“Do I really need this?” I thought as I looked through a box of collectibles and clothing items. My wife and I were preparing to move from Denver, my home of 15 years, to a new home and new chapter in Dallas. The move was a chance to be closer to family, business, and friends. It was also cause to ponder what we had, what we truly needed, what was useful, and what no longer belonged in our lives. Sometimes destiny allows us to reset our environment to recalibrate our focus and priorities. This was one of those moments.
We combed through appliances, decorations, my wife’s seemingly endless wardrobe, and my private library containing hundreds of books. As we packed our belongings in preparation for the movers, I couldn’t help but wonder. As many of us go through life, we tend to collect things that don’t always maintain their relevance as we continue our journey. De-cluttering becomes more of a priority when we are obliged to carry (or pay someone to carry) everything that we think is worth bringing with us. Whether moving literally or advancing toward personal goals and benchmarks, needless baggage can be burdensome, stressful, and counterproductive.
As this year comes to a close and next year approaches, we all have the opportunity to transition into a greater chapter of productivity and personal fulfillment by losing unbeneficial responsibilities and relationships and realigning our environment to what matters most to us. Three concepts come to mind.
First, define values. Our values are the virtues and concepts that we consider to be most important in life. In his book, What Matters Most Hyrum Smith expounds on how many people experience cognitive dissonance and as a result, personal frustration because of a failure to align values and actions. I tend to agree. In my old home, I experienced a fair amount of frustration living three hours and two flights from most of my work travel destinations. You may feel frustrated because your values and daily actions are located in two very distant locations. Let’s bring them closer together.
Second, evaluate priorities and restructure as necessary. While values are the elements of what is most important in our lives, or priorities are the order of what is most important. Jump back to my moving story: when it comes to my personal possessions, I generally employ the one-year rule. If the item is something I have used in the last year or plan on using this year, I keep it. If I can’t justify its ownership, I find it a new home. Most things I own, I use and enjoy on a daily basis. When we moved, I gave away some things and discarded others. You might find it helpful to imagine your activities, responsibilities, and relationships as packing boxes. Ask yourself, “How important is this box? Is it something I engage everyday? Will it be useful this year? Will I ever use it again?” If not, it probably doesn’t belong in your pack.
Third, eliminate the unnecessary. I make this a separate point because we are only capable of carrying a finite amount of baggage. And it may sound obvious, but we have to carry everything that we don’t let go. I have heard many people speak of the importance of Pareto’s law, or the 80/20 principle. 80 percent of what we do generates 20 percent of our productivity. The implied sermon is that we should focus more of our attention and energy on what generates the most efficiency toward our goals. How can we do this if we are bogged down doing things that don’t align with our values and priorities? We must learn the art of letting go.
For my wife and I, leaving our old home behind and moving to a new location represented being closer to the things that matter most to our family. The move allowed us to focus on the environment and activities that are in line with our values and priorities. I wish you the best of success as you let go of the unnecessary and move daily toward your life’s purpose, vision, and destiny.