One Foot Forward 1/10

January 2010

onefootforward

For years I’ve been growling about the clutter at the front entrance of our home. The previous owners were way ahead of their time when they removed the closet in order to “open up the space.” Is it open? Yes. Is it practical? No.

Inevitably, shoes and other things pile up at the front door, creating a constant source of negative energy for me. I’m talking about a full Feng Shui failure.

When I followed friends into their home recently, I watched them enter, remove their shoes and carry them to the back door. Everything changed in that instant, as things sometimes do when a paradigm shift occurs. “Wow. . . we could do that,” I thought.

Now you’re thinking I’m a bit daft. I’m thinking so, too. I have never considered that we could keep ALL the shoes at the back door where we actually have a small closet. We’ve tried baskets and benches to contain the matter at the front entrance, but have long outgrown those options with eight adult feet in the house and the resulting mountain of footwear to store. All it takes is one person with two large feet and a shoe fetish to tip the balance. (And that person is not me!)

A few weeks ago, I would have argued that there was no simple – never mind cost-free – solution to this problem. In fact, my solution was to convert my son’s bedroom to a front closet and expanded entryway. Consequently, my husband is unusually excited and cooperative with this new house rule.

Here is something I’ve noticed we humans often do. We lock on to beliefs that there is no way or that the way is difficult. In doing so, we create a blind spot, limiting the possibility for any good ideas to surface.

A blind spot, in medical terms, is called a scotoma. In psychological terms, it’s an inability to see, or perceive, a solution that might seem obvious to others. You’ll know when you’ve experienced one because your chin drops, you slap your forehead and shout “DOH!” in your best cartoon voice. The funny thing is you usually don’t know you have a scotoma until the epiphany occurs.

If you have a problem, a simple process or a new habit will often solve it or improve it, even when it doesn’t seem possible. Rather than grumble or pretend the problem doesn’t exist, own it and resolve to eliminate the problem. Here are three problem-solving tips that can help whether your problem is disorganization, inactivity, finances or relationships.

1. Start by identifying the problem, its source and effects. Allow yourself to really feel it.

2. Look for solutions by observing and brainstorming. Notice what others do. Ask others for suggestions. You might be surprised who can help. Ask: a child, someone who always thinks differently than you or a coach. Keep an open mind. Be curious about ideas, versus judging them or having an opinion. Ask, “What part of this idea could work, if not all of it?”

3. Commit to a solution. Keep putting one foot forward, one small step at a time, until you no longer have a problem. Problems aren’t worth tolerating. Accepting? Yes. That requires making peace with the problem. If there’s any frustration or negative feelings around it, you’re tolerating. And life is too short for that.

I asked my friend why they don’t put their shoes in the front closet. She said, “Well, the door is kind of broken, so the less we use it the better.” As soon as she said so, she realized she too had tolerated a small problem for a very long time. We laughed at our humanity.