There is an important question that we can ask ourselves on a regular basis – what makes me happy? What is important to me? Like, really important. What’s in my heart? What does my inner voice whisper to me when I am quiet and listening? And then, another question – am I living my life according to what is important to me?
Asking ourselves these questions and being honest with our answers is a great opportunity to assess whether we are living the life we want to. It can bring into sharp focus the things we have but that don’t serve us, as well as what is missing.
It can help us invite new things into our lives.
In the DrivenWoman Academy, we have an exercise called ‘Cleaning Out and Inviting In’ that helps our members do this.
For me, the answer to these questions is along the lines of – you’re on the right track, keep going, there’s much more to do. Right now, the ‘more to do’ involves understanding my purpose and how I make a bigger contribution to improving people’s lives.
I want simplicity and to create more wealth for myself and others. I want to remove the mental and physical clutter that distracts me from my priorities.
Don’t underestimate the impact of physical clutter on mental clarity and energy levels.
The pile of unread magazines, the stuffed wardrobe, the unorganised paperwork. These things drain us and, over time, the impact can be significant. These things are often easy to ignore but they can have a fundamental impact on what makes you happy.
Having a good clean out of what we don’t want makes space in our lives for the things we do want. Ask yourself how you want your home or work space to be. Is nature, beauty or a sense of belonging important to you, for example? Are the things you value reflected in your environment?
Take the plunge and make changes. If the task seems too big, enlist the help of a friend or professional declutterer.
Working from home for the last few months, I’ve realised more and more how much my home environment can affect me in positive or negative ways. I’m a big fan of the Marie Kondo decluttering test – does this possession give me joy? If the answer is no, then I thank the item and let it go.
Our mental space is just as important.
Be aware of whether an internal critical voice or stress is slowing you down or stopping you.
Find a method that helps you calm your mind. I take time to meditate, breathe deeply and journal on most days. I know other people who go for a walk, run or swim. Do what works for you.
This can feel like a nice-to-do activity for when we have some spare time. I’ve learned that calming the mind and mindfulness – paying more attention to the present moment – is essential for personal wellbeing and health.
I found out recently that my evening energy surge, which meant I was writing emails at 10pm rather than winding down, could be due to adrenal problems. Meditation is one way to restore balance and prevent more serious health issues. And the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends mindfulness as a way to prevent depression.
So, make time.
Then there are those unhelpful habits which prevent us from living the life we want.
Overuse of social media is one that comes to mind! To help me focus on important work, I am getting to grips with apps which put a temporary block on social media. I am also recognising that some tasks, like admin and online research, take me ages because I’m just not a process person. So, I’m delegating and automating.
As well as unhelpful habits, there may be people in our lives who are holding us back. Take stock of what or who hinders you, then prioritise what’s most important and set a timescale for change.
Create new habits and invite in new relationships. Small regular steps are far more effective for sustaining long term change than big changes that lose momentum. Concentrate on what makes you happy on a daily basis.
Everything created was once a thought. About twenty years ago I bought a postcard with a quote from Buddha which said, ‘It is your mind that creates this world.’ That message has stayed with me.
Let’s visualise what makes you happy and reflect it in the language we use, so we’re talking about what we want rather than listing complaints. Write about it, take small steps, and feel fabulously lighter from cleaning out what drags you down and inviting in what makes you happy.
Useful sources of information and inspiration
• Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning: The 6 habits that will transform your life before 8am (2013)
• Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever (2014)
• Mel Robbins, How to stop screwing yourself over, TEDxSF (2011)
• Jennifer L. Scott, The ten-item wardrobe, TEDxStGeorge (2014)
• Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now (2001)
Jenny Oklikah is a DrivenWoman Group Leader in London, UK.