Digital Hoarding

I have a confession: there are 20,577 unread emails in my inbox, 31,803 photos on my phone and 18 browser tabs currently open on my laptop. Digital clutter has invaded my life and I have no idea what to do with it.

Emerging research on digital hoarding – a reluctance to get rid of the digital clutter we accumulate through our work and personal lives – suggests that it can make us feel just as stressed and overwhelmed as physical clutter. Not to mention the cybersecurity problems it can cause for individuals and businesses and the way it makes finding that one email you need sometimes seem impossible.

Instead of berating ourselves for having too many unread emails or taking too many selfies, perhaps we’d be better off setting aside time to regain control of our digital clutter – one virtual photo album at a time.

Kelly Oakes writing for the BBC 

Closing Doors that seem like Opportunities

A professor of behavioral economics asked hundreds of MIT students to play a computer game that paid cash for finding symbols of money behind three doors. Each time the students clicked on an open a door, they earned a little money.

But there was a catch: The amount was different behind each door-and the amount kept changing. The player could switch rooms and search for higher payoffs, but for each switch, he or she used an extra click just to open the new door. Each player only had a limited number of clicks. The best strategy was to stay in the room offering the highest rewards.

But did the students do that? No. The doors to the unclicked rooms would start shrinking and eventually disappear.  Instead of ignoring those disappearing doors and just paying attention to the doors that paid off, students kept switching back and forth, clicking on the doors that appeared to be disappearing, even though it wasn’t in their own best interest.

Irrational? Yes. Predictable? Yes.

The students thought they were keeping their options open. Even when the game was set up so that players could make a door reappear whenever they wanted, they still kept frantically trying to prevent any door from vanishing. They wasted time, refusing to let go because of the pain of watching a door close and seeing an option disappear.

We are willing to pay a price to avoid feeling a particular emotional such as losing an opportunity, according to Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational. His advice? Find ways to avoid overbooking our lives by letting a few things fall off our plates. Cancel projects. Give away ideas to colleagues. Resign from committees. Rethink hobbies. Let a few doors close.

Stephen Goforth

Daring to say "No"

Many of us seem to have great difficulty in simply saying “No” to requests made of us or even invitations to us. Somehow we assume – whether we are aware of it or not – that either the other person is too weak to cope with our refusal and will be offended or a relationship is impossible to maintain without 100 percent mutual agreement.

Daily examples of the results of this nonassertive belief can be seen when other people invite you out to join them in some social activity. How comfortable do you feel in assertively revealing your true state by saying simply and openly: “No, I just don’t feel like it this weekend. Let’s try it another time?” Instead you invent “good” reasons that will not allow the other person to get irritated, feel rebuffed and possibly dislike you. Most of us follow this inane behavior pattern because of our childish belief that we cannot function properly if we do things that cause other people to remove their good will toward us, even a little bit.

Although generalizations are suspect and typically useless, our behavior in this area is sufficiently childish to prompt me to make this observation: one cannot live in terror of hurting other people’s feelings. Sometimes one offends. That’s life in the big city!

Manuel Smith, When I Say No, I Feel Guilty

Let go of those who are already gone

The sad truth is that there are some people who will only be there for you as long as you have something they need. When you no longer serve a purpose to them, they will leave. We rarely lose friends and lovers, we just gradually figure out who our real ones are. So when people walk away from you, let them go. Your destiny is never tied to anyone who leaves you. It doesn’t mean they are bad people; it just means that their part in your story is over.

Marc &  Angel Chernoff

The Inner Rhythm

We have to let go of the old thing before we can pick up the new one- not just outwardly, but inwardly, where we keep our connections to people and places that act as definitions of who we are. There we are, living in a new town, but our heads are full of all the old trivia: where the Chinese restaurant was (and when it opened in the evening), what Bob’s phone number was, what shoe store stocked the children’s sizes..

