What we cannot let go of has control over us.
As any of my clients will tell you, my coaching sessions begin with an exercise we call “Clearing the Space”. In summary: an opportunity to simply notice background thoughts and preoccupations, acknowledge them and put them down – just for now.
There are 2 crucial elements to this exercise:
- Labelling the emotion that’s attached to the thought. We can’t have a feeling without a thought, nor a thought without a feeling. And so: I want my acknowledgement to recognise both. And where the emotion is concerned, I want to give it a name – to dampen my limbic brain’s response to it and keep my “thinking brain” online.
- Giving permission to place the focus and attention elsewhere. Our “thinking brain” is nothing like as capacious as our unconscious mind. And so I want to be intentional about where I place my limited focus. But I can’t un-think those other thoughts. So I need to allow myself to let them go.
And you might notice that this exercise is specifically NOT saying these background thoughts are unimportant. Rather, it simply says these thoughts are unhelpful distractions for right now, when I want to focus on something else.
Letting go of these cognitive burdens sounds obvious – but it’s not in our nature. Left to our own devices, we carry these thoughts around with us like weighty bags of bricks strapped to each arm.
Which is why all my sessions start with that simple focusing exercise – allowing us to move forward feeling clear and ready to focus.
Imagine if we could apply that not just to a coaching session, but to the whole day. Here’s how.
Claiming your headspace for the day
At the start of each day, we all likely have things on the list (either our actual physical list, prepared that morning – or just the ongoing list of stuff that needs doing) we just know we’re not going to get to.
We keep those items on the list because we don’t want to forget them. Or it’ll be an item for tomorrow. Or perhaps maybe, just maybe I will get to it today (even though this is the third week in a row I’ve said that on a daily basis – and still nada!). Or perhaps it’s the big strategic project that gets done once (if) all the day-to-day activity gets done.
These extra items are examples of exactly the cognitive burden we’ve just said would be great to put down.
So add this question to your morning routine:
“What do I need to let go of, for today?”
Get intentional putting down the stuff you’re not going to get to. Give yourself permission to let go of what you won’t get to anyway. And remind yourself that in saying “no” to the extras, you’re saying “yes” to your priorities.
Your new daily practice
A final thought: make this a practice. Something you consciously and diligently apply, with discipline and routine. Not a task. Not an activity. A practice, woven into the fabric of your morning routine.