Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Letting your actions inform you about your nature

My boyfriend's new book came out today (Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect with Yourself and Others, New World Library). Although I helped edit the book and am intimately familiar with it, looking at the book in its final form was like seeing a newborn you've felt growing inside your partner's belly for the better part of a year.

Here's what compels me about Brooks's transformational philosophy: instead of trying to change who you are, he starts with what your actions tell him, and he uses that to inform all future decisions. As a clutter buster, he sees clients who are hoping to separate their crap from their treasures. A lot of them give themselves grief about buying things they never use (scrapbooks, crochet materials, even cars). His response is, essentially, "So you're not using that. Must not be that interesting to you after all. What do you like to do? I see your paints are well used. You must like painting. Let's make sure your paints have a place in your home."

Living with him, hearing his talks, and reading his books I've realized that there's so much pressure to try to make ourselves over but in fact we are usually just right the first time.

I have adopted his philosophy, and now I see that when I put off doing something it's because I don't really want to do it. I haven't put my photos in order for years. So what? I must not want to do that. There's plenty I don't put off: writing this blog, working on scientific papers, analyzing data, and taking care of my son. I must want to do those things.

By the Brooks Principle, my nature is NOT to be a person who enjoys putting photos in order. My nature IS to be someone who likes to write, do science, and be a mom.

Accepting where we are doesn't mean we can't stretch and change and grow, but it means we need to appreciate the messages that our actions (and inactions) are giving us. It means we can learn about ourselves, stop blaming ourselves for what we learn, and use that knowledge to continue to feed and nourish who we are.

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