Lessons from KonMari, the Growth Mindset, and the Psychology of Patterns
Rachel is a founder, a bringer of ideas, a bias-toward-action, err on the side of collaboration kind of gal. She’s started communities of practices, meditation groups, mentoring circles, and book clubs. She serves on conference boards. She speaks at conferences. She mentors others. Her philosophy is that opportunity drives opportunity.
But now, she’s tired. The kind of fatigue that sucks the energy out of the (virtual) room, that shows up in destructive self-talk, and that leads to long hours of escapism through novels or binge-watching Netflix. Despite her accomplishments, this was not the life she dreamed of.
Rachel is a human anagram. She’s part me, part colleague, part friend, part neighbor, part stranger. If you relate, read on to discover three questions that can help you design your best life.
Is this serving my best life?
Out with the old, in with the new — it’s not just an adage; it’s a life lesson that reminds us that we have to create space for potential to unfurl.
When you are building something, like your business, your personal brand, or your career, “Yes” can be a powerful opportunity-maker. However, if you are ready to pivot to something new, you need to intentionally create space. The Japanese professional organizer, Marie Kondo, has evangelized the philosophy of decluttering our lives. Her philosophy of keeping only things that bring you joy has many of us systematically cleaning out our junk drawers and evaluating our impulsive purchases. (Ironically, this close to a holiday, her website at konmari.com leads with a holiday gift guide.) However, going beyond our crowded closet sojourn is a more in-depth inquiry. What are we keeping ourselves from discovering by keeping things that have served their usefulness to us, even if that something brought us joy?
Perhaps we can turn the common phrase that consumer brands and services ask: “How can I best serve you?” to our own choices and self-talk. “Is this serving my best life?” Consider these three actions that can help declutter your inner-self and set the stage for your best life.
Unsubscribe. It seems that the entire digital world knows the address of my tiny work-from-home corner. All the messaging and marketing energy previously dispersed through print media, billboards, point of sale, and personal contact has converted to a tsunami of digital information and calls to action.
Here is a call to action for your new year: Unsubscribe. Stop digital hoarding and filing. If you find you are deleting emails from feeds without reading them or marking them to read later, unsubscribe. If you are getting coupons and discounts from brands and stores you no longer visit, unsubscribe. You can most likely find the information again or sign up anew for those discounts when you need them.
By letting something joyful go on the journey of imperfection and experimenting, we may find we also have to let go of our emotions attached to those things.
Let it Go. Rachel resigned from several of her responsibilities recently, specifically to create space for something new. These were not emotional decisions; her transitions were well planned and thought out. She simply wanted to create space for new synergies and relationships. In addition, her decision to back away gave others a chance to lean-in and lead, building out the communities she has formed.
However, she was surprised to feel the bittersweet emotions that surfaced, particularly the question of “Who am I if I am NOT leading these efforts, or known for these things?” She is not alone — it’s a common sentiment expressed by leaders who have pivoted in their journeys.
Carol Dweck in “Mindset,” writes extensively about this unsettling feeling described by people who have actively worked on changing their mindset. But new research shows that our brains respond to change by getting stronger. She writes, “opening yourself up to growth makes you more yourself, not less.”
Say No. When my husband and I first moved to our Bay area, walking along an undeveloped stretch of beach, we passed a set of run-down stairs painted with this message to the universe: “Don’t say maybe when you want to say No.” I stopped for the photo, but the mental image remains with me because it resonates with my desire to live in my truth, be impeccable with my word.
A symbolic gesture for the new year is writing down the things, responsibilities, beliefs, or people you desire to let go of, then burn them. If you are in a small space, dissolving paper works just as well.
Is my Karma boring?
Don’t confuse stillness and mindfulness with boring. Boring is tedious. It’s repetitious. It’s unimaginative. One way to check your level of boring is to examine who you are spending your time with and what you are doing with them.
If you find you are doing the same activities or having the same conversations with the same people, you may be just playing it safe. Sometimes, that is okay. As humans, we look for patterns so that we can sense how to respond. Greg Satel, writing for Forbes, points out, “We use patterns to derive meaning without having to do a more detailed inspection.” This skilled pattern recognition can serve you well if you are in survival mode. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic has felt like we were living on a global “Survivor” series, with a horrific outcome.
Limiting our risks makes sense when an invisible predator is lurking on surfaces and traveling in droplets, invading our lungs, our holiday gatherings, and our neurological systems.
However, a life devoid of risk could be a red flag that you are stagnating. If this resonates with you, perhaps it is time for a more detailed inspection of each relationship.
Satel writes, “Just because a pattern exists, doesn’t mean that the cause of that pattern is important or meaningful.” While some of our relationships are born of safety, some are feeding the beast of dependency. Take a closer look at any relationship that might be parasitic, where two people feed off each other, or toxic, when the relationship feels compulsive, unhealthy, or imbalanced. Perhaps it is easier to keep connections from old neighborhoods, activities, or social circles because it used to bring joy, or you feel some form of expectation or obligation. Are they serving your best life?
Being willing to break old patterns and try new experiences will attract others seeking to grow in the same direction.
To open up your karmic cycle, ask five casual acquaintances for a virtual coffee. Get to know more about them, seeking for commonalities that go beyond what you can see, to hear their story and make deeper connections.
What is the last thing I changed my mind about?
I borrow this question, “What is the last thing you changed your mind about?” from Dave Stachowiak, host of the Coaching for Leaders podcast. He ends his interviews with this question, and now, so do I. To be fair to my unwitting participants, I’ve started turning this question on myself.
The ability to change your mind is a powerful tool. George Bernard Shaw wrote: “Those who can’t change their minds can’t change anything.”
Consider a time when you were upset and caught yourself thinking something that was later proven to be untrue. Perhaps data or evidence changed your mind. Maybe it was by going further to discover more about a topic or a person. You can practice changing your mind by intentionally taking a different perspective, such as a debate, or directly and honestly addressing criticism.
One of the hardest things to change our minds about is the way we think about ourselves. Carol Dwyer writes in “Mindset” about the discomfort of practicing a growth mindset. She describes how unsettling it is to step outside our fixed mindset, which shows up in our internal talk track: “Don’t do this, it’s not worth the risk. Protect yourself.”
Imagine a professional ballplayer who strikes out at the plate. They don’t quit the game. They return to the dugout, shake it off, and get ready to step up again.
The growth mindset athlete tells themselves: “Go for it, learn something new, embrace the practice and the study.”
Write your personal affirmation for 2021. Focus on a behavior or personal belief you want to change. Then compose a sentence, in the future tense, as if it is already true. (To get you started, visit Dr. Carmen Harr’s 35 examples of affirmations.)
In conclusion, I hope these three questions will help you make some small pivots to a new and fulfilling chapter in your life.
Open up space by clearing out what no longer serves you. Question if your well-formed patterns are distractors to your future. Create an affirmation to change your self-talk. Although we cannot think our way to new behavior, challenging our old behavior is the first step. The most inspirational life stories form in the grimmest circumstances, from those who dare to dream of the life they desire.
Then apply the growth mindset as you take the steps to fulfill your wildest desires. Find new skills and relationships to explore, revel in bringing the beginner’s eye, be a curious cat, take healthy risks. Above all, embrace the winding trail of imperfect self-discovery.
One last quote from Satell, “If you believe that the patterns of the past determine our future, then you will cling to them dearly. On the other hand, if you believe that the most important patterns are those we have yet to uncover, then the future has no bounds.”
Hone your craft, speak your truth, show your thanks