I can’t stand to be here anymore. I just want to get out.
A stack of mail covers one corner of my desk. Notes for projects, posts and poems form another pile. The garbage bin is full. Orange peels and other rubbish threaten to spill over onto the floor. And there’s so much dust. Construction crews recently repaved our street, and a layer of dirt from their work covers the bookshelves, floor and desk.
The space is a mess. I long for focus and calm, but my environment robs it from me.
How you set up your environment is – to a large extent – up to you. If you let it, it can empower and encourage your well-being. It can help your actions match what you believe in.
On my desk sits a twisted shard of metal. It came from the embassy bombings in Nairobi.
When I see it, I remember the pain and suffering in the world. There’s such a need for love – a need to value human life. The shard encourages me to make a difference. It pushes me to work and live for peace.
It also reminds me of life’s frailty. Most people going to the embassy that day had no idea what would happen. They didn’t know the tragedy the day would bring. Death could come just as suddenly for me too. I’m amazed it hasn’t. When I hold the sharp edges against my fingertips, I know the significance of this present moment. It’s all I have.
in their proper places
to place your mind
in present graces
Use your environment to draw you back to what’s important. When you see a photo of a loved one, you can be grateful for them. When you notice a paper with a verse of scripture or inspiring quote, you can ponder its meaning. When you see a flower, you can rejoice at the beauty of life.
I enjoy working in coffee shops.
Paintings made by a local artist hang on the wall. I appreciate the skill and care she put into each of them. When I write, I want to create such beauty.
The smell and taste of coffee help me relax. They help me deal with my fear. When I write, I want to speak with gentleness and courage.
People pass through the shop. Some stay and sit. Others get their coffee and go. The space is alive with unique and interesting stories. When I write, I want to honor and uphold that life.
Computer on, I open a basic text editor. Only the blank canvas lies before me – no distractions. I possess the mindset to create. I’m ready to write.
so you may do
the work you must
Set up your environment to inspire your greatest work. If you want to create beautiful art, make the space beautiful. If you want to foster community, make the space inviting and comfortable. If you want to offer healing to others, make the space restful. If you want to organize complex projects, make the space neat and ordered.
Your work brings challenge enough as it is. Put your environment to work on your behalf. Let it push you to your best.
My wife and I have eaten more vegetables this summer than usual. It isn’t that we’ve tried harder. If anything, it’s been easier. Our environment helps us.
Since we’re members of a Community Supported Agriculture group, a farm delivers a bag of fresh vegetables to us every week. Rather than walking to the store to get produce, we can walk to the refrigerator. We have vegetables, so we use them.
Also, we used to store the vegetables in the bottom drawer of the fridge. Now we put them on the top shelf. Every time we open the refrigerator to find food for lunch, we see vegetables. We think of them more often, which makes us eat them more often.
in your office
sweep the floor
to make you want
to work there more
Set up your environment to encourage the habits you want to form. Reduce the barriers that prevent you from taking action. Increase visibility to the habit.
Near the end of every week, I join an online book club. I get a lot out of reading a book by myself, but I learn even more hearing the thoughts and ideas of other people. Everyone brings their perspectives and experiences to the discussion. They push me to think in ways I hadn’t before.
The group is about more than just books though. It’s about each other. We offer encouragement to those who need it. We challenge each other. We inspire each other – the idea for this post, for example, came out of our most recent discussion.
others can see
what you do not
they’ll help you wash
the spots you forgot
Join communities that elevate you. The habits and practices of a group will rub off on you. The people you spend time with will give you strength. They can help you live what you believe.
I spend the morning cleaning and organizing my office area. I rearrange the furniture, sort through the papers, take out the garbage, and wipe off every surface. The room looks much neater.
I’m at peace. Now it’s time to work.
What are some ways you’ve adapted your environment to encourage well-being? What small step can you take today to improve your environment?
PHOTO: A shard of remembrance.
PS: If you run a small business, my friend Frances has some helpful resources for setting up your business environment.
PPS: The community missions will return in September. I haven’t forgotten about them.