When was the last time that you did a thorough “spring cleaning” of all your stuff? Stuff in your homes, offices, vehicles, lockers, and other places. If it’s been a while, then perhaps it’s time to make a date with yourself. Put it on the calendar. Then go through your stuff to be sure it is S.M.A.R.T. • Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. S.M.A.R.T. stuff supports both our intentions and our performance by making things easier.
While many people on this planet suffer from too little stuff, including the basic stuff for human subsistence, most people who are reading this suffer from too much stuff. Dan Pink calls this the age of abundance. To keep our interest, producers generate thousands of new products every year. Lured in by the promises of bigger, faster, and better, consumers gobble them up at a record pace. As a result, total debt in the United States • $147,312 per person or $589,248 per family of four • is at an all-time high (63 times more than it was 50 years ago).
What are we doing with all the stuff we consume? Storing it! We have more cars than we have licensed drivers and more stuff than we know what to do with. The self-storage industry, a business devoted to providing people a place to house their extra stuff, has revenues approaching $20 billion per year • almost twice that of the motion picture industry. Of all the Real Estate Investment Trusts in 2005, self-storage posted the largest returns of any real estate sector, 23%, beating malls by 4%, multifamily residences by nearly 10%, and hotels by 13%. We build houses for our extra stuff while countless people go homeless.
Self-improvement is no stranger to the glut of stuff. Consider the following products, randomly culled from health and fitness magazines:
- To whisk away fat while keeping foods moist, we can buy vertical indoor grills.
- To reduce cholesterol, we can buy foods enriched with phytosterols.
- To keep us moving, we can buy wireless running trackers for GPS-enabled phones.
- To fully equip a home gym, we can buy 12 must-have and 9 nice-to-have elements (including peppermint candles).
- To ease aches and pains, we can buy countless products promising a world of relief.
- To relieve stress, we can buy a variety of computer-based biofeedback devices.
At the same time as we encounter ever more stuff to help with our nutrition, fitness, and stress levels, the epidemics of obesity, depression, and anxiety rage on. All the stuff in the world is apparently not enough, and may even be partially the cause, of why so many people fail to move forward in the direction of optimal wellness. It’s easy to get swept away and lost in the ever-rising tide of stuff.
That’s what happens when our stuff is D.U.M.B. • Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, andBurdensome. It holds us back more than it moves us forward. The key is to make our stuff S.M.A.R.T. Specific stuff that supports us in reaching Measurable and Achievable goals isRelevant to their Timely realization. That’s the kind of stuff that’s worth having around.
Cheryl Richardson, a well-known life-makeover coach, recently wrote about how this works in an article called “One Tweak = Big Change” Click. To quote Cheryl:
“For the last few months I’ve been attending spinning classes at my local gym in an effort to accomplish my goal of increasing my strength and endurance. Spinning is when a group of people on stationary bikes ride in unison to great music. One evening, just before the class, I had a conversation with a gentleman next to me who was putting on special spinning shoes sneaker type shoes that clipped into the pedals. I asked if they really made a difference and he replied, ‘Absolutely. This one little adjustment improved my performance, allowed me to increase my intensity, and gave me a more efficient and effective workout. You really ought to give them a try.'”
“So I did. I went out and got me some new spinning shoes, and during the next class I was amazed at the result. I had no idea how much harder my workout had been without the right equipment. By using the correct shoes, I had more stability, greater strength, and I left with an unexpected gift • a renewed sense of motivation about working out. That one little adjustment made a huge difference in the pursuit of my goal, and it inspired me to look at how this lesson might extend to other areas of our lives.”
“Is there something you need to add to or subtract from your life to improve your chances of achieving an important goal for 2007? To answer that question, try this. First, identify a goal. Then, think about what you need — equipment, support, information, etc., • to increase your motivation by making the process easier.”
That’s a great description of how S.M.A.R.T. stuff supports us in reaching our goals by making the process easier and more fun. Here are some other examples:
The LifeTrek Optimal Wellness Prototype Click encourages the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as lean, local, pasture-fed meat, wild game, skinless, free-range poultry from birds that scratch in the open air, and wild fish. To cook these foods, the Prototype encourages the use of water and steam rather than oil or open fire.
