Can you remember the last time you felt gut bustingly happy? … One of those moments where everything looks bright and possible, and life feels full of infinite possibility, and you felt at your creative best?
Have you ever wondered why a deep spring clean of your house, where you chuck out the clutter, clean and refresh your living space, leaving as Marie Kondo would say ‘only the things that spark joy’ feels so good?
I believe these two things have a strong connection and hold the key to living life with integrity and true happiness.
As complex creatures, I believe we have an inner radar which from birth, as we progress through life, we are gradually taught to ignore it more and more. Yet, in the same way, that radar is a critical tool employed by men at sea, as adults we have buried or dulled our own inbuilt radar to such a degree, that despite knowing we are really uncomfortable about something, or maybe we are even deeply unhappy; we choose to plough on blindly, wondering why our lives don’t change for the better.
We start as babies completely connected. We know when we are hungry, in pain or feeling sad and without hesitation, communicate this in an unmistakable and unapologetic fashion, loudly and clearly to all the people around us regardless of the time, place or hour! We have no problem saying ‘no’ and when we see something we want; we go for it! Sounds like some pretty good advice that if you think about it, some of the most successful or even ‘happier’ people in the world do seem to follow, and yet… we all had it at one stage, so why not now?
Our minds can be a bit like the 'junk drawer' that even if it's not a drawer, let's face it…everyone except perhaps Marie Kondo probably has in their house. People continually try to dump things there, sometimes deliberately and other times, because they don't know what else to do with it! Sometimes you dump the rubbish yourself, and other times it is the people around you, Nevertheless, if you don't have a regular cleanout, then before you know it, the junk is spilling out and starts to affect the areas around it.
So, taking this as a metaphor, what is the type of junk that gets dumped in our ‘mind junk drawer’?
The ‘Nay Sayer’ junk
As babies, we are brilliant at ‘following our joy’. We have an idea or a motivation, and we follow it with a determination that can be irritating to others, but we don’t easily let others stop us from grasping for our goal. Throughout youth and certainly as an adult, we share an idea, a goal or a motivation. We will frequently be met with a lukewarm response, or outright opposition in the form of negativity, suggesting every possible obstacle, sometimes even veiled cynicism and rarely encouragement to find a way forward. Before we stop to ask ourselves why this response, we will quickly default to what we believe to be our inner adult voice telling ourselves ‘get a grip, be more mature and you need to be realistic’ quickly abandoning our inspiration and climbing reluctantly back on our hamster wheel of unfulfillment.
The Chinese proverb ‘ The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it’ gives us a lot to think about.
How many times have people said things couldn't be done and yet one day someone does it? Many said it was impossible to run a four-minute mile. Soon after Roger Bannister achieved this goal in 1954, twenty-four others went on to also do so, in rapid succession. So if we want to run our own four or even three-minute mile, we need to be a bit more Roger Bannister and simply set the goal, shut our ears, say no to adding to the junk drawer and find a way to achieve our vision come what may.
As Jessica Herrin said ' Naysayers will always exist, but you don't have to let them sit in your front row’. I would tend to take it one step further these days. Personally, I won’t even let them sit in my room at all!
The ‘Put Down’ junk
Unfortunately, people, particularly in workplaces, spend far too much time down talking about other people’s work, personalities, ideas and just about anything they can. I must point out that if you look at the most successful people that you admire, you will rarely find this trait. This is usually the habit of the more insecure people, or sadly it can be a culture that has been allowed to infect a team of even the most talented, ambitious staff… but that is a whole other topic and certainly a leadership issue! It is also an ugly trait of human nature which can and should be nurtured out in children. Still, in my opinion, there is a lack of success in anti-bullying education, often because it is not what is seen modelled in society.
Sometimes these put-downs are direct and overt, and having been taught what is ‘polite’ and ‘not to answer back’, we will often fail to stand up assertively for ourselves, instead of allowing other people’s negativity to live rent-free in our heads. Gandhi, one of the most peaceful humans to ever live, gave us some fabulous advice when he said; ‘I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet’. The problem is if we don't stand up for ourselves and if we allow these thoughts to live in our 'mind junk drawer', not immediately chucking it out, it soon starts to weigh us down as it overflows into our confidence creating unhappiness and negatively affecting self-esteem.
So, what are our solutions?
How do we polish off our inner radar and achieve clarity and direction, finding mind space to reconnect our minds, bodies, and soul is a hard thing in our daily lives if we don’t consciously make time for it?
Finding time to meditate and reflect, to connect with whatever is your spiritual source and metaphorically clear out the mind junk daily is a great starting point. Reflecting on positive visions and self-affirmations, including your personal values, can help ground you in your integrity.
Establishing some basic behavioural rules and boundaries is essential to allow yourself not to accumulate other people’s junk. Scary as it might seem the first time, find the courage to stand up for yourself, to say ‘no’ when needed without feeling the need to justify or explain.
Identify your passions and your goals, create your vision board either in your mind or literally, and build your plan around that. Don't be deterred by naysayers. Be the one to get on with it and follow your joy.
Listen to your inner radar. Follow your joy, and when your gut tells you, you are not happy with something, speak up, be honest and don’t settle.
I say ‘always go for gold!’ - after all, as the great Nelson Mandela said ‘ there is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living’.