What happens when we inhabit our own minds?
When I was a teenager and in my twenties, I was a relentless abuser of my body - crashing down ski slopes, smashing my head over and over (and over and over) teaching myself to snowboard, drinking and smoking (yes, me - the heavy stuff and unfiltered), and shunning all veggies except iceberg lettuce and potatoes. And that's just a bit of it.
Occasionally I'd joke to friends, "this is going to hurt when I'm 40," but that was sooo far away, you know?
Well, I'm past 40...and it hurts!
But it could hurt a lot worse, my house could be a lot bigger mess, and my ailments could be a lot more intense.
Somewhere along the way I started thinking more about my Future Self, the one who would either pay the price or enjoy the benefits of what I do each day and each moment.
I realized each moment we have the opportunity to help our Future Self enjoy more freedom and time...or give her more work to do.
When we leave our dishes to do later, we add to what our Future Self has to do. When we set the mail down to deal with later, we make the piles bigger for our future self. When we eat the cake again and again, we add to the weight and subtract from the health of our Future Self.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm no perfectly organized, healthy saint! I haven't completely changed my ways.
But I inhabit my own mind a lot more often now.
Rather than let my mind constantly spin on it's own with no direction, I tune in more often to what I'm doing, like zooming in on a camera.
It's fascinating to watch what my brain does when I'm not paying attention - it's like watching a toddler toodle around the house.
She grabs one thing, plays with it for a couple minutes, sets it down, stuffs some cake in her mouth, picks something else up, moves it to somewhere else, gets distracted by this thing over here, then goes in that room, does a something over there, stuffs some more cake in her mouth, then sits down and zones out to a show while punching away at little buttons on a phone.
And she's exhausted at the end of the day but doesn't want to go to bed!
I don't have kids of my own, but I've been a preschool teacher and have worked with kids much of my life - it's uncanny how closely my unmanaged mind matches the behavior of a toddler.
So how to get this toddler to put her toys away, pick up her room and NOT eat all the cake without being the mean mom?
Redirect, redirect, redirect.
First, I don't keep cake in the house anymore (remind me to tell you the story of my husband and chocolate cake). I just don't have the self control to not eat the whole cake (or all the cookies...) and give myself a belly ache.
And to get things done, just like keeping a child safe and focused on what I'd like them to do (or not do), I watch and redirect my mind as often as possible.
I choose what to think about what what my actions will be rather than blindly do whatever thing jumps out at me.
If you've ever meditated, you'll know how challenging it can be to sit for even two minutes and focus on breath or a thought. I couldn't believe how challenging it was!
"Can't I just sit still for TWO MINUTES and keep my thoughts focused?!" is what I thought when I first tried to meditate. I felt like there must be something wrong with me.
But I've learned this is a human challenge, not a personal one. Our brains have evolved to multi-task, to manage many things coming at us at once, to use both hands to do something while our minds think about something else.
It takes effort to manage our minds and focus, to finish what we start.
And it takes focus to do one thing at a time so we can complete something rather than do many things partway. It's so much more satisfying when we complete something, right?
A completely clear counter feels a lot better than a partially clear counter.
A fully organized drawer feels better than a partly organized drawer.
A fully empty dishwasher is a lot easier to load than a partly empty one.
However, the completely eaten cake doesn't necessarily feel better than the partly eaten cake, so I guess this idea can't be used for everything!
I challenge you to watch your mind, to see what she's up to, to see if you can get her to finish something you've wanted to finish today.
What we see around us and feel within us now is the result of past choices. What will you do today to help you feel better tomorrow, and tomorrow, and five years from now?
Good luck, have fun, and let me know how it goes!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a toddler brain to catch...
Please remember that I'm here for you! Reach out if you have questions and/or you feel stuck.
There's no need to struggle with clutter anymore - you're not alone and I can help you feel better right away.
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