(4 minute read)
“Some people know a great deal; of no use.” –Jamie Cearley, PhD
I am a huge fan of decluttering. Closets and sock drawers are among my favorite targets. Yet, sometimes people have more desire to declutter their underwear drawer than they do their minds. I met someone recently who made me contemplate what kind of stuff I had crammed in my mind. Was there anything in there worth keeping?
I went to visit a small church in rural Tennessee. Extended family had lived there for several generations. Not surprisingly, an older gentleman was standing outside divulging some of the history behind the place. He spoke of an old one room school house and pointed, “Over there under those two Sycamore trees are the old steps. The building is gone but the old steps are there. Do you see them?” Knowing what a Sycamore tree looked like I was able to locate the steps he was referring too. Yet, the realization this man’s body of knowledge was in stark contrast to many others I know stood out more than the steps. It made me wonder, “Does what I know matter?”
Most Americans know quite a bit; yet little that matters. Not only do we know Hollywood stars, song lyrics, movie lines, cartoon characters, sports heroes, and a host of other trivial useless facts. But we also flood our brains with so much of this mental clutter we find it hard to fire two neurons in synchrony when it comes to something that has real bearing on life.
Maybe it is time to start rethinking our thinking. Click To Tweet It is time to start facing up to what and who is filling our minds.
It can make a person wonder, just how much do you need to declutter your mind?
Here are 4 Ways to Measure the Clutter in Your Mind:
- “Yes, I remember.” The information you find easy to recall is a sign of its importance and position in your life. How are you spending your time and energy? For example you might need to declutter your mind if remembering the names of television shows or sports stars is effortless yet naming friends is a little more challenging.
- “Let me do it.” Under what circumstances does what you know prove to be most useful? If the answer is something akin to, “If I am ever a contestant on Jeopardy I’ll be stinking rich,” you might want to make a change. If you are ready for more probable occurrences in life like the need to know how to cook, garden, sew, provide basic medical care, or cast an educated vote you are doing better. Ask yourself, what purpose am I using my knowledge for? What benefit is it to others? What good is it to me?
- “You know, they say…” I had a teacher in high school that used to say, “You know who “They” are? “They” are almost always a group of people who don’t know what they are talking about.” If you listen close you will discover a great deal of what others say is no more than a parroting of something they have heard. We parrot phrases, ideas, and even entire ideologies. Listen up; it is more common than you think. If you find yourself parroting, reflect on what the source of this information is and consider cutting it off. Being able to think for you is a strong indicator of a clear mind.
- “Did you see…?” It is easy to detect crazy amounts of mind clutter in someone who is unable to converse without making reference to a movie, TV show, song lyric, or post on Facebook. People have told me countless times how “deprived” I am because I have never seen such and such movie or don’t know who so and so is on TV. This does not offend me because I know the truth: I am not the one deprived.
At this point you might be thinking, “I have some serious mind clutter to clean out.”
Here is some help to declutter your mind.
Start With These 4 Tips to Declutter Your Mind:
- When You Find a Better Way, put it into practice. Sometimes we learn new information along the way. This new information allows us to improve ourselves. In this case we should do away with the old and cleave to the new. Do the best you can until you know better, then be humble enough to do better. Not only will you be ridding your mind of old clutter that doesn’t work so well, you will look pretty smart for doing so.
- Purge outdated information. Remember, sometimes information once useful can become useless. Yep, even if you have a wealth of knowledge in a useful area it still may not be good enough. You don’t just need to know what matters; you need to know what matters now. Facts and tidbits about molecular genetics and laboratory protocols used to cram my brain. This body of knowledge was useful on a daily basis when I was a lab rat. Today, on the farm, they are useless. Now, I wish I knew more about mechanics, electricity, and gardening and less about test tubes. Moreover, there is a genuine need to be lifelong learners. We need to adapt to our environment if what we know is going to matter.
- Seek to understand principles vs. memorize facts. Facts are good to know but having an understanding of principles is golden. One of the skills I learned in graduate school was to discern between information and understanding. I just had to know where to look to get all the information necessary to answer a question or solve a problem. Hence, there was no need to keep all the details in my head. What was harder to gain was an understanding of the situation, question, or problem. What principles apply? Moreover, I found understanding principles allowed me to move forward faster on new problems, where information was lacking.
- Stop the influx of clutter. Some common sources of clutter include TV, movies, magazines, social media and even the news. When you find yourself with some down time and wanting to relax beware opening the gates to mind clutter. Rather find positive activities you enjoy such as knitting, woodworking, playing a musical instrument, or reading on a topic of interest. Choosing to learn and be productive during times of relaxation shows you are on the right track to stopping the accumulation of mind clutter.
For the most part, I find myself wondering which concerns me more, what people know or what they don’t know. What is your brain filled with? Declutter your mind and make sure what you know matters. Then get going on those underwear and sock drawers.
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