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Spring is in the air! Nature is waking up. The earth is blooming with fresh buds, blossom on the trees, a whiff of hope in the air.
Spring is a time of renewal, new life, new possibilities, new hope, new beginnings, fresh thinking. It’s a time to emerge from the shadows of hibernation, shake off the lethargy and face the future with joy.
An important tradition at this time of year is spring cleaning. This is the ritual of cleaning house, sprucing up our dwelling, clearing away the clutter. We cast off the baggage we’ve picked up over the winter.
This year, I’m planning to take the opportunity to spring clean my mind. I want to sort through some of the dusty old boxes I’ve been storing in my mental attic. I’m pretty sure that there are some hidden treasures I can polish up and enjoy. I also know that there is a lot of junk up there that I no longer want to hump around with me.
My Mental Spring Clean will cover four areas:
We all spend a huge amount of time and energy creating stories about our identity. We tell the outside world all about ourselves – what we do, our social status, how we interact with others, our expectations from the world around us.
We also tell ourselves stories about who we think we are. I know that one story I was telling myself was that I had to do everything myself because there is no-one out there who would want to collaborate with me. Since I recognized this story and started to change it, I’ve found that suddenly people are starting to want to get involved with my projects. A simple change of story and led to a big difference.
Our stories are usually based on some simple facts, however we choose how to weave these facts together. We also have the choice of which facts to select in creating the story. Understanding the power of our personal narrative and how we communicate it can hugely change our lives for the better. Change our story and we change our life.
The psychiatrist Eric Byrne wrote the seminal book Games People Play in 1964. He identified the human need for attention and the need to fill the unstructured void of time. Byrne identified that human interaction is based on conversations and analyzed these transactions in more detail.
He found that almost everyone plays games to get attention from others. Often we don’t realize what we are doing. Some of the games Byrne talks about include “See what you made me do”, “Ain’t it awful”, “If it weren’t for them” and “Stupid”. Any of these sound familiar to you?
I know that I’ve spent most of my life playing “Just good enough”. In this game, I try just hard enough to get the result I want without standing out from the crowd by being the best. It is a game to keep me safe from unwanted attention, yet it also stops me from taking risks, really going for it, or feeling fulfilled.
In this mental spring clean, we can assess the games we are playing, figure out which ones are helpful and which ones are holding us back.
Gremlins / The voice in my head
This one is an old chestnut. I have that horrible voice in my head that tells me; “you’re not good enough, you can’t do that”, “who would listen to someone like you anyway”, “get over yourself, you’re no-one”.
These gremlins are powerful forces. Typically we created them in our childhood to protect us from a situation that would have been detrimental. Perhaps to overcome a fear of being embarrassed, we created a gremlin that stopped us answering questions in class. The gremlin was there to keep us safe.
Often, this voice in our head has long since stopped being useful. It stops us from taking action and being our best self with the old warnings. In this mental spring clean, we’ll look at how to gracefully retire some of these gremlins and free ourselves to be whatever we want to be.
As children, we sponge up huge amounts from the world around us. We learn routines about how to live our lives. We pick up habits about how to behave from our parents, peers and everyone we meet.
Habits can be extremely positive, like a regular exercise routine, the process we use to keep ourselves organised or taking 10 minutes each morning to plan our day. They can also be unconstructive – procrastinating, avoiding using the telephone when we know we should, drinking to relieve stress.
To some extent, we are what we do, and these habits become a large part of our identity. We can understand more about how habits form, identify which habits to change and apply some of the rules of change to create positive new habits.
This Mental Spring Clean will look at each area in more detail and give practical advice on how to change for the better. I’m planning to use the journey to create a mind that feels shiny, fresh and new – ready to face the renewal of spring. Please join me and enjoy some mental sorting, dusting, cleaning and polishing. Let the Mental Spring Clean begin.