I’m no handyman, and I have to admit that I don’t do much around the house. I leave most of that to my wife, Natalie. There are, however, a couple small jobs that I am trusted with – like taking out the trash.
In a home, trash represents the scraps from yesterday’s dinner, ‘Occupant’ mail and the myriad other bits and bobs that represent the detritus of everyday living. We need to cart it to the Dumpster lest it eventually create such clutter and odor as to make our home uninhabitable.
Yet there’s another kind of garbage that most of us neglect to regularly bundle up and wheel to the curb. It’s emotional refuse – head trash – and while it may not smell bad, letting it accumulate can have deleterious effects on our careers, our relationships – our happiness with life itself.
Head trash isn’t obvious. It doesn’t reside in a plastic bag by the front door, and you probably won’t be reminded to “Stop whatever it is that you’re doing, and get it out of the house, now!”
Nope. Head trash is covert, it’s sneaky, and it is usually invisible until it pops up to obstruct an idea that might have made you feel good or helped you move forward, even by a bit.
“Head trash” keeps you from being the employee you’d like to be, the friend you’d like to be, and the spouse you’d like to be. It keeps you from becoming the person you’d like to be.
You might know it as negative thinking, but there is more to it than that. Head trash represents the fear, the uncertainty and sometimes the peer pressure that builds a wall between where you are and where you want to go in your life.
Just like household garbage, you need to regularly clear out your head trash. It’s tough at first, but as you see results you’ll be better able to recognize it when you see it, and it will take less effort to remove it.
When the head trash makes you say, “I can’t,” you need to ask, “Why not?”
When the head trash makes you think, “It’s not my job” you need to ask “Really?”
When the head trash makes you do less when you could do more, you need to think of the benefits to taking initiative. And when you fail and the head trash says, “I told you so!” you need to carefully examine the causes of the failure and commit to doing better next time.
Head trash hates ‘next times’ because they mean that you’re pushing yourself to overcome your shortcomings, improve your life and improve the lives of those around you.
We all know people who are content with uninspired lives and unchallenging jobs. Because misery really does love company and we’re social animals, there is a reluctance to step up to a task nobody else wants – or to be perceived as someone who strains to break the chains of mediocrity. The pressure to conform can exhaust ambition.
Just as you don’t have the same view from the street as you do from the tenth floor, once you have started to clear your head trash, you’ll notice other people who are achieving and living better lives and who are happier in their work. That’s when you’ll start to see a different world – a world that is welcoming and celebrates success, rather than disparaging it.