The past couple of weeks have been challenging on the work front, and it’s taken up a lot of mental headspace. That left me, at times, not able to fully focus and drained—both mentally and physically. But it also had me thinking [again] about a song by the late singer-songwriter Laura Smith, “Clean Up Your Own Backyard.” That translates, for me, like this: dig deep and figure out what is my next right move.
Clear the Mental Headspace
The moment I roll out of bed in the morning, I’m thinking about all the things I want to do. From writing the next week’s blog post to the morning’s run to completing the rewrite of a novel, and everything in between. It is, then, easy for me to be overtaken by a sense of overwhelm. How do I get it all done in the few hours I have before heading to my day job?
The reality is, I can’t. Still, my mind goes into overdrive looking for strategies and hacks that might potentially let me get it all done. That’s me still living in a fantasy world and not doing what I should: embrace reality. As I worry and brood, a lot of things begin to stall and, it’s no surprise, I’m not getting a lot done. Or getting things done takes longer than it should. That’s the moment I realize it is time to clean up my own backyard.
Time to Act
I’ve been working on paying attention to my mindset and changing my attitude over the past few weeks. Because the greatest risk is me not doing what’s necessary to become who I know I can become. I’ve been trying to let go of the crushing weight of self-doubt. It’s been about trying to win the battle in my mind as Tim Grover reminds us, “The battle begins and ends in your mind. Your thoughts have to be constantly renewed, like a daily subscription that must be paid so you can think clearly.” 1
And as that battle rages, I’m working to take needle-moving actions to change myself and my life. I’m writing (this blog post, for example) with all distractions muted. Over the past weekend, I got out and ran, pushing through it even though it was hard and I wanted to quit. When I lost access to the document containing this week’s blog post, I took a deep breath and reminded myself, It’s okay. Don’t panic. Just sit down and write. You’ll figure it out.
And, yes, I figured it out.
It’s true. Actions move us forward, let us break free of the thoughts holding us back and trying to pin us down. And if you want to control the outcome, you must control your actions. 2
As I clean up my own backyard, I’m committed to showing up daily and putting in the work. When it’s hard. When it’s not going well or as fast as I’d like. And when I don’t feel like doing it at all. Because I can control showing up and doing the work—no longer hoping for a better life, but creating it.
- Grover, T. (2021). W1NNING: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness, Scribner, New York, p. 56.
- Grover, p. 84.