Business consultant Chris Brogan used the statement, “Learn to discern” in a blog post about vital business skills for the coming years. Reading his post, I realized that because our brains can process only limited amounts of information, limiting what we read in a day will keep us better informed.
If we don’t pare down what we read, our brains choose what to remember for us based more on emotional than concrete value. This principle – limitation gives us more – applies to many aspects of our lives. You need to learn to discern what you need to hold onto and let go of everything else, no matter how deeply you feel your separation anxiety.
When I began my coach training at Coach U 24 years ago, we were taught that having a strong personal foundation will help us succeed more quickly. Specifically, if we cleared the clutter from our lives, physically and mentally, we would have more time and energy to creatively devote to building a coaching business. The areas we focused on were 1) personal finances, 2) home and work environment, 3) relationships, and 4) health and well-being.
Two powerful assessments to discern energy gains and drains
There were two assessments I found significant in clearing my head and home (my office was in my home, so I hit work and home together). First, we completed a Clean Sweep assessment to get rid of the energy drains in our lives. I remember buying a new mattress with great sheets, charting when I could be debt-free, addressing outstanding disagreements with friends and family, creating an exercise discipline that I honor to this day, hanging fresh plants in my home, and cleaning up my car. You can find a shorter yet powerful version of this assessment called the Self-Care checklist on my website.
Then, to ensure we limited the energy drains, we completed a Tolerations Assessment where we had to list 50 things we were still tolerating in our daily space. I thought this would be hard. Once I got going, it was too easy. There were cracks in my paint, junk in the garage, clothing that needed mending, windows needing cleaning, and light bulbs out in the yard. I took care of my tolerations. I even released an old, suffocating relationship, and a corporate client who only wanted me to teach programs I no longer had a passion for. Instead of putting them off for a catch-up day that never comes, I now quickly take care of my tolerations.
I even hired a woman to clear my closet of clothes I shouldn’t be wearing. That was painful. She said women look in their closets and see the money they spent. Someday they may want the piece of clothing they haven’t worn in 10 years. I think men keep outdated clothing, too. Do you know why? Anyway, I had to pay someone to create closet space. I now donate clothing every time I buy something new. I can breathe when I walk into my closet.
What I was taught proved true: The more I cleared, the faster my business grew.
Good projects and clients showed up. I had time for self-care, I enjoyed new friends and I felt freer as my debts disappeared. The magic works.
Discern: What is cluttering your days?
Complete the Self-Care checklist or at least, spend a few days noticing what you are tolerating. Every time you face a toleration, your energy dips down. Take time to clear your tolerations and upgrade your life, you will find you are more able to focus on what is most important for you to grow.
Quit trying to read and watch everything. You remember less as you cram to stay informed. It’s better to pick a few sources to learn from. Disconnect from the rest. You might swap your sources periodically to gain different perspectives, but don’t let your list get longer.
Learn how to manage your time and resources, including how to say no. At the start of each day, determine what you must complete that day. Stick to your commitments. Inform others of what you can and cannot do. At the end of the day, celebrate what you completed. Determine how to finish what you couldn’t. Then take time off before you go to bed so you sleep well enough to feel refreshed in the morning.
Discern: Who is cluttering your life?
In order to achieve my life-long dreams, I had to learn how to ask for help and be a good collaborator. I also had to weed out people in my life who didn’t support my vision and my path, as painful as it often was. I found that managing my time and resources also meant choosing who I wanted in my life, and then having the time to both give and receive with those people who want to spend their life in similar ways as I do.
Collaborating with others will often give you better results. Like marriages, partnering is difficult, but great matches are rewarding. Look for matches with others in 1) how you work – such as the speed of getting things done, toleration for taking risks, and the willingness to share new ideas, and in 2) the visions of your outcomes – what does success look like, why is it important, and what would indicate it is time to move on from a faltering project.
Learn to discern the best use of your time and energy. Take care of what you are tolerating. If you need to, let things and people go. Then you can focus on what gives you more energy and joy.