Change is hard for everyone. This is especially true in our personal lives. I have watched professionals who are in complete control at work come to a frozen, terrified standstill when asked to eat a vegetable. Why does this happen? The answer can be complex, but in simplest terms, the desire for growth bumps against lots of emotionally-charged obstacles and rationalizations, aka the "ration-of-lies." Ironically, we tend to resist what is best for our highest good. But there is good news: The arrival of spring is a time of year when nature provides you with some extra momentum to make lasting changes.
In spring, you have the forces of nature on your side drawing you, and all living things, out of hibernation, out of yourself and into renewal and new life. The annual "spring cleaning" instinct perfectly illustrates the desire for a fresh start, to change the air and clear out the clutter. Spring fever pushes you out the door and inspires you to get moving. So why not make the most of it while you have the wind at your back?
Where do you start? If you are feeling ready to make a change, small or large, here are five ways to clear out the clutter and put more "spring" in your life:
1. Start from where you are.
In order to know what needs refreshing, you need to know where you are. It is impossible to chart a course towards personal growth without first looking within to know what isn't working or what wants to rise up for healing. In my practice, I use a self-assessment tool to take that real time snapshot. In a few simple steps, you will have a clear illustration of your satisfaction in 12 distinct areas of your life, dig deeper to understand what is behind them and take the first steps towards greater happiness and fulfillment. Wherever you choose to begin, be honest with yourself about the issue, the obstacles and your readiness to make changes.
2. Spend quiet time in nature.
Two key words: quiet and nature. So often, I see people barreling through nature with headphones on, running or walking to finish that last mile, paying no mind to what is around them. But spending quiet, unhurried time in nature (not just passing through it) can yield many health benefits to your body, mind and spirit. Try this: Take time out during a walk or hike to stop and observe your surroundings, close your eyes and listen to nature's sounds, or meditate while doing some deep breathing. This triggers a relaxation response in the body, which reduces stress and quiets the mind. And when you connect with something larger than yourself, your problems and concerns will seem smaller and new insights can rise to the surface.
3. You are not a salmon, stop swimming upstream!
At the first women's workshop I attended, I was sitting in quiet meditation as we opened the session. The image of a salmon swimming upstream floated into my mind. It was trying to get up over a small waterfall when it suddenly fell backwards and swam away downstream, with the current. At first, this seemed sad; he had given up. Then I wondered had I given up? I stayed with the image and realized that the fish was fine, happily swimming downstream with the current, not against it. I realized, of course, that the fish was me. I was ready to stop resisting. I was ready to live differently, and the little salmon helped me to see that. Next time you meditate or sit quietly, ask yourself what you are resisting? Where would going downstream take you? What ideas, people or opportunities have you missed in your haste to fight the current?
4. Leave room for surprises (you can't control everything, sorry).
My favorite lesson about this came in a round-a-bout way at a nature preserve near my home where I spend a great deal of time. Last spring, my children came with me and made a game of looking for the numbered sign posts that lined the path. After a few walks, we had discovered all 17 with the exception of one, number nine. We searched high and low but found nothing. We concluded it didn't exist or was buried somewhere under the leaves.
At that time, I was looking for answers in my personal life that were not coming either, and I was feeling utterly frustrated. Not finding number nine (coincidentally my birthday) felt like the universe's way of laughing at my attempts to control anything. Then one day, I went for a walk alone at the preserve. I was lost in my thoughts when something flickered in the far corner of my vision. I stopped and looked back thinking I'd seen a small animal or bird. But instead, there it was, plain as day, number nine. Just like that.
I got the message: Neither marker number nine nor the answers to my life questions were going to be found by looking harder. Both were ultimately revealed only when I stopped looking and instead went about living my life in the direction I wanted to go. Is there a situation or circumstance you are trying to control that needs some room to breathe? How could you go about it differently? Remember, change requires patience, so give yourself time.
5. Clean out the old to make room for the new.
This may not be a threatening concept when you are cleaning out a closet, but it can become a real obstacle when talking about how we live. When I work with a client, I can usually sense if they are likely to succeed at their goals or not. Those who are ready to honestly face and let go of what they are doing and how they are living are much more likely to succeed than those who fear change or are holding on to the status quo to the exclusion of growth. Ask yourself what you are holding on to that no longer serves you. What would happen if you let go of it? What would be lost? What new and wonderful things might come into your life in its place? What holds you back? Even if you are not ready to jump, just the acknowledgement that you are not ready to do what you know is a big step towards owning your choices.