At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived.
– Nicole Krauss (The History of Love)
Lately, most of my very successful and massively creative friends have admitted to a problem. They all have a compulsion and they don’t know how it happened. It turns out that they have developed a pattern of behavior that quite simply can be called nothing less than the extravagant possession of information, techniques, and wisdom. No . . . that’s not quite right. If we’re going to examine this condition precisely, then we must use precise descriptions. My friends don’t obsessively collect information, techniques, and wisdom. They obsessively collect the containers for such things. In other words, these warriors of commerce buy, gather, and download books and magazines and save emails and websites . . . BUT THEY DON’T READ OR USE THEM! There is almost some strange sense of other-worldly thought transference they believe will take place by simply having a book or magazine or email or website near at hand.
On the other end of the spectrum are the devil-may-care personalities – those friends who believe themselves to be the victims of information overload. Their mechanism of defense to their information burdens has become a trash-it-all mindset. You know the type . . . these are the ones who have relegated themselves to moving through life with just the knowledge and information they have already accumulated. They have closed down. They are not open to anything new and different. They are happy to stay right where they are in life.
In helping you to fashion a magical life strategy that continues to move you forward towards realization of your dreams, I urge you to consider the following: both of these types of people are reacting to fear. And, in running from this fear, both the pack-rat and trash-it-all individuals want the same thing – control. In other words, for the pack-rat mentality, amassing a collection of books and magazines and information (even if unread and unused) provides the comfort of being able to say, “I will have just what I need at hand when the time comes,” in an otherwise stress-laden world. And the trash-it-all type, in blindly discarding books, magazines, and information (that have yet to be read or used) obtains comfort by eliminating what they believe to be part of the unwanted deluge of information they receive on a daily basis.
My own research and experience indicate that both types are really just continually filling (the pack-rat) or trying to keep from overflowing (the trash-it-all) emotional holes created from insecurity, anxiety, and a sense of danger. There is a secret two-step short-cut, of course, to finding a middle ground so that you can easily stay open to new information and wisdom while also drawing boundaries over how much information and wisdom you can take on at any given moment.
FINDING A MIDDLE GROUND
STEP ONE. Take a real look at what either being a pack-rat or trash-it-all type is doing to you. What is truly motivating you? Is this mindset really serving you well or is it just a senseless reaction to the world around you? When you examine the authentic reasons for your mindset, an awakening immediately takes place and a new clear-headed vision is available to you.
STEP TWO. Start being discerning. Eliminate the prior strategy that no longer serves you. In its place, examine new bits of information and wisdom on a case-by-case basis. Instead of going through life with an irrational habit and always asking “what if I need this?” (the pack-rat) or always saying “I will never need this?” (the trash-it-all), become more realistic. You may, in fact, judge something to be useful for you in the future. And, you may evaluate something not to be too effective for you in the foreseeable future. The decision you make is not what’s important in changing your routine. The significant change comes when you realize you can bring a critical eye to each decision and be comfortable in doing so.
It is easy to now see that you are no longer a slave to either a pack-rat or trash-it-all mentality. Instead, you are now free to harvest information, experience, understanding, and wisdom on a case-by-case basis and delight in that state of affairs.
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