How to Know if Your Struggle is a Symptom of Something Else

Each week, I meet with my business coaches to review progress and talk about any challenges. When I bring up an issue I’m currently wrestling with, the first question they always ask is, “What’s the real issue?”

Then I answer what I think it is in that moment. Then they ask again.

“What’s the real issue behind that?”

“And behind that?”

Peeling back the layers in this way almost always brings me to the source of what’s really going on, which then leads me to solutions instead of temporary patches or wheel-spinning frustration.

And just about every time, I’m surprised that what I thought was the problem wasn’t it at all.

This is exactly how it works with clutter. Check this out…

Let’s say you have piles of paperwork on your desk, clothes on the floor of your closet, and stacks of books you’re not sure you want to read or get rid of, but you tell yourself you don’t have time to take care of them.

When you think about why you don’t have time, you realize it’s because you overcommit yourself by saying yes to too many requests and invitations.

So why do you say yes when you mean no?

Maybe you have an old belief that says others’ needs are more important than yours. Or that to be loved, you have to sacrifice.

Now we’re at the real clutter: a belief that is instructing you to put your needs last.

When you work on clearing this core clutter, you’ll say “no” more often resulting in more time and energy for yourself, leading to motivation to clean up your home. (If you have identified a belief that needs flipping, click here to learn how).

When you look at things this way, you begin to see why something so seemingly simple has been giving you such a hard time. Because what you thought was the problem wasn’t the real problem at all.

The same goes for non-physical clutter.

Let’s say you feel dissatisfied in your marriage. Check out why that is. Do you not feel supported? Heard? Loved?

It’s easy to fall back on something like, “My husband just doesn’t get it,” but what if you were to take a different approach?

If we were on a coaching call, I’d ask you questions like:

  • What is it that you need to feel supported, heard, or loved? (If you’re not clear on that, take this fun, short quiz to identify your love language(s):
  • Do you feel worthy of support and love?
  • Have you expressed your needs calmly, directly, and clearly to your husband or is a part of you expecting him to read your mind?
  • If you haven’t done the above, what might be stopping you?
  • If you have tried the above, have you or are you willing to give it another go with even more vulnerable language?
  • How much work are you willing to do to strengthen your marriage? Or do you feel like it has run its course?

In the above example, the core clutter could be facing the hard truth that you no longer want to be married to this man or it might be a limiting belief telling you that you don’t deserve love. Of course, there are many other things it could be. These are just a couple examples.

As you can see from the stories above, more often than not, the clutter that really needs your attention isn’t the clutter on the surface. It’s what that clutter represents.

So what type of clutter do you find most challenging right now? Remember, it can be physical clutter (paperwork, clothing, magazines, knick knacks), emotional clutter (limiting beliefs, lack of boundaries, draining relationships), or mental clutter (inner critic messages, a worrying mind, racing thoughts).

Once you’ve identified a category that’s driving you bonkers, dig a bit deeper into what might be behind it. Ask yourself, “What’s the real issue?” With each answer you reach, ask the