Everyone has a junk drawer that no one is allowed to see.
My wife and I have a friend with a Southern Living kind-of house. When you visit you want to sit with a steaming cup of tea on the pristine white couches and have a photo shoot.
Every thing is in its place and each trinket, knick-knack and decorative item tells a story.
But I’ve heard rumors that there’s a deep, dark secret closet where she shoves the junk. It’s messy, unorganized and if you opened the door an avalanche of non-Southern Living junk could bury you.
I don’t judge because I fight a battle with clutter every day. I’m sentimental and I see value in everything and I have to purge the junk I’ll never use.
As paralyzing as material junk can be mental junk is even more harmful. Mental junk keeps you from fulfilling your purpose and paralyzes you. It’s like picking up a bag of rocks and carrying them on your back and then wondering why you end the day feeling tired and unproductive.
Some of us pack our mental junk drawers so full of garbage we can’t make any headway on our goals. Learn to clean out the clutter and focus on the things that matter and the fruits of your labor will multiply and your output will explode.
You can purge mental clutter by focusing on on three things:
Step 1: Know Your Purpose
What is your purpose? Why are you here?
Far from existential questions, these two questions can help you remove the mental clutter that clogs your mind and focus on thing that matter.
You are a unique person created for a purpose. No one else is just like you. You can do things I can’t do. You have strengths where I have weaknesses.
The funny thing about strengths is that we often overlook them because they come easy to us. Have you ever watched a singer who opens their mouth and angelic music pours out? They don’t appear to struggle to hit the notes and they are never off key.
We all come with natural areas of giftedness that can help us discover our purpose. If you can’t hold a tune you may make the highlight reels of American Idol, (which is evidently coming back?) but you won’t sign a record deal.
If you want to know what your purpose is consider these questions:
— What am I naturally gifted?
— What do I do that makes me happy?
— What do I see that make me cry?
— What do I dream about all the time?
Brainstorm the answers to these questions and you’ll discover your purpose.
Doing something that you enjoy doesn’t feel like work at all. You’ll gravitate towards the things that make you happy. When you think about what makes you cry you’re seeing a need that you want to do something about. And your dreams are hardwired into you subconscious. They combine the other three things and give you a future to look forward to and a goal to shoot for.
If you want to break free from mental clutter, answer these questions and spend more time thinking about these things than anything else.
Step 2: Seek Opportunities
Once you’ve answered these questions the real work begins.
When you know what you are naturally good at look for opportunities to do more of that thing. Practice makes perfect, so practice.
There’s a story about a gifted violinist who, in his eighties, still practiced several hours a day. When asked why he still practiced he replied that he still saw areas where he could improve.
If you want to be a better writer, look for places to write. Enter writing contests, seek guest posting opportunities, start a blog or post more on Medium.
If you want to be a comedian, find an open mic night and give it a shot.
If you want to make a difference in the world, look for opportunities to volunteer for a cause close to your heart. There are people and organizations that would love to have the talents and skillsets that you bring.
Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you. Find them. Attack them. And learn from your successes and failure.
Improve every day.
Step 3: Do The Work
Much of the clutter in our minds happens because we refuse to do the work. Whether we are paralyzed by our fears or just lazy we sit and dream and yet do nothing.
For some it’s the fear of success.
I used to teach GED students and for many the lack of education was an excuse they used to keep from taking responsibility for their lives. After all, without even a high school diploma they couldn’t get a job much less attend college.
The fear of what would be expected of them kept them mired in mediocrity.
For others it’s the fear of failure.
What if I try and don’t make it?
Consider this, what if you try and do make it?
If you’ve answered the questions above, it makes your likelihood of success much greater. Sure, you have to take risks, but they are calculated risks. They align with your areas of giftedness and your passions. Those risks may help make a difference in the lives of others.
What’s the upside potential?
You’ll never know unless you do the work.
In my own mind I’m tired of the clutter. I’m jettisoning the things that don’t matter so I can focus on the things that do. It’s why I’m waking up early and writing thousands of words a day. It’s why I’m being intentional about the time I spend with my wife and my kids.
It’s why I’ve abandoned some unrealistic dreams to focus on the ones that are achievable.
De-cluttering your mind and knocking out your goals doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, if you get started you’ll find that letting go of the burdens you’ve been carrying is the most freeing thing you can do.