Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.
~ William Sloane Coffin, Jr.
Your Best Possible Space
What does your Best Possible Space look like? You know you want to be more organized, yet have you taken the time to really imagine what that would be like?
Why should that be important – after all, you “know” you want to be more organized, or maybe you just think you “should” be more organized. Not much juice around those thoughts.
You can “juice it up” by creating a powerful vision for yourself of how life would be like if you decluttered and cleared, found your treasures, and could find what you wanted instantly. And there’s a good reason why this added passion could make the difference between achieving your goals and disappointing yourself yet again.
If you’re optimistic about something, you’re more willing to expend effort to achieve it – in that way, optimistic thoughts can be self-fulfilling. No magic: just cause and effect.
However, many people think you’re either naturally optimistic or you’re not, and that’s that. Not true! You can cultivate optimism and reap the benefits not only around organizing but in every area of your life. Studies show optimistic people not only achieve more, but tend to be healthier and happier.
We love health and happiness, right? So how do you become more hopeful?
One of the ways to train yourself to be more optimistic is called the Best Possible Self Activity, as described by Sonja Lyubomirsky in her new book, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want.
People were told to write for a short period of time for several days in a row about what their ideal lives would look like. The results were dramatic: those who did this, compared to those who just wrote about other topics, “were more likely to show immediate increases in positive moods, to be happier several weeks later, and even to report fewer physical ailments” months later1.
Another way to do this is visualization. Some of the successful interventions I’ve used with my clients around decluttering and getting organized involved visualizing in as much detail as possible what the space would look like if it was ideal. We talk about the colors and exactly what items are where, what the sounds, smells, and feel of it might be; how others would react to it; how they would feel walking into that space.
That is a Best Possible Space activity and it has been a powerfully motivating one for my clients and myself. It’s often so motivating, projects we’d put off for ages get done – and the results are even better than we imagined!
I tried this with one of my clients, who immediately felt more enthusiasm for decluttering her home office, a job she’d been putting off for a long time. Afterwards, she reported that the gratification she felt when she walked into her newly-cleared space to work, as well as the reaction from her husband when he saw it, were deeper and made her happier than she’d thought they would.
Even though I’m talking about space here, this technique can be just as effective for decluttering your computer files, your email inbox, your photos, or your schedule.
It’s of course very important to know where you’re going when you set out to accomplish something. Yet how common it is for us to just concentrate on the mess at hand instead of the glorious goal.
No wonder we so often avoid decluttering. How overwhelming and demoralizing it is to contemplate a big pile of I-don’t-know-what-goes-where. If the pile is all we think about, all we see – well, it’s no wonder we’re slow to do anything about it.
Keeping the goal vibrant and visible is a proven motivational and transformational technique. One of the reasons it works is because if you believe an outcome is possible, that you can attain it, and are reminded of it often, you will persevere when things get rough. Any big project hits snags – you might get discouraged or impatient with your progress, or face challenges you aren’t prepared to handle. If your vision is clear and strong, you are more likely to keep going.
The science bears this out. Dr. Lyubomirsky states, “Researchers have shown that optimists are more likely to persevere and to engage fully even in the face of difficulty2. Optimism motivates us and leads us to take initiative. Optimists don’t easily give up. This is likely one major reason that optimists are more successful across a wide variety of arenas – professional, academic, athletic, social, and even health. And of course, persistence, social skill, vigor, health, and career success all are things that contribute to our happiness1.”
Visualize your ideal space in as much detail as possible. Keep your ideal where it’ll get your attention by writing it down and reading it over from time to time or by posting a visual representation somewhere you’ll see it often.
The visual could be one picture from a magazine that reminds you of how you want your space to be (or how you want to feel once you’re organized); it could be several pictures pasted on poster board; it could be a sketch you drew yourself; it could even be just a color or an object that brings to mind – and heart – the outcome and feeling you want.
To create the enthusiasm to declutter and get organized, to get past any overwhelming or discouraging feelings, tap into your natural optimism by keeping the vision vibrant and visible.
Enthusiasm is a kind of faith that has been set on fire. ~ George Matthew Adams
1. Lyubomirsky, Sonja (2008) The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want. (pp. 106-107) New York: The Penguin Press.
2. Segerstrom, C. C. (2001). Optimism, goal conflict, and stressor-related immune change. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12:441-67.