03/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Mar 17, 2015

How Can You Expand During This Meltdown?

While this economic mess continues to unwind, here's a small tip about something you can do to expand even while things appear to be contracting around you.

This idea builds on the one of response-ability that we introduced last week. This is a very little idea in many ways. However, as my spiritual teacher is fond of saying: "if you watch after the little things, the big things will take care of themselves."

Part of the ability to expand has to do with what you are doing with what you already have, even if what you already have appears to be contracting.

To move this forward, we need to address an odd idea about energy. Energy is something we all possess - some days we seem to have more, and some days less. From your physics classes oh so long ago, you will recall that energy is something that you cannot create or destroy, but only change the form in which it is held.

Over the past few years, you may have put considerable amounts of energy into acquiring things - houses, cars, clothes or any number of other "things."

What most people don't realize is how much "energy" they have invested in the things they possess and how little that energy is producing. As hundreds of thousands of us go through the wrenching experience of losing jobs, houses and sizeable amounts of our savings and retirement plans, it may be difficult to notice how much we still have, much less how we can use what we have to expand in the face of the current contraction.

Here's a simple, but not necessarily easy way to release some of the energy around you and thereby enter into a process of expansion while everything else appears to be contracting.

Step One: What do you have that you don't use?

Treat this as an experiment, something you can actually do as opposed to something you merely read or think about. Get out a pad of paper, and divide the page into three columns.

As you take a look around where you live, room by room, closet by closet, list in the left hand column what you own, item by item. In the middle column, write down what you probably paid for each item, and in the right hand column, note when the last time was that you used that item and what value you are getting from it.

When you get all done, you may be surprised at how much you have spent on things you no longer use. In fact, you may discover that you have acquired things that have no real value or use whatsoever.

Step Two: Gather all that stuff together

You may be able to fit what you aren't using into a box, a corner of a room, or perhaps you will need the better part of an entire room. It's hard to say what will be more amazing - the list itself, or what it actually looks like when you put it all in one place.

Each of those items that you have acquired and don't use, represent a form of energy. Each took time and money to produce, and each occupies space right now. The energy that you invested in acquiring them is spent, but there are forms of energy required to keep holding on to them. Some of that energy is physical - the physical space, rent, heat, lights, etc that it take just to house that stuff.

A more significant aspect is the energy you invest, perhaps unconsciously, as you strive to maintain that stuff, even though it may no longer serve you.

Did you ever look at something in your closet, realize you don't use it, and still decide to keep holding onto it? That's a form of mental energy that shows up as contraction - "I can't possibly give that way."

It gets even more whacky when you consider how much stuff you have and don't use and still focus on the "need" to accumulate even more.

If you are tracking this, you will see a certain "doom loop" in this approach to life. However, there is hope!

Step Three: Give it away to someone who could use it

If you find stuff that you no longer need or use, consider giving it away to someone who could put it to good use. The easiest of these to imagine giving away might be old clothes you no longer wear. In all likelihood, there are a range of homeless shelters, thrift stores, transition houses, shelters for families in difficulty, etc, all of whom would have a good use for your "stuff."

What you have piled up in that stack of unused items may represent a real gift to someone who is scraping by, someone who has less than you do. Even if you are one of those who have lost your job, you probably still have stuff lying around serving no worthwhile purpose.

Try giving that stuff away and see what happens. Just give it away. You don't need to know where it winds up and it's fine if you do. Just give it away.

You may discover a couple of very interesting things.

First of all, you may find that this little act of generosity on your part makes a big difference to someone else. That's probably obvious. If it makes you feel good to give it away, super. That's not the point.

More importantly, you may notice a slight change in your own consciousness. By giving something away, you are not only helping someone else, but also telling yourself that you have enough, or at least enough that you can afford to give something away.

Try this and see what happens- we will build on this idea next week. Our basic premise? The universe is full and expanding, even if we feel like things are contracting. Would you rather expand or contract?

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

You can buy Workarounds That Work here.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)