We usually fail to discover our need for an ending until we have made the most of our necessary external changes. There we are, in the new house or the new job or involved in a new relationship, waking up to find that we have not yet let go of our old ties. Or worse yet, not waking up to that fact, even though we are still moving to the inner rhythm of life back in the old situation. We’re like shell fish that continue to open and close their shells on the tide schedule of their home waters after they have been transplanted to a laboratory tank or at the restaurant kitchen.

William Bridges, Transitions

Start with Letting Go

One of the most important differences between a change and a transition is that changes are driven to reach a goal, but transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits or is adequate to the life stage you are in. You need to figure out for yourself what exactly that no-longer appropriate thing is. There’s no list in the back of the book. But there is a hint can save you considerable pain and remorse: Whatever it is, it is internal. Although it might be true that you emerge from a time of transition with the clear sense that it is time for you to end a relationship or leave a job, that simply represents the change that your transition has prepared you to make. The transition itself begins with letting go of something that you have believed or assumed, some way you’ve always been or seen yourself, some outlook on the world or attitude toward others.

William Bridges, Transitions

Looking Forward by Looking Back

If the past isn’t the way you thought it was, then the present isn’t, either. Letting go of that present may make it easier to conceive of a new future. Things look different from the neutral zone, for one of the things you let of in the ending process is the need to see the past in a particular way, and in doing that you let go of the need to think of the future in the way you always have.

William Bridges, Transitions

No Retreat

Dan Ariely tells the story of the Chinese general who decided to get his troops focused on moving forward by burning their ships after they disembarked. The radical “no retreat” move was successful and offers a lesson in social science research. It’s fleshed out in Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.

The MIT prof of behavioral economics says we keep too many options open, afraid we’ll miss something. While many of our decisions are irrational, even against our best interest, Ariely says these moves tend to happen in predictable patterns and his ingeniously designed experiments prove his point. For instance, students who participated in a series of trials he conducted couldn’t bring themselves to let go of options, even when they did not lose anything by doing so.

Stephen Goforth

Situational shifts and the Process

Change is a situational shift.

Getting a new boss is a change, and so is receiving a promotion or losing your job.

Moving to a different house is a change, and so it remodeling your house or losing it in a fire.

Having a new change is a change for everyone in the family—including the new baby, who was pretty well situated before all the change too place.

And, of course, losing a loved one is a change—a huge one

Transition, on the other hand, is the process of letting go of the way things used to be and then taking hold of the way they subsequently become. In between the letting go and the taking hold again, there is a chaotic but potentially creative “neutral zone” when things aren’t the old way, but aren’t really a new way yet either. This three-phase process—ending, neutral zone, beginning again—is transition.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

what to let go of

What it is time to let go of is not so much the relationship or the job itself, but rather the hopes, fears, dreams, and beliefs that we have attached to them. If you let go only of the job or the relationship, you’ll just find another one and attach the same hopes, fears, dreams and beliefs to it. A loss is best seen as the cue that it is time to let go of the inner thing.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

resisting change

We resist transition not because we can't accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up when and because the situation has changed. We also resist transition because it takes longer (often much longer) than change, and so it leaves us in limbo—or in the neutral zone, as I prefer to call it—while a replacement reality and a new self is gradually being formed.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

The Lessons of Elders

Being unwilling to accept defeat—is a guarantee that one will never learn the lessons that must be learned if one is to mature. That is why the elders that we need so badly in our success-obsessed society are not the natural-born winners who rose to the top without a setback. Such people are easy to idealize, but they have little to teach us. What elders need to help younger people learn is that without releasing the fruits of one season, they cannot blossom into the next. Such elders can show us, because they have done it many times, how to let go of who we have been to clear the ground for the growth of who we are becoming. They can help us to understand the transition-related emotions of grief (sadness for what have let go of), disorientation (when we are lost in the neutral zone), and fear (when the challenges of the unknown new beginnings are overwhelming).

