De-cluttering life for what matters
Shouldn’t I know this? I am a grown woman (at least that’s what people say when you are my age). I am a Life Coach, and I have coached many, many people in the past 20 years. And then, I have a degree in psychology. And three kids! So I should have learned, and know better, or at least I thought so. It shouldn’t be an epiphany, but it IS.
When disease or an accident touches us from up close, happening to a friend or relative, it makes it more real. Yet, we still often feel somehow protected; and we justify that it can only happen to others, because they are sedentary or older, less fit or smokers, totally stressed out – and so on.
But when it is your own health failing you, it really makes you vulnerable. And I mean, really. It’s not the first time I have felt vulnerable: I developed arthritis in my hips at an early age, so now I live with two metal hips – which I love by the way (*). Yet, it’s so easy to take health for granted – or to think that a pill or surgery will just take care of it and make disease go away. My health will be there for me, forever- right? Well, not always, and for some people, not so much.
After a lifetime of mostly blissfully good health, which I thought I had maintained carefully, I ended up in emergency with a life life-threatening infection and a summer of recovery. My summer plans suddenly became a lot more quiet. Lots of rest. Self-care. Time to relax and build health.
Instead of the busy summer I had planned, I headed for a slow recovery, interspersed with acupuncture sessions, mammoth loads of nutrients and a meagre social life. No travel, no bike trips, no weekends away, no camping, no late nights dancing. It’s not the end of the world, and literally, I believed my life was at stake, so I did it. I am recovered and life goes on.
But this is what I learned: overall, this summer was by far the best summer for me. What I learned was threefold.
- I CAN slow down – Life can easily become consumed with things, work, travel, outings, demands – of which very few are actually that important or relevant. And all the publicity, TV, the keeping-up with demands and living in the fast lane; getting a bigger, better and improved… these were worthless. It didn’t make me happy or happier. Faster meant no time to think and be conscious that I had choices and that I am responsible for the choices I make. Money, above a minimum needed for basic comfort, doesn’t make me or anyone happier, ever. Proven over and over by research (**). So why are we so hungry for more dollars, a promotion, a bigger car, and so on?
- I CAN have time for what matters – After I made peace with the need to choose only what was truly important, I found I had more time for what really mattered; the stuff that I often didn’t take time for but that was on my Bucket List, like showing my family I love them by taking time with them to chat, go for walks with them, throw a ball around – and just be there and listen. This made me (and them) happier.
- I CAN maintain a slower pace that gives me time to breathe, time to live for what matters – I needed to keep what I had learned in my life. No matter what the speed or the demands thrown at me, I didn’t have to buy the idea that faster is better. I could keep it slow, and de-clutter my days for what truly matters. I could create space for what mattered, by making this a real topmost priority. This meant ruthlessly de-cluttering anything that rated second or third. And for this, I needed to start by de-cluttering my days ruthlessly, for what mattered, by taking time to look at the big picture.
I am redefining work in the bigger context of LIFE: being accomplished is not about making more money, busy-ness or paper work. Working too much, stressing over paperwork, sitting at a computer is not the same as being accomplished. In the bigger realm of life, being busy means nothing. What counts is what matters: being aware of living, and enjoying all those moments we forget in the quest of being busy and ‘productive’.
I can’t judge myself by any other criteria but what makes life worth it – what matters. To be around for my family, inspiring a few people to live for what matters. To help friends and clients to live more consciously and fully.
The truth is, when I look at the bigger picture of life, living for what matters, taking all those moment of living consciously and simply is what makes life real, inspiring and fun.
In the bigger picture of life, being busy means nothing
What counts is what matters
- (*) Watch my recovery here:
- (**) Read more about happiness; here are a few books I like: ‘What Happy People Know’; ‘Happier’; and ‘The Happiness Project’