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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Building Routines Equals Building Self-Confidence

In my life, I've found nothing more life-affirming than building new skills. To gain a skill, you must perform the task habitually. You don't aim for perfection, but you should aim for excellence. When you are first doing the task, one may feel awkward, even foolish. You view other people who are already skillful at it & shake your head in wonder, knowing that you're a rank amateur, thinking you can't possibly master this. And yet you end up doing just that, maybe even becoming a teacher someday yourself. Think of all the things you've accomplished in your life which at one time were seemingly-impossible tasks. Learning to walk, drive a car, use a computer, write a thesis, craft a business letter...the list goes on, and varies from person to person. But we have all become a success at something. Remember that experience right now. I want you to feel the pride in knowing that you became a master at something. I then want you to take that attitude & apply it to something that you're struggling with making a routine today.

Whether you're having trouble remembering to make your bed every day, work out each morning before work, spend more time with your kids or cleaning out your closet. All of us are almost always in the process of trying to gain some new skill, or at the very least remain masterful at what we're already doing. It's not easy to take the first steps. It's hard to watch others who seem to do things so effortlessly while you're huffing & puffing. Who wants to be the one struggling with learning the steps of an aerobics class? Who wants to be rebuked by a teacher for giving the wrong answer in class or missing an important sentence when reciting a monologue? No one does. Absolutely no one wants to be seen as a failure. But there's a big difference between being a beginner & being a failure. It's interesting how many of us confuse the two! The important thing to remember is this- you aren't a failure if you keep trying every day to accomplish something. You may find after a time that you're not meant to do the task you've attempted. Maybe it just doesn't suit your natural talents or you have no enjoyment in performing it. There may be someone around you who does the task with great ease and/or enjoyment, and you're meant to do something else. But you'll never know for sure unless you attempt the task to begin with! Attempt to do the task. Try it a few times. Take notes. Learn what you can from others who have gone before you & mastered the job. You'll know then- and only then- if it's not for you. Step away from the fear of being seen as a beginner or from making public mistakes. No one who ever walks out of their comfort zone experiences success at all times. You'll have skill sets that you'll find you just aren't meant to take on. There's nothing wrong with this. To a great extent, we should go with our natural inclinations, our natural talents. But every one of us has tasks which we simply have to do, whether we like it or not. If it's a task that you have to do in life anyway, then research how to do it as smoothly, quickly & joyfully as possible. Seek out the methods of success in the skill that will shave off time, increase your efficiency & minimize your messes. Never be afraid to ask someone who's gone before you how to to do things correctly. Most people are glad to share what you know. Look around for a mentor, and I can almost certainly promise you that one will appear. Most people have not because they ask not.

I was once a clueless housekeeper. My home looked like a tornado went through it by the time it got to weekly housecleaning. I was so depressed & frustrated because no one had ever taught me the habits of maintaining a neat home. I tried very hard to clean well when I did take out the tools of the trade, but I lacked knowledge of how to make it easier. Not until I began reading from mentors, people who had walked the path before me, did I start to get a clue. I had to acknowledge that I wasn't an expert, first of all. That I had something to learn (well, a lot of things, actually). But then I had to do the tasks myself. I had to perform the suggestions over & over again. Through my own trial-and-error, I learned what worked for me. I became my own expert. I even developed my own new methods eventually. This can happen to you, too. In fact, you should expect it if you stick with something long enough. I did not start out on the path feeling bold & confident about my abilities. I wasn't sure that I could master being a good homemaker. I believed that I was lazy, unstable or irresponsible- after all, I'd certainly been told more than once that it must be a character flaw causing my lack of success in homemaking. It wasn't that at all, though. It was a combination of having no mentor, no practice & no real resources, not some horrid immorality I possessed. You may have been told your whole life that you're messy, unsuccessful or incapable. You may have had it far worse than I did & possessed a parent or siblings who undermined your confidence at every turn. You might have been told that you could never amount to much in life, naturally inept or stupid. If I can do anything today, I hope that it's release you from that mental bondage. Because those words of negativity which were spoken are just flat-out lies. You can build new habits at any time, and be astoundingly successful at them! Will it happen instantaneously, this mastery? Not likely. But I know that it can happen, because I've lived it! I know now how to keep an organized binder for school. I know how to clean a house from top-to-bottom thoroughly in two hours or less. I know how to keep my house looking nice with an hour's work or less a day. Yet ten years ago, I had not one of those skills & would never have believed that it wasn't my own immensely flawed brain to blame. But it wasn't true! There was nothing wrong with my brain. I just didn't know the steps to take, and I hadn't practiced the steps yet. That's all. I no longer live in condemnation. If you're struggling with confidence in this area, feeling bad about yourself, I want you to know that you're not alone. But I want you to have hope that it doesn't have to be that way. We don't have to live under that guilt.

I started my journey years ago by reading Elaine St. James' "Simplify Your Life", which was a huge help in turning the corner for good. The more minimalist you become, the easier keeping a home will become automatically. I highly recommend reading FlyLady's work at www.flylady.net. Do what she teaches for awhile, even if you're unsure if she's right. Just give it a try for a month- believe me, when the need arises for you to adapt her teachings to your lifestyle & home, you'll be able to do so. You don't have to buy anything new or subscribe to anything if you don't want to- her program is free & you can just use what you already own to get started. Peruse every book you can on the subjects you're struggling with, be it weekly housecleaning, becoming a better student, organizing you desk or de-cluttering your closets. Review different books on Amazon to see what might be a good addition to your library. Read "Speed Cleaning" by Jeff Campbell if you don't know how to get weekly cleaning done in a speedy, efficient, thorough manner. Google topics that you need answers on to improve your organizing skills or whatever else you need help with. Ask questions of online writers like me if you have questions along the way- that's what we're here for. Most important of all, don't give up on yourself or your goals. 

Here's to being a happy organized minimalist,
Liz 

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