I periodically go through my closet and discard clothing I no longer wear. Some items are worn out. Others have gone out of style. Still others are sitting idle because I dont like wearing them. I always feel better after these cleansings. Both my psyche and my wardrobe breathe a collective sigh of relief.
The same technique works in our personal lives. Each of us continues to engage in activities that no longer fit our current lifestyles. Theyre like skins that dont fit, but we refuse to shed them.
Perhaps you serve on a committee at the high school even though your kids have long since graduated. Or you maintain a membership at the local yacht club when the boat hasnt been near the water for years.
The result is a sense of emotional chaos. Your brain is littered with psychological trash you need to discard. Youre stressed. You complain that you have too much on your plate. You may even feel resentful that you dont have time for activities you like because your mental and financial resources are already booked.
Its easy to see why this happens. We blindly add events to our calendars without asking, Is this something I still want to do? The activity may have long ago lost its relevance. It may have been something that we never wanted to do. Sometimes we feel guilty about quitting or passing along our responsibilities to someone else.
The solution? Conduct a personal inventory. Go through the nooks and crannies of your life to decide what to keep and what to toss. Keep the activities you like doing best. Theyre the rewards you like giving to yourself.
The tossers can be no-brainers, too. You drag your feet when you see them coming. You avoid them like a trip to the E.R.
Youll also want to explore new activities to add to the mix. Theyre the things you enjoy at the moment that jibe with your current stage of your life. You might choose to join a Mommy and Me play group or be a part of Retired Active Men. The possibilities are endless. The key is defining where you are and what you like.
Of course, youll never be rid of all your chores and commitments. Days are full of must-dos you just cant avoid. Still, theres plenty you can do to alter your life to ensure its the best fit possible.
HOW TO CONDUCT A PERSONAL INVENTORY
Make a list. Compile a collection of chores, hobbies and activities you engage in. Note which ones you have to keep and those you might be able to change.
Write down your dreams. These are activities youd like to incorporate into your day. Some may be doable, while others are more pie-in-the-sky. No worry. Theyre all worthy of your consideration.
Listen to your inner guru. You already know whats working and not working in your life. But you may be reluctant to heed your own wisdom. Follow those instincts. They rarely steer us wrong.
Embrace change. New things can be scary. Theyre also ripe with opportunities and adventure. Recognize your discomfort, then do it anyway. You can always rethink your strategy if its not right.
Be honest. You may need to change things that arent working. Facing the task at hand may not be easy. Still, it can be the best course for you to take.
Let go of guilt. Sometimes we avoid change because we feel bad about what weve done. We opt to stay on a destructive path in order to punish ourselves for perceived transgressions. The truth is you deserve to be happy and to be living a meaningful life. Get help for your unhealthy emotions so you can start to savor the special person you are.
Involve your partner. You may want to conduct an inventory with your spouse. Decide together whats working and what needs tweaking. The very process may initiate an increased sense of closeness and purpose.
Be willing to say no. Breaking away from undesirable activities means sharing your decision with others. They may or may not agree with your plans. Ultimately the verdict is yours.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit http://lindalewisgriffith.com.