How to be an O.G. at cleaning up your life!

January 17, 2020

Author – Boyuan Gao

As another new year begins, folks are again magically reinvigorated to delineate the old from the new, to use the arbitrary date of Jan 1. to symbolize a new beginning. Almost like a re-do of the last year. I’m not mad at that. Why not seize the “occasion” to self-generate with optimism toward a better and more fulfilling life?

“This is when I’ll sculpt my body like an Olympic volleyball player, pay off debts, replenish my savings, and put myself out there more with dating and promoting my business,” we all say, or some variation similar. But then, not more than 2-weeks later, we’re back to the same old mess.

Why does this happen?

It’s not because we’re trash, lazy, and not committed to our goals.

This happens because we create fanciful dreams on top of doo doo, aka sh*t. 

Humans attempt to create on top of incompletions all of the time, piles and piles of unresolved shit that range from the physical (all of the bags of old sweaters piled inside of your closet) to the very minute sh*t – sh*t that you don’t even think is sh*t – like telling an acquaintance, “let’s grab lunch soon,” with no intention of doing so.

All of the tiny incompletions add up to big ones.

An incompletion, no matter the size, is simply inauthenticity.

You’re inauthentic about “needing” those sweaters. You’ll never wear any of them again!

You were inauthentic about wanting to have lunch with that acquaintance. Nothing wrong – no judgment, but it will leave a small residue that grows larger and larger every time you say the same thing to another acquaintance who you do not wish to meet for lunch, EVER. 


How to sort out your sh*t!

I’m guilty as charged on the “lunch thing” a million times over, as well as many other things that I’ll share another time. But the thing is, these incompletions rob us of the real estate to create the things that we really want, by bogging us down with the shit that we really don’t want, but hold onto like a binkie, even if it’s a really toxic binkie. Let’s talk about how we can clear these incompletions in this very high-level framework

1) Taking inventory

  • What you resist, persists! Take a moment to make a list of the things you are resisting right now in your life. If you are resisting doing this, great, that’s the first thing for your list! Undealt with, your resistance will linger and take up space.
  • Make an inventory of all of the incompletions in your life: e.g. a list of debts and to whom, the bag of clothes you meant to donate, but have been sitting in your closet for 2 years! The friend who you still haven’t called back, and it’s been a month…A list allows you to translate feelings of burden, avoidance, and procrastination into tangible and bite-sized to-dos, rather than an amorphous weight of insufferable and insurmountable obstacles to overcome. 
    1. There’s a great NYTimes article about how procrastination isn’t about laziness, it’s self-harm based on the inability to deal with the negative emotions associated with a task. Ooooh, deep! 
    2. You don’t have to do anything with this inventory yet, but make the list somewhere that you will look at it again, and often!
    3. Bonus point if you are honest the whole way through. The prize is better results. 
  • With each incompletion – what are you being inauthentic about (or in other words, pretending)? “Have you not called your friend back, because to be honest, you feel like she’s been judging you about your new girlfriend, and you’ve been too nervous to confront her about it?” 
  • Be present! This isn’t a woo-woo thing. It’s the only thing that’s real. Who you are and who you aren’t, what you have and what you don’t, at this moment, is WHAT IS. If you don’t know what is, you won’t know how to get to where you want to go, so take a look at your inventory of incompletions, and hold that thought for the next stage…
Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

2) Define and declare your “best self”

Best self” by itself means nothing.
  • Khloe Kardashian’s vision of her “best self” likely has very little to do with my “best self”. No shade, it’s truly all goodie, but I’d suggest not applying trending phrases to yourself, unless you know what you mean by them, otherwise you’ll get lost in the sauce. 
Who is your best self?
  • Most people know what they don’t want, but don’t know what they do. Most people state they want to be happy, but have no idea what makes them happy. Well, that’s a conundrum. What do you constantly stand on your soapbox about? What are you doing when you are in your complete flow? That’s a place to start, but describe that shit in vibrant detail, specifically and concisely! 
What’s possible if you achieve being your best self?
  • Taking a page from the representation movement in Hollywood, “if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” Same same, when it comes to creating your best self – whatever that means to you. Journal out all of the things that will be possible for yourself, your loved ones, and the world at large, when you actualize becoming this “best self”, person. Again, vividly and specifically writing this out and visioning it, will give you a blueprint to build it. With this inspiring “self” to look forward to being, move into the final stage, but not before you’ve shared this vision with at least 3 people…

3) Tools ain’t sh*t without a mindset

From habits to lifestyle.
  • Y’all…they say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but over 90 to create a new lifestyle. 21 days is rarely 21 days. It could be 7 days of success, a 2-day fumble, and back to day 1 again. That will likely happen.
  • If you can be gentle with yourself, with a growth mindset and not take yourself too seriously, you are more likely to succeed in the long run. Remember, you can have tools up the wazoo, and they won’t do a damn thing without the mindset to carry them through. Define what your mindset will be to keep you from falling off the wagon. You have to make it inspiring to YOU.

With that mindset, clear your incompletions, one-by-one.

  • This here is the bulk of the work. Take your list you made, and categorize it in a way that serves you best. I like to create themes such as finances, communications that I owe, promises that I broke that need to be cleaned up, clothing to get rid of, etc. 
  • Take the easiest theme/list, and start clearing these incompletions, and check them off as you go
  • Pace them out realistically for your schedule. What’s your promise to yourself? Commit to dates, otherwise, they are nice thoughts, and not plans. 
  • Ask a friend for support, if you are getting stuck. Sometimes it takes encouragement. Sometimes it takes breaking the incompletions down even more specifically. 

It’s iterative.

This is not a one-in-done, this is your life! You will keep accumulating shit (in your relationships, with your finances, with your family), and you’ll continue to have to clean up your side of the street. That, for better or for worse, is part of being human.

First and foremost, you are doing this for you. Keep your road clean by continuously tidying as you go, so that you can keep paving the way to the destination that is true to your “best self” and what that makes possible for the world.

Now go forth, and clear! 

Boyuan is a Western Massachusetts based cultural strategist and equity designer. Her career has spanned organizations impacting youth development, juvenile justice, HIV/AIDS, homelessness, environmental justice, music journalism, digital media, technology and women’s entrepreneurship, with roles ranging from founder, editor-in-chief, marketer, community organizer, facilitator and more.
Boyuan is the cofounder of Project Inkblot, a Design for Diversity™ consultancy, which partners with companies to create equitable products, services, content, and experiences. Their portfolio includes clients like Rent the Runway, Etsy, SS+K, WeWork and Housing Works. She is also an executive producer and creator of Fit the Description, a docu-series exploring the nuances of race, identity and policing.
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