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Mental Obstacles, Emotional Obstacles, and Organizational Obstacles

Strategies and goals

buffaloI’ve been delving recently into how people make life changes in many different spheres, for instance in diet, work habits, organizational habits, relationships … and so I’ve begun listening to an audiobook called Stop Clutter From Stealing Your Life by a man named Mike Nelson. I’m not sure I can recommend it unreservedly (even apart from having not finished it), because some of it sounds a lot like an infomercial, but Nelson really does seem to get to some very meaningful information.

The most interesting thing Nelson, formerly a terrible clutterer himself, has brought to my attention so far is the difference between attacking the problem of clutter organizationally versus attacking it emotionally. As he describes it, clutterers will learn new organizational techniques and yet make no progress with their clutter because they’re running into emotional obstacles that have to be dealt with first. If a person is too afraid to tackle their clutter problem, it doesn’t really matter how many great techniques they have for cleaning out their closets.

So it can be useful, when we look at things that we’re not doing but want to be doing, to figure out whether our obstacles are emotional ones (like being afraid of what will happen if we start the task, or ashamed that we haven’t done it already), mental (like telling ourselves we’re doomed to failure without even trying), organizational (like not knowing where the time will come from to get the job done), or some mixture.

This is not to say that there aren’t external obstacles too, like not having the resources needed or having others who oppose us, but in terms of self-motivation, generally speaking all obstacles wind up being emotional, mental, or organizational.

And in an important sense, all three kinds of self-motivation obstacles are really mental obstacles, in that they can be tackled using cognitive approaches–that is, by changing our thinking. But that’s a topic for another time. For today, it’s worth just asking ourselves: what’s really standing in my way? To get past this obstacle, do I need support from a friend? Help working out fear or anger or guilt? More confidence? A better way to think about things? Time? Better planning? Once we know what kinds of obstacles we face, we can understand better how to overcome them.

Photo by code poet

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