I suspect when you crafted your list of top priorities for the new year, “new underwear” didn’t make the cut. It should have! The small, seemingly innocuous investment holds a powerful nugget of chain-reaction potential for 2016 success. Right about now, you’re contemplating whether I am really going to write about underwear. I am. And I’m not. I believe you’ll find a worthy connection.
The concept of undie replacement involves two important components. The first is CLEARING. Freeing yourself from your supply of old underwear. Garments that no longer fit; items showing wear. Really, be honest: such garments no longer serve you. Even if no one beyond your spouse or significant other sees them, worn or torn undies just don’t represent you well. When you clear the space in your drawer, you make room for the new. And, as you might guess, metaphor extends far beyond your underwear drawer. We humans love satisfaction. Clearing one drawer feels good. Clearing the closet might just feel awesome.
We boost our lives and leadership when we clear space physically, virtually, and in our commitments of time. Clearing our physical space gives us a chance to rid ourselves of papers and possessions that are no longer useful or relevant. We need to shred, trash or donate—sometimes ruthlessly—those elements. An internet search on “decluttering” yields a wealth of approaches to successfully clear space. Pick one.
Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up teaches readers to ask whether an item “sparks joy.” If not, move it out of your life. For work sorting, you might need a different measurement. Regardless, schedule time and just get going. Physical organization saves us time (no longer hunting down stuff we can’t find), money (no longer replacing stuff we can’t locate or investing to store what we no longer use or need), and—more importantly—makes the spaces where we live and work more supportive, comfortable, and visually appealing.
Examples of virtual clearing include dedicated desktop and email audits. Virtual clutter can be just as draining as physical items. Is your inbox cluttered with pushed messages? If you’re not seeing value in a majority of emails from a particular source, take advantage of that handy unsubscribe link at the bottom. Scan for opportunities to unsubscribe weekly. Clear your computer’s desktop screen. Sort all your files by date and start with those older than a year. With the exception of photos, certain legal documents or critical files requiring a retention period, most of those old things can be deleted. Every month, set a date to review old files. Delete. Organize the remainder. Over time, this task will only take a few minutes.
The most significant impact to our personal and professional life comes when we learn to say no to commitments that don’t align with our mission, values, or “highest contribution.” When we find ourselves saturated or over committed, our important tasks and relationships get less than our best attention. Examine your calendar for commitments you can stop doing. Be gracious, but firm with your exit. Then, rigorously consider new opportunities for whether these support your purpose, important relationships, and objectives. Say no to “merely” good opportunities. Say yes to the great ones.
Clearing the physical, virtual, and calendar spaces offers an additional byproduct: such acts help unclutter mind-space and reduce stress. Leaders who free space have greater capacity to think creatively and innovatively about solving challenges in life and work.
Decades ago, the under layers of women’s attire were called foundation garments. Whalebone, laces, and restrictive materials squeezed and reshaped the female form—often unrealistically—to allow the outerwear to drape more pleasingly. When I refer to new undies as a foundation, the concept is not far from this earlier constraining objective. The focus of the constraint, however, shifts.
Old underwear may bunch, ride, or pinch. Even when the effects of wearing older underwear are not at all visible to our colleagues or the public, such sensations claim our attention and distract us. Why don’t these fragmentary thoughts prompt us to immediately add a task of stopping off on the way home to buy new ones? Usually, the answer involves comparative priorities. Plenty of more important actions or errands fill our to dos. And right there, that’s the thought that constrains. Our comfort, how we feel with something we wear every single day, is deemed unimportant.
Much like deprioritizing our underwear, individuals may also engage in other limiting thoughts. I can’t get enough sleep. I don’t have time to become more fit. There’s no way I can go back to school right now. My commitments prevent me from ________ (fill in the blank: spending more time with family, starting that business, seeking a more rewarding job).
In contrast, when we tell ourselves we are worthy of that small investment—new underwear—we set the stage for creating a mindset. Our underneath mirrors what we want to project outwardly. We can “act as if,” looking for additional actions and steps leading us forward to larger goals.
Change the world?
Perhaps it’s a stretch to suggest changing your underwear will change the world. Tossing even a small pebble in a pond, however, creates expanding rings of movement on the surface of the water. If you have a wish or desire for something new in your life, what actions are you willing to take on to move you towards your goal? If your dreams and aspirations—if YOU—are worthy of investment, take a step forward today. I have my new underwear. It’s time for you to go shopping.
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