Spring Clean your Mind

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Spring Clean your Mind

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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.

Get Cleaning

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.

Related posts:

  1. The Lost Art of Being Happy – 5 Steps to a Happier Life
  2. Finding Inspiration All Around
  3. Thinking Big – 5 Years Time
  4. Happy New Year! Less Ordinary Living in 2010
  5. Find your Focus – The Power of Now


  1. Phil
    March 23, 2010 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Are you ready to do a mental spring clean? What would you like to be different? What will you work on?

  2. March 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Hey Phil,

    You’re really creative with your blog titles. Love your metaphor of a mental attic. This spring I’m going to sweep more of my ideas out of my mental attic and into the real world! No point letting any of these beauties collect dust up there.

    Am working on a big one. Spring is a great time to deliver it to the Universe.

    Enjoy your mental rebirth!

    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..Who are your heroes or heroines? =-.

  3. March 24, 2010 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil – I love that metaphor too, and just the notion of a mental spring cleaning. Wonderful. I’ve also been working on a piece about spring cleaning too, so if I ever get it done I will link to you. Of course, it may not materialize because of my procrastination! Maybe that’s something to pull out and look at in my own mental spring cleaning. And I’m really interested to see what you’re going to say about stories. I love them, even the self-limiting ones. I think it’s there that we often discover our gifts. I know that probably doesn’t make sense, so I’ll stop now!
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Meaning Mondays: The Spring Fever Edition =-.

  4. March 24, 2010 at 4:54 am | Permalink

    Bring it on, Phil! I love the four areas you’ve chosen to spring clean and I have a feeling I’m going to love each one. Love the dusty ole boxes in the attic metaphor.

  5. March 24, 2010 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Mental Spring Clean, I love the term! I love how you broke it down into those particual categories. Let it begin, cannot wait!

  6. March 24, 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink


    First time on your blog and commenting. I like the idea of spring cleaning the mind. I am working on some of them myself, specially “naysayer” gremlins. I liked the idea of changing your story to change your life.
    .-= Zengirl @ happy heart and mind´s last blog ..7 ways to overcoming overwhelm =-.

  7. Phil
    March 24, 2010 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    @Giulietta – thanks! Yes our mental attic is so full of gems. Taking them out and playing with them is lots of fun, so enjoy.

    @Patty – can’t wait for your post on spring cleaning! I love storytelling too, and I’m particularly intrigued by our personal narrative. We build up an identity based on a few facts and a lot of self-selected narrative. When we become aware of what we tell ourselves and the world, it becomes apparent that we have lots of choice and that makes change possible!

    @Belinda – i will bring it. Thanks for the support and get ready for action!

    @Lana – thanks. I love your latest post. Next post should be up here on Friday!

    @Zen Girl – welcome! Gremlins are not as evil as they sound, however they can really get in the way of who we are now. We’ll look at how to come to terms with them and put them on the bench if they are no longer helping out.

  8. March 24, 2010 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Phil – I find that the best way for me to keep positive and inspired is to “Spring Clean My Mind”. I love your choice of words! Most of us don’t spend enough time cleaning our minds if you compare it to the amount of time we spend cleaning our outer body, our homes, our offices, our cars etc.

    I’ve learned that a change in mindset has more power than one can imagine to make a difference to this world.
    .-= Tracy Todd´s last blog ..How Do I Read? =-.

  9. March 25, 2010 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    Oh goodie. More spring cleaning. Get those tumbleweeds out from under the bed. Sort through the treasures we keep safely tucked away in the old cedar chest. Dust, scrub, and sort some more.

    Hey wait! There’s an idea from my resolutions — there in the throw away pile! I don’t want to throw that one away. I want to rethink it, rewrite it. That was a good idea. Put it in the fresh thoughts pile.

    If the New Year brought in a list of resolutions, Spring Cleaning will dust them off enough to see what we still have hold of that’s worth doing.

    Just a thought…

    .-= Barb Hartsook´s last blog ..Do We Recognize Opportunities as They Soar Over Us? =-.

  10. Phil
    March 25, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    @Tracy – I guess you have to keep your mental attic very tidy and keep the gems polished up. I really do believe that our thoughts influence how we live life – change your story, change your life.

    @Barb – yes we have to be careful here not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are some brilliant things in our locker we have forgotten about too. Have fun with the dusting, cleaning, polishing and shining.

  11. March 26, 2010 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Hi Phil,
    ‘Gremlins of the mind’ is a great metaphor for those voices we all encounter. I like to say that these Gremlins come from the ’60,000 No’s’ we encountered as children and thus created an artificial self. How did this artificial self get its start? How did it gain prominence in our minds? Our natural perspective of unlimitedness began teetering to feelings of limit as we encountered 60,000 NO’s between age two and five. “No, you’re too small!” “No, you’ll hurt yourself!” “No, don’t touch that!” … ad infinitum … and even more NO’s came as we continued to grow. To the degree that we accepted these NO’s as true – we’ve denied our natural talents and unrealized potential; and thus the birth of the counterfeit self. Your right, Spring is a great time change my mind. One major Gremlin I am taking on this spring is to understand the blog world. For some one that is 60+ and computer-phobic, this is a big one! I think I’m catching on.

  12. March 26, 2010 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    oops! maybe I spoke too soon…
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..The Health Care Bill is Confusing =-.

  13. March 26, 2010 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    Almost like a New Year’s Resolution but one quarter of the way into the year. Very clever Phil!

  14. April 18, 2010 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Not just spring cleaning, I have been preparing for my birthday in a few days and it is a serious cleaning up mentally….it’s exhausting really but it has to be done. I am allowing no more negative thoughts or unnecessary doubts. I am going to take a compliment like a woman, and I am definitely going to follow your tips! Thanks Phil!

  15. Phil
    April 20, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Happy Birthday Farnoosh – hope you have a peaceful and prosperous year ahead. No personal work is ever wasted and I’m sure you’ll thrive as a result. The best way to take a compliment? Smile and just say “Thank you”.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] in a unique take on spring cleaning? If so, check out Phil’s five-part series called Spring Clean Your Mind over at Less Ordinary [...]

  2. [...] Dealing with our gremlins is a vital part of any Mental Spring Cleaning. [...]

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