I grew up on a farm, so when Halloween came around, Mom and Dad packed the six of us kids (ranging from 14 to 9 months) into our VW bus and we’d head to a friend’s neighborhood. You know the drill; we’d go from house to house getting candy. While sometimes we got to choose the candy we liked, most of the time we didn’t.

So, when we were all pooped (or Mom and Dad were tired of shepherding six kids from house to house), we’d go home and go through our loot. We’d sort the candy by type and preference and then we’d trade. We didn’t label it this way, but we assigned each candy a value and traded like pros. We’d keep the candy we liked and trade away the candy we didn’t.

As adults, we forget that we can take what we like. In Episode 53 of our podcast, Uniquely Brilliant, Diana and I discuss the advantages of being selective in what we do, who we listen to, and what we keep.

Sort, Organize, Trade

Let’s start with sorting, organizing, and trading. In our lives we have the opportunity to do many things, so many things, in fact, that it can be hard to decide what opportunity to pursue. Those opportunities can be significant: Do I move here or there, do I buy this house or that, do I want to work for this company or that. Or they can be mundane: What am I eating this week, where are we going on vacation, who are we inviting over to watch the game?

What if we treated those opportunities like Halloween candy? We can sort and organize them by preference, cost of making them happen, fear factor, any number of things. And, in the process of sorting and organizing we will realize that there is no shortage of options and ways to make our decision.

The Lack Mentality

I think it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we don’t have enough of what we need. Whether we feel like it’s a lack of choices or time, we can get stuck threshing around thinking there’s not enough and get stuck. And when we’re stuck in that lack mentality – the idea that there’s not enough of what we need – we do bizarre things, like thinking we have to find more.

I realize that if I watch too much tv or read too many women’s magazines, I get bogged down in the lack mentality. I get all tied up in thinking that I wish I had that table or that purse or that sweater, when I really love my table, have dozens of purses, and plenty of sweaters! Who says I need those particular items on those brightly colored pages to make my life better?

Choices, choices, choices

I have to back away from the ads and look around my home and my life and recognize that I don’t just have enough, I have plenty. I even have enough that I can sort through and organize my kitchen and my closets, discarding things that no longer serve me.

When I take the time to sort through my physical stuff, my mental stuff gets reorganized, too. Getting rid of the clutter liberates my brain from having to deal with that noise. And getting rid of the noise creates space for creativity and productivity to rise up.

Make room in your brain

Of course, that’s nothing compared to what happens when I sort through and organize my mental stuff. Several years ago I learned a productivity technique that calls for me to capture every task and idea that’s in my head. I like the technique so much that we did a podcast episode on it.

When I take the time to dump my ideas and tasks into my organizers (I use two virtual organizers, Evernote and Nozbe), I don’t have to worry about forgetting any of them! Instead, capturing them somewhere allows me to sort and organize all of that information in different ways. I even find myself deleting tasks and projects that don’t suit me! What a way to reclaim space in my brain for creative thoughts!

Help with the choices

Finally, there’s my secret weapon – my coach, Christina. I know that it’s important for me to talk about my work with someone else. It’s not just about brainstorming; it’s about how things sound different to me when I say them out loud.

It’s also about having someone to be accountable to, someone who reminds me to sort and organize and evaluate what I really want to do versus reacting in panic mode to whatever is currently throwing me for a loop. Christina reflects my choices back to me and, in the process, I realize that I have more choices than I thought. I can see the work I want to keep, the work I want to trade, and the work I want to trash.

It all boils down to the slogan I learned in Al-Anon 20 years ago: Take what you like, and leave the rest. We have the power if we choose to use it.

Make good choices!