It’s been a few weeks now since we moved into our new house, and my wife and I are hitting a new stage in the unpacking process – the one where you don’t give a damn anymore.
We’ve sorted through piles during every available weekend hour. And yet, in the dining room, we’re still facing a massive stack of boxes full of dishes, trays and other items for which most guys don’t even know the names. It’s only recently that I learned what stemware is, for example.
Observing this totally incomplete project the other night, I had a brief, frightening thought: Is it possible that my mind is as cluttered as this room?
And indeed it might be. My friend and colleague Nick Petrie had this to say in an excellent column he wrote recently: We need to treat our mindsets like we do other possessions and have an occasional clean out. Every five years, we need to ask ourselves, What beliefs and ideas have I accumulated over the last 5 years that are no longer working for me?
Nick raises a great question, and answering it requires a few key steps. For what it’s worth, here are 4 ways I’m trying to clean my mindset as 2013 rapidly approaches:
- Slow down: I don’t know about you, but this has felt like an especially frantic year, and the mindset I’m in most of the time now is there’s no time to stop and reflect on what I’m doing and whether it’s actually working just keep checking stuff off the list and hope a bomb doesn’t fall on my head. And so on. Lately, though, when the house has quieted down at night, I’ve found a few minutes to sit on the couch and stare at the Christmas tree and try to think about nothing. Christmas trees are great for this; I highly recommend it.
- Take inventory: After I’ve stared at the tree for a while, my mind actually does slow down a bit. Then I’m able to make a few notes about the last five years, and the beliefs and ideas I’ve accumulated during them. It’s an interesting exercise. I’m not even asking myself whether these things are still working for me; it’s just about trying to identify what they are.
- Take out the garbage: You can accumulate a lot of junk in five years. And, like the small mountain of broken-down boxes under my carport waiting to be fed to the city recycling truck, you can’t get rid of it all at once. With a young family, a busy job and several side gigs, I’ve spent the last five years trying to maximize my productivity. It’s worked well, but it’s also come at a cost: a tendency to think too tactically. I’m less inclined than I should be at work and at home to grasp the larger picture, to look for patterns and connections that might spark new ideas. It’s probably time to leave behind a mindset of narrow focus.
- Go shopping: … for some ways to rejuvenate your outlook. One consequence of my highly focused approach of the past few years is that I feel ill-informed in many ways about the larger world. I’ve followed the news but haven’t thought about it enough to develop many truly intelligent opinions. Also, I’m really lacking the kind of historical perspective you need to put current events in context, which is why Tom Brokaw made me feel like an idiot recently. So in the coming year I’ll be doing a lot of reading about history, politics and public affairs. I know, I’m a wild man. My wife can hardly wait for another year of crazy adventures with me and the stemware.