William Bridges,  The Way of Transition

Renewal happens

Renewal comes neither by taking a rest nor changing the scenery, nor by adding something new to our lives, but by ending whatever is, and then entering a temporary state of chaos when everything is up for grabs and anything is possible. Then we can come out of what is really a death-and-rebirth process with a new identity, a new sense of purpose, and a new store of life energy.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

The in-between times

Unexpected solutions to difficult problems and creative ideas in general come out of a murky state where purpose and focus are temporarily suspended. Many of the decisions that change the direction of our lives are made during in-between times, after something has ended but before our lives have taken a definite new shape.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

The one-sided Cycle

The ancient wisdom from Ecclesiastes that tells us that there is a time for living and dying. East and West have traditionally taken opposite positions in relation to this cycle. Eastern religions have traditionally embraced the letting-go that characterizes the ending aspect of the cycle. Western thought, on the other hand, has tried to get the most out of the other aspect of the cycle—the identifications, the embodiments, the actualizations that are associated with the transition phase of beginning again in a new cycle. This approach makes an ending into a breakdown and even a failure. To be fair, the East has its own one-sidedness too. It identifies with letting go and ending, and all the things that are produced by beginnings are dismissed as illusion. The letting go is no longer a dynamic process but a state of detachment.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

Letting go of the old life

Change can happen at any time, but transition comes along when one chapter of your life is over and another is waiting in the wings to make its entrance. Transition does not require that you reject or deny the importance of your old life, just that you let go of it. Far from rejecting it, you are likely to do better with the ending if you honor the old life for all that it did for you. It brought you everything you have. But it is time for you to let it go of it. It's time to let it go.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

a step into authenticity

Transition may not be simply a step toward an outlook that is more appropriate to the life-phase that we are actually in. It can also be a step toward our own more authentic presence in the world. That would mean that we come out of a transition knowing ourselves better and being more willing to express who we really are, whenever we choose to do so. It would also mean that we are more often willing to trust that who-we-really-are is all right—is valid and a person capable of dealing with the world.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

How you thought your life would turn out

You are constantly letting go of who you thought you were and how you thought life would be. You find yourself constantly in the neural zone, unable to recover your old life but equally unable to embrace your new one comfortably. To the extent that you can let go of who you used to be and honor the experience of being in-between lives, you discover a rich and wonderful way of living. There is no beginning that doesn’t require an ending, and no ending that doesn’t make possible a new beginning.

William Bridges, The Way of Transition

It’s over

Many people leap to the conclusion that “it is over” means that the life situation has to go. They get divorced. They walk out of the office, never to return. They leave the church. They abandon their education. They leave their country. They do these things, even though all that they were being called on to do was to leave the relation that they had had to these things. Even when the ending is literal, as it is in death, the most important relinquishment is not of the person but of the life.

William Bridges, The Way of Transitions

Tossing Worries into the Sea

I conducted a religious service on board the SS Lurline on a recent voyage to Honolulu. In the course of my talk, I suggested that people who were carrying worries in their minds might go to the stern of the vessel and imaginatively take each anxious thought out of the mind, drop it overboard, and watch it disappear in the wake of the ship.

It seems an almost childlike suggestion, but a man came to me later that day and said, “I did as you suggested and am amazed at the relief it has give me. During this voyage, he said, “every evening at sunset I am going to drop all my worries overboard until I develop the psychology of casting them entirely out of my consciousness. Ever day I shall watch them disappear in the great ocean of time. Doesn’t the Bible say something a out ‘forgetting those things that are behind”?”

Of course, emptying the mind is not enough. It is necessary to refill the emptied mind or the old, unhappy thoughts which you have cast out will come sneaking in again.

To prevent that happening, immediately start filling your mind with creative and healthy thoughts. Then when the old fears, hates and worries that have haunted you for so long try to edge back in, they will in effect find a sign on the door of your mind reading “occupied.”

Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking