Tips from organizing consultant Marie Kondo. Advice from the best-selling book “The Home Edit.” Gigantic trash bags. There are plenty of ways to clean out your physical space.
Our heads, or our thoughts, are tougher. There’s no formula for folding our worries into thirds and no foolproof method to organize the junk drawer of our minds. Often, when intrusive thoughts pop up, we shove them aside—like piling old shoes into a closet. Until one day, you open the door, and those shoes tumble out.
At meQuilibrium, we think of these deeply held beliefs as Iceberg Beliefs, or deeply entrenched rules about how we believe the world should be and how we and others should behave. For example: “I should take charge of this situation, because nobody else will,” or “I can’t let anyone see me upset at work.”
Icebergs are tricky, because 99 percent of them lie beneath the surface of our awareness. At the same time, those subconscious thoughts also tend to take charge of our emotions. But it’s possible to steer around Icebergs, so they don’t hit us when we least expect it. When we become aware of our Iceberg Beliefs, we can gain more control over our emotions and our lives.
Here’s how to declutter your head.
1. Identify your Iceberg Beliefs.
Just like you know a closet is too cluttered when you can’t open it, an Iceberg Belief has telltale signs, too. Usually it feels absolute and includes words such as “must” or “should.” It also produces a strong emotional response when you run up against it. Let’s say you’re late for work, but you believe you always need to be on time. If you begin screaming at a traffic light, well, you’ve hit an Iceberg.
To identify Iceberg Beliefs, start by observing your thoughts. Icebergs usually fall into three categories: achievement, social, or control.
Achievement Icebergs often come into play at work or in any situation where you have an important role. Using work as an example, you might think, “I should do everything right so that I’m valued and admired.” As a result, you might be terrified of failure—falling short on a project or not immediately having the “right” answer. If one of these events comes to pass, you become upset, because it affects your core belief system.
Social Icebergs involve all types of relationships, professional and personal. An example of this would be: “I want everyone to like me.” So if you aren’t included in a lunch group at work, for instance, you might assume that you’re being snubbed and become angry and sad.
Control Icebergs often relate to expectations and plans. An example of this type of thinking would be: “I must be in charge. If I don’t take the lead, nothing will get done.” For instance, you might try to think of everything that needs to be done in relation to a project. But if events don’t unfold as planned—and, let’s face it, they might not—you become unreasonably upset, because you feel powerless.
2. Pinpoint when these beliefs appear.
Do you get incredibly stressed during vacations, because you orchestrate everything and are nervous your friends won’t like it? Maybe you feel anxious during company presentations, because you’re afraid of appearing weak. Think back to the last time you blew up out of proportion to the situation. Chances are you can trace that emotion to an Iceberg Belief.
3. Steer around the Icebergs.
Now that you’ve pinpointed several Iceberg Beliefs, get rid of that mental clutter by challenging the thought. Think of these “ice breakers” as filing cabinets for your mind.
Let’s go back to our previous examples. What’s a more realistic and helpful way to re-organize these thoughts so that they serve you?
Instead of: “I should do everything right so that I’m valued and admired.”
Consider: “I’m only human, and I’m doing the best that I can. I don’t have to be perfect in order for people to appreciate my value.”
Instead of: “I want everyone to like me.”
Consider: “People connect for a variety of reasons. It’s not necessary for me to connect with everyone. I’m going to open up to, talk with, and listen to people to discover who I might have things in common with and get to know them better.”
Instead of: “I must be in charge. If I don’t take the lead, nothing will get done.”
Consider: “I’m great at organizing, but I’m not the only person with ideas on how to accomplish tasks. Also, things often change–and that’s okay. I can adjust and come up with new ideas.”
The results of mental decluttering can be as satisfying as a spotless closet, but with a much greater impact on your wellbeing.