pulls for time and energy and the internal demands like past disappointments, physical limitations, doubt, fear, and low confidence.

We don’t want to throw it ALL away, though. There are valuable lessons among the clutter. Besides, the various forms of demands will continue to come back. We need a way to de-clutter while keeping what is of value.

After our month of practicing mindful self compassion, we have a way. We are ready!

Mindfulness loosens the grip these demands have on the mind and body. Self-compassion provides a tool for dealing with the many forms of pressure and self-criticism that set off the alarm mode. As we calm, we regain access to our smart brain. We are able to sort the clutter into what is useful and what to let go.

The self-criticism habit might say “wait a minute, I can’t let myself off the hook for those failures.  I need them to keep motivated.  And all those successful people at the gym will guilt-trip me into wanting to change.” Now that we are aware of research on self-compassion, we know better. Self-criticism and judgement drain motivation. Self-compassion builds it up.

So if the letting go does not come easily, no worries.  Long-time struggles leave a lot of clutter behind and new demands will keep popping up. Self-compassion reminds us that the clutter is a normal part of life.

Cleaning out is not a one-shot deal though. My closet and desk become cluttered again within days (okay, sometimes within hours!). We need a system for recognizing and  de-cluttering on a regular basis.

Activate it: This week, before you set goals for your well-being in the upcoming year, make room for building lasting motivation with the following steps. 

  1. Pause and take a few mindful breaths.
  2. Brainstorm all the external and internal demands you can think of with regards to this goal. Notice how they feel in your body as you recognize them.
  3. Take some more mindful breaths.  Bring in self-compassion.
  4. On a separate piece of paper, for each demand answer:  What have I learned about myself from this that could help me going forward?
  5. Throw away the list of demands. Take a few breaths and with a slow exhale, mentally let the clutter go.
  6. Hang on to what is of value for the upcoming year.
  7. Make a system for practicing these steps daily. This habit is a key resource for lasting motivation. 

May You Be Well,

Janet Huehls, MA, RCEP, CHWC