Two categories of stuff illustrated in the book include The Good Stuff and the Not-So-Good Stuff. We can all come up with examples, as Johnson did, of The Good Stuff: love, confidence, happiness, healthy self-esteem, achievements, successes, tender moments with family and friends and life events such as birthdays, graduations and weddings. Usually these experiences create the stuff we want.
And then there's the flipside - the Not-So-Good Stuff - a combination of emotions described by Johnson as being sparked by anger, frustration, depression, humiliation and past experiences. These feelings could stem from life circumstances such as getting laid off from a job after 20 years, going through a messy divorce, being unsatisfied with your body because it is too fat, too short, too tall.
This not-so-good stuff, combined with our internal thought process, keeps us stuck in a rut and prevents us from growing. "Letting Go of Stuff" poses six questions at the beginning, asking for simple yes-or-no answers:
The book walks the reader through specific exercises to design a customized plan for change, with an eye toward the pitfalls that accompany such well-meaning endeavors. It's chock-full of personal stories and journal entries that illustrate the author's points such as choosing to focus on things that we can control, rather than wasting energy on those things we can't.
A big part of the process is in recognizing what we want to let go, realizing we will go through changes when we decide to let it go, creating a plan for integrating something new to replace the old thing, and then repeating the new activity over and over again. Johnson refers to this as: Unfreezing; New action; Refreezing.
The general rule of thumb is that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. That's why consistency is so critical. Our systems are used to a certain way of doing things, and we often upset our internal apple carts when we try to make wholesale changes all at once. In fact, this is one surefire way to sabotage ourselves. And then the cycle of backsliding starts.
There are theories that say our environment reflects what is happening to us internally. So, if you find yourself holding onto more and more material stuff, it may be reflecting the need to let go of more and more internal stuff. Food for thought.
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and founder and chairwoman of The Arnold Agency, an integrated marketing communications firm in Charleston. Reader comments or questions may be mailed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mail livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com.