How to Make Space for the New… Stop being a MUST-urbator!

By , April 9, 2011 5:15 pm

“If there’s anything new that you want in your life, you’ve got to make room for it. I mean that pschologically as well as physically.”

Jack Canfield, Author, cocreator of Chicken Soup for the Soul®

I’ve come to realise that learning and growing is not about doing more.

Growing is often about completing things, letting go and creating space for new shoots to emerge.

I was coaching someone this week who began the session describing her cluttered desk. As she spoke she soon realised that she also had a cluttered mind!

She identified several areas of her life where she’d left things uncompleted, half finished and even a personal relationship where she’d failed to get some closure, and important things had been left unsaid.These incompletes were holding her back from moving forward because when you don’t complete the past, you hold on to them. They drain your energy and feel like a heavy chain dragging behind you.

Her conversation was peppered with “I ought to do this… I know I should do that… I must…”

It’s difficult to be fully present and focused when you have unfinished or incomplete projects, tasks and promises that demand your attention.

I gently explained to my client that she was a MUST-urbator!

Dr Albert Ellis,  an American psychologist, used this term to describe people when their lives become full of must’s, ought’s and should’s. Many of us replay a head full of these lists, especially under times of pressure and stress. We put extra demands upon ourselves and bale ourselves out with excuses instead of taking action.

Why don’t we complete things?

  1. You are unclear
  2. You’ve stalled because you’re faced with an internal or external roadblock.

Here are a few examples:

  • You wanted to say ‘no’ but didn’t want to let the other person down.  
  • It’s difficult or uncomfortable to make a decision – Instead you procrastinate and struggle with the discomfort.
  • You feel guilty for not completing it so you avoid thinking about it and the incompletes continue to pile up.
  • Your wardrobe, closet and even your garage is groaning under the weight of all the clutter that you’ve been collecting – just in case it might come in handy!

Most of us are undisciplined in our approach and it’s easy to become distracted and unfocused. When we’re under pressure we move out of our left brain – logical thinking, into the right brain - emotive thinking. It’s difficult to be rational from this place.

We allow clutter and incompletes into our lives and drown in stacks of papers, old clothes, broken items, things we don’t like or not saying the things we need to say to avoid resentment and misunderstanding.

How to STOP MUST-urbation:

  1. Write down a full list of all your must’s, ought’s and should’s. E.g. “I must get the car serviced.” “I ought to visit my parents in the holidays.” “I should clear out the basement.”
  2. Once you have your list, re-write it rephrasing each sentence with I want to…
  3. While re-writing each statement focus on WHY you WANT to do this and re-decide. You may realise that you don’t want to do this item anymore, and you can let it go.
  4. Choose 3 things on the list and start to complete them.
  5. Write down what will it take to complete each of these three tasks. What is the next step?
  6. Consciously keep these items on your radar by checking in weekly with your list of your incompletes and scheduling dates and times in your planner to GET THEM DONE little and often.
  7. Learn to feel completeness by taking small action steps and making it a habit.

Successful people continually work on their incompletes. Why? Because if you want to show up more fully in the present  you firstly need to complete the past.

4 Responses to “How to Make Space for the New… Stop being a MUST-urbator!”

  1. Buddy Hodges says:

    Thank you, elaine! I will try your system. I hope it will help. There is no doubt that you have identified my weakness. I want to do, to have, and to know, too many things. I believe in the Pareto Principle (“The 80/20 Rule”), but it is difficult to let go of the 80 %. My “Documents” files, and email and paper in boxes are overflowing, and my rented storage building are packed solid. My “To-Do List” is huge, and I have 50 tabs open on my browser. I get another email approximately every minute. But I never, never, never give up! I WILL get it all under control! Thanks for your advice.

  2. elaine says:

    Hi Buddy – I’m glad you found this post useful.Hopefully it gives you a place to start.Sometimes the challenge is knowing where to begin – you can’t change it all at once… Start somewhere and build a little momentum.

    Keep me posted :)

  3. Stacey says:

    I have to LOVE the title of this one ;-)

  4. […] of us know what we should do but we have little self-discipline to make it happen. Instead we use labels such as I’m too […]

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