February 7, 2016

Do Your Pajamas Spark Joy? And Other Key Career Questions

Jump For Joy

Jump For Joy

I have two questions for you, dear readers,

“Do your pajamas spark joy?” And….

“Is there room for your rocks in your container of life?”

These are two questions you should be asking yourself if you want to jump- start your career change process.

Sounds as if I’ve gone nuts, I am sure, unless you’ve read Marie Kondo’s, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and Stephen Covey’s, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Hang with me. I promise I’ll connect the dots.

The topic for today is how creating space in both our home environment and schedule invites in new opportunities and positive change. When our closets and drawers are stuffed full, and our schedule packed with obligations, there is little room for something new to enter in. It’s very difficult to give time and attention to anything other than not falling off the hamster wheel.

Marie Kondo’s book urges clutter-free-wanna-be clients to systematically go through everything they own and ask a simple, yet powerful question:

“Does this ________ (insert book, T-shirt, DVD, pair of pajamas, old love letter, etc.) spark joy?”

She uses this question as a test to determine whether or not an item should stay or go. While it may feel odd to ask if your Tupperware sparks joy, I see merit to the question. I like it because it challenges me to notice what my relationship is to all the things in my environment. Am I hanging onto things because keeping them is easier than dealing with them? Do I have more than I need? Do I get a spark of joy when I look at the knickknacks on my shelf, or are they just gathering dust?

When we have too much of anything, whether it’s clothes, lipsticks, CD’s or old papers, we don’t fully appreciate what we have. The value of the individual item is diminished. The more we acquire, the more time we spend purchasing, cleaning, maintaining and storing things. And periodically we have to go through everything and do the big declutter.

When I was reading Kondo’s book, I did an experiment. I separated my clothes into two closets. The clothes I really enjoy wearing and feel good in (the sparky ones) went in one closet. The others that were low on the “spark-o-meter” were hung in another.

When I opened the “sparking joy” closet, my energy perked up. The clothes looked like they belonged together and I was excited to pick something out. When I peered into the other closet, my shoulders drooped. The clothes were kind of ho-hum and I felt I was looking at a Goodwill rack. They weren’t the clothes I felt my best in. After a week of this experiment, and no change in my feelings, I bagged up the ho-hum clothes and gave them away. As soon as they were gone, it was as if a weight had been lifted. Those clothes had been extracting an energy tax, as well as taking up space.

A home with only what you need and love feels peaceful and light. Here it is easier to focus; there is a feeling of calm and order. This kind of environment will support you in whatever changes you want to make.

Now on to the rocks.

The second part of creating space, the rocks and container part, has to do with getting clear on what is most important to you, and making sure you put these things into your schedule first.

In his 7 Habits book, Stephen Covey uses a parable involving putting rocks, pebbles, sand, and water into a container to illustrate the value of prioritizing what matters most in your day-to-day life. The rocks represent what is most important to you, and the pebbles, sand, and water, are everything else you have to do. If you don’t put the rocks in your container first, but try to stuff them in around the sand and pebbles, you won’t get your rocks in.

Your rocks could represent time for meaningful relationships, healthy living, completing a project, focusing on spirituality, or anything that really matters to you. For many of you, it may be allotting time to reinvigorate your career or change its direction. A rock can even be a space-holder. For example, you may want to have more creativity or adventure in your life, but have no idea what this would look like. You can put in a rock to hold this time for you while you figure out the specifics.

In my own experience, it was only in hindsight that I learned about the power of these principles. When I was in limbo after selling my dermatology practice, I downsized from a 2,400 square foot house to a tiny cabin. I got rid of most of my possessions. I emptied out my container and took time deciding what to put back in. For a while, there was a lot of space in my container. And then one day, rather unexpectedly, a new career direction emerged out of that space.

There’s no need to go to the extremes I did. It’s not practical, nor desirable for most. I see people making powerful changes all the time, and no one yet has moved into a cabin. (And I’ve moved out of mine). But I do hear about a lot of good closet cleaning, renovations, and just plain saying “no” to things that no longer serve a purpose.

So get out the spark-o-meter, go through your house and see what moves the needle. Find a beautiful glass container, select your rocks, and make sure to put them in first. If you want, label each rock as a visual reminder of what matters most to you. And go easy on the pebbles and sand….