In a world full of polarities where one side of the fence is telling you to do more, hustle harder and push yourself to the limit, the other side is telling you to do less, focus on less, and be surrounded by less if you really want to succeed.
If I’m honest, I’ve mostly lived on the hustle-harder side of the fence. A fierce overachieving, high-performing, recovering perfectionist who struggles with ‘slow and steady’, with one pace, fast. If you want sh!t doing, I’m your woman. I gave up on ‘to-do’ lists years ago, instead having a ‘get done’ list, where if it’s down it's done, and I’ve always stuck with that.
In my corporate career, I was the innovator, the rebel, the first one to try things differently, always striving for more, always working harder, always coming up with new ideas and new ways to do things, and it’s been pretty much the same in my own businesses since I left the corporate world in 2014.
And yet, throughout 2022, I found myself wanting less.
Not wanting to achieve less, I’m still driven, I’m still ambitious, I’m still hard-working, and I still work fast, but I wanted fewer distractions. I wanted to offer fewer services in my business. I wanted to work with fewer people at a deeper level. I wanted to run fewer events. I wanted less social media and a lot less news. I wanted less TV. Less noise. I wanted less ‘stuff’ around me. I wanted less stress. I wanted less choice.
I wanted simplicity, I wanted to focus, and I wanted ease. And yet our lives aren’t really created for this are they? We’re always on, always striving, always pushing. We’re told that climbing the ladder also means a bigger house, which we fill with more stuff. In our businesses, we need to sell more, be more visible, offer more things and make more money.
On December 22nd I deleted all of my social media accounts from my phone and I promised myself a proper digital detox over the Christmas break. I’ve promised myself this before but found myself sneaking back on filled with FOMO or just because I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year, and then instead of using the apps, I’d log on from my mobile browser instead, telling myself I’d deleted the apps, only really kidding myself.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve connected with myself, my partner, and my family and it’s felt wonderful. And I’ve had my usual decluttering, although this year, it wasn’t a usual declutter, it was a mammoth declutter.
A few times a year I go through my wardrobe and clear out what I haven’t worn in a while, what no longer fits, and what I don’t feel fabulous in. And I always thought I did a good job of keeping on top of it until I realised that I haven’t been at all.
This declutter involved getting it all out, on the bed, the floor, any surface I could find, and really going through it, but with an additional question ‘does this reflect who I am?’ Two days, 19 bin liners and three bags later (some for selling, some for donations, and some for rubbish), and our entire house has been broken down, blitzed, and put back together again. Absolutely everything we’ve kept has a place, everything can be seen and accessed, and what we have, is what we use.
And, looking around, we could still let go of more, because we have more than enough. But for now, we’re enjoying what we have.
I’m not a hoarder, I don’t have stuff all over the house, and we don’t have cupboards full of things, and yet it’s only in getting it all out, and being surrounded by everything, that I could see what I actually have, what I actually want, what I actually need and what I wanted to let go of.
I’ve also deleted contacts, emails, files, photos, newsletter sign-ups and more, I’ve cut down even more on what I’m offering in my business, I have just three goals in my business for this year and two personal goals with my partner. And that’s it. Which for me is a HUGE achievement.
But, the biggest shift of all in letting quite literally all of this sh!t go, is my energy. It’s not so much the stuff that I’ve been surrounded by that’s been weighing me down, but the reason for having so much stuff in the first place. Despite having done some REALLY deep work on myself over the last 10 years, shopping has always been my thing. I do it when I’m bored, when I’m sad, when I’m happy, just because I’ve got 10 minutes because a sale email came through because something on my social feed said I needed this ‘life-changing fill in the blank’, because all of the stuff would make me feel better about me, would make me be a better me, and would help me to help more people by being a better me.
And when you’re surrounded by thousands of pounds of clothes you have never worn and hundreds of pounds of cosmetics, including 44 eyeshadows and 14 body lotions – I mean really!!, you’re faced with a lot of stuff staring you straight in the face that you can’t just shove back in a wardrobe and pretend like you didn’t see it. Although you can, it seems I’ve been doing it my entire life. But the shift this time round was facing it and letting that shit go, all of it. And OMFG do I feel better for it.
And, as an added bonus, I seem to have lost quite a lot more sh!ts for what anyone else thinks either. My partner and I wrote a list each of all of the sh!ts we’ll be giving less of, and that was a weight off our shoulders too.
And yet, as I woke this morning, ready to start the new working year, I found myself back into the headspace of having all of the stuff to do, all of the things to achieve, and all of the places I need to be seen, as well as the ‘what am I going to wear today’ conundrum.
I stopped, took a deep breath, and journaled.
I reaffirmed my goals for the year, I reaffirmed ease and simplicity, I practiced my yoga, and I sat down to write, waiting for the sun to rise so I could get out with the dog, (I don’t enjoy walking her in the dark).
And I focused back on me.
This year, I’m going for a year of less.
Less sh!ts given.
And it’s already giving me more calm, more time and more space.
Whatever you want to do for you, today, this month, this year, do it your way, and do it for you be it more or less, do what makes you happy and don’t give a sh!t about the rest.
And if you've cupboards full of stuff, metaphorical or otherwise that you think on the face of it isn't that bad, try getting it all out in the open, looking it in the face, and seeing what you could really let go of this year.
Kelly Swingler is an Executive Coach, Speaker and Author at kellyswingler.com. She burned out not once, but twice, and has been passionate about preventing burnout since 2014.
Her latest book, Mind The Gap; A Story of Burnout, Breakthrough and Beyond is helping people from around the world make changes in their lives and acknowledge the stress they have been putting on themselves.
Kelly talks to audiences from around the world about mindset and burnout, sharing her story and experience, and her geek time is spent focusing on Changing The World of Work, Neuroscience and Burnout research.