Spring Cleaning For the Mind

by Roger Reid

We accumulate a lot of “stuff” during a year of living, and spring is traditionally the time to sort it out, dust it off, and throw away what is no longer useful or necessary.

The best place to begin? With our own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. In many ways, our minds are like a well-used closet, collecting old impressions, assumptions, and judgments—the clutter of life. Every once in a while, we need to take a look inside and determine what should stay and what needs to be swept from our lives. It’s really a chance to get back to basics, to recharge our motivation and, if necessary, make a few course corrections. And while the process can be rewarding, it can also be very challenging. After years of living, our values and aspirations may have become less focused, our daily actions ordered more by habit than choice. The result? Our dreams become a casualty of resigned indifference and uninspired repetition.

So how do we strip away the limiting patterns of complacency and routine? One of the best ways is to draw upon the experience of other like-minded souls who can offer advice from the perch of perspective and longevity.

And so with appreciation to my older and much wiser friends, here are seven suggestions offered by those who have lived long enough to take a look back and evaluate their own priorities–both good and bad–and if given the chance to relive their lives, would make sure the following are on their short list:

  1. Take care of yourself first. This is obviously contrary to the popular belief that we are here to serve others before ourselves. However, if you don’t take care of your own physical, mental, spiritual, and financial needs first, you’ll be in no shape to help anyone else. In fact, you’ll be the one needing assistance.
  1. Find and pursue your passion. Even though the word “passion” is overused, its meaning is clear: something you enjoy so much that you would do it even without compensation. Make it your vocation, and you will naturally strive to become the best at what you do, gaining the recognition and reward that accompanies excellence.
  1. Invest in travel. Try new destinations and make the effort to meet new people. There are places of incredible beauty that can amaze the senses and feed the soul. Don’t miss out on seeing as much of the world as you can—while you can.
  1. Have a best friend. This is a relationship with someone who does not judge, does not compete, does not envy, and is there when you need help—even when you don’t ask. A friend can come in all shapes, sizes, and age, and contrary to the stereotypes offered by TV sitcoms, your true friend can also be your spouse. The happiest couples are those who are also best friends.
  1. Develop a sense of awareness. Never underestimate the impact and influence that your attitude and actions have on the rest of the world. You make a difference every time you say hello to a stranger, hold the door open for someone behind you, or let the other driver move in front of you. You also make a difference when you don’t. The actions you take in behalf of others will not only make you a better and happier person, it can, over a lifetime, make the world a better place to live.
  1. Realize that not everything needs to be done. Not everything is important. It may seem to be at the moment, but when you find yourself getting wrapped up in frustrating details, ask yourself what difference it will make to you in a month from now.

  1. Enjoy the ride. It’s an old and familiar axiom—It’s not the destination, it’s the journey—and it’s never been more true. Said another way, if you’re not having fun getting there, you’re probably on the wrong road. Take time to enjoy life along the way. Take vacations. Visit with friends. Spend private time with your spouse. And do it while exploring the opportunities of a lifetime.