Your Personal Renaissance

Life's true calling

Are You Ready for a New Year's Revolution?

Start simplifying your life—one subversive step at a time

Instead of the usual resolutions, this year I’ve decided to begin a New Year’s Revolution, rebelling against the compulsive consumerism that litters our lives with clutter and stress. The DSM 5 lists hoarding disorder as a new form of obsessive compulsive disorder in which people accumulate items they do not need, experiencing “indecisiveness, perfectionism, avoidance, procrastination, difficulty planning and organizing tasks, and distractibility.” This disorder reportedly affects only 2%-6% of people in the United States and Europe (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 249). But how many of us lead cluttered lives at lesser extremes? Most houses in my neighborhood have their garages packed so full of “stuff” that people park their cars on the street. Our lives are littered with advertisements, shopping has become a popular sport, and many of us lead frantic lives, with schedules so packed there’s hardly time to breathe.

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And the holiday gift-giving season.

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“Our life is frittered away by detail. . . . Simplify, simplify” wrote Henry David Thoreau over 150 years ago. His advice is even more relevant today (Thoreau, 2004, p. 73). Simplifying  gives us time to breathe, to renew ourselves, to reflect on what we value and where we’re going in life. Then we can make more mindful choices, making a positive difference not only in our own lives but in the world around us.

If you’d like to start your own New Year’s Revolution, ask yourself what old pattern you’d like to release—a cluttered household? a cluttered schedule? an unproductive habit that drains your time and energy? Remember to keep it simple: focus on only one pattern at a time.

Then follow this simple strategy from Hope Therapy: Think of three small steps you can take to release the old pattern.

For a cluttered household:

  1. Pick an area—perhaps a cluttered home office.
  2. Focus on clearing out one small space, one surface or desk drawer at a time.
  3. Recycling or discard items you no longer need or put them in a donation bag for others to use.

For a cluttered schedule:

  1. Think of one non-essential task you can eliminate to free up more time.
  2. This could involve cancelling out of an excessive commitment, delegating, or asking for help.
  3. Then practice saying “No” before over committing yourself in the future.

For an unproductive habit—whether it’s putting yourself down, mindlessly watching TV, or aimlessly surfing the Internet:

  1. Take out a 3x5 card and start keeping track of how often you do this.
  2. Write down the time as well (how many minutes or hours)
  3. Just focusing your attention will put you on the path of positive change. A close friend even stopped smoking this way, gradually cutting down when he began keeping score.

The next step from Hope Therapy is to visualize yourself actively achieving your goal and enjoying the results (Feldman & Dreher, 2012).

Then smile as you begin your own quiet revolution, transforming your life and our world, one small act at a time.

References:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.

Feldman, D. B. & Dreher, D. E. (2012). Can hope be changed in 90 minutes? Testing the efficacy of a single-session goal-pursuit intervention for college students. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13, 45-759.

Thoreau, H. D. (2004). Walden. New York, NY: Signet.

Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book, about living with greater power and purpose, is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.

Follow Diane on Twitter: Diane Dreher (@dianedreher) on Twitter

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Diane Dreher, Ph.D. is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor of English at Santa Clara University. where she serves as associate director of the Spirituality and Health Institute.

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