The ancient Indian doctrine of Vastu – a word derived from the Sanskrit for a dwelling with a plot of land – focuses on how the design of our buildings and the layouts of their interiors affect our emotional state. The principles of Vastu are complex and numerous, but if they could be summed up in one word, it might be “order.” That order creates a clutter free environment that enhances both the spiritual and material wellbeing of the people living in the building.
Coming from a different culture further east, Zen aims to induce a state of mental calm through techniques that help us slow down and concentrate on one task at a time. Zen encourages us to recognize what’s of true value in our lives and what’s not, so that we can avoid wasteful activities and get rid of surplus possessions – in a word, de-clutter. The ideas behind both Vastu and Zen could hardly be more appropriate in today’s chaotic world.
My wife, Joey Garr, has been a huge inspiration in my life. She’s one of the clearest thinkers I know, and among other things, she helps people to de-clutter. Put simply, she goes into a home and reorganizes it from top to bottom, getting rid of clutter – the unnecessary stuff people hoard. When she leaves, the interior changes from being a daunting mess into a nurturing sanctuary. By de-cluttering the physical space, she creates an environment that encourages spiritual and emotional renewal. We both believe that clutter – both mental and physical – is one of the main reasons people don’t reach their full potential in life.
Many people, especially businesspeople, run out of steam once they achieve their first significant success. Various explanations are offered, but two stand out. One is that the struggle on the road to success is so exhausting that they don’t have the energy to repeat it. The other is that their first success was always their goal and they don’t feel a compelling need to repeat it. Though plausible, both of those explanations are wide of the mark.
First, all successful people work hard and get tired. But most have ways of dealing with tiredness and they’re rarely content to rest on their laurels once they achieve a major goal. Second, few ambitious people are satisfied with a single success because above all, they’re creative. If they’re entrepreneurs, money is essential to their plans, but by far their most valuable currency is ideas. Like painters, writers, or composers, they’re never short of ideas and have a compelling need to see those ideas bear fruit. Yet, while artists start their next project soon after finishing the last one, entrepreneurs rarely do the same.
The reason is that entrepreneurs tend to advance one business idea a few stages, then another idea and then another. They do it simply to test the pros and cons of each. But most of those tests never get beyond a crucial stage – the stage when a significant cash investment is required. At that point, confusion and fear take over. The confusion results in their inability to decide on which one of their ideas to run with, if any. The fear stems from the financial risk involved. Artists can decide to start one new project after another because they’re not taking huge financial risks, so de-cluttering their minds and focusing on one is not intimidating. We all need to take a lesson from artists; we need to regularly de-clutter and focus. We must choose one idea over the others and commit to it. It’s frightening, but as the famous British comedian, John Cleese, said, “Nothing will stop you being creative as effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”
Fear that disempowers is a consequence of clutter. When our mind is uncluttered, we may still be afraid, but we’re not incapacitated by the fear because our goals and the risks are plainly visible, and we’re fully aware of what’s ahead of us. To reach our full potential in life, we need an uncluttered mind. We can achieve it through various relaxation techniques, including meditation, yoga, and exercise, and the process is easier when our physical environment too is uncluttered. The techniques we adopt must be done routinely: we must get into the habit of de-cluttering. Good habits are powerful enablers. (See my separate two blogs: “The Winning Habit” and “Always Be Positive.”) We owe it to ourselves to break the chains of mental and physical clutter. When they’re broken, we become like an eagle released from captivity – free to soar to new and extraordinary heights.