Even though I love to cook, with plenty of well-used pots and pans, I recently purchased a steamer from Black & Decker Click that has had the same effect on me as the bike shoes have had on Cheryl: it has increased my motivation by making the process easier and more fun. I particularly love the timing guide, printed right on the side with settings for both fresh and frozen vegetables as well as meat, so as to avoid both overcooking and undercooking. When you get it right every time, with affordable, “set-it and forget-it” technology and easy-to-clean parts, what’s not to like?
An inexpensive pedometer can serve the same function when it comes to maintaining an active lifestyle. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, that lifestyle includes taking 10,000 steps a day. Want to know how many steps you take? Put on a pedometer after you wake up in the morning and watch what happens as the day goes on. I know people who thought they were active enough, only to discover they were coming up short. By wearing a pedometer, they began to effortlessly keep an eye on their progress. They also began to make different decisions to get in a few more steps, before the end of the day, when necessary.
The same goes for tools that can assist you when it comes to breathwork, mindfulness, and meditation. There are plenty of expensive, computer-based biofeedback devices to support these important practices. Some of these are stand-alone products, like the Resperate Click, while others work with your computer, like Journey to Wild Divine and Freeze-Framer Click. If such tools increase your motivation, get you doing breathwork on a regular basis, and are within your budget, then they are S.M.A.R.T. stuff for you. Go for it!
But a simple stethoscope can work just as well, at far less cost. By listening to your own heart as you rhythmically breathe in and out, you can enjoy the slowing rate and quietness that comes from paying attention to what’s going on inside you. Put the stethoscope next to your favorite chair and it won’t be long before it starts calling out your name.
When I travel, the clothes I pack for running work the same way. I review the weather and put the appropriate clothes, the S.M.A.R.T. stuff, in my suitcase before I pack anything else. This way my stuff works with me and my intentions rather than against me. At that point it becomes easy to get into gear.
The list of S.M.A.R.T. stuff is not universal. What works for one person will not work for another. The key, as Cheryl says, is to think about what you need in order to improve your chances for success. Everything else is unnecessary excess. It contributes to the glut of stuff that undermines our effectiveness and our way in the world.
We would do well to review and to thin out our stuff with these criteria in mind: does the stuff make it easier or harder for us to realize our intentions and to achieve peak performance. If it makes it easier, then it’s S.M.A.R.T. stuff that should be kept around and in great condition. If it has no effect or makes it harder, then it should be eliminated or donated to someone for whom it would make a difference.
I did that this past week with my files. It’s an annual ritual: to eliminate the stuff that no longer counts, makes a difference, or supports my intentions and performance. There’s no reason to increase the amount of storage space. It’s far better to decrease the amount of stuff. By reviewing and thinning out the stuff, I make room not only in the filing cabinets but also in my life for new possibilities.
That’s what S.M.A.R.T. stuff will do for us: it works for us and helps us to realize our goals. When we have the stuff we need, both in terms of quantity and quality, we will have taken one more step in the direction of realizing our resolutions for the New Year.
Coaching Inquiries: What’s the condition of the stuff in your life? Is it S.M.A.R.T. stuff? Does it work for you or against you? How could you change your stuff to make sure that it optimally support both your intentions and your performance? Who could work with you to get it done?
To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..
Given your recent Provision on S.M.A.R.T. Habits Click, you will be interested to know that my newest habit is to read your Provision every week. I often would skip them for weeks at a time, but when I read them they are always uplifting, thought-provoking, or in some way “worth spending time on.” So now I read them every week. Also, “acting as if” is one of my favorite techniques – and it sure works for most things!
Your last Provision is very timely and really rings true. My number one goal is to set up Healthy Habits in a daily routine that become nearly subconsciously automatic. I understand that the basis for healthy living is to have these beneficial behaviors, but I haven’t seen it written so concisely before. I especially like the example of putting on your exercise clothes to help ensure the exercise to follow. Thanks.
It has been a while since I replied to your Provisions. I just wanted to say “Hi!” and to let you know that I continue to greatly appreciate the work you do.
Your site offers great advice. Thanks!
Thanks for the quick recap on Thursday! The new LifeTrek Digest is a great idea. 🙂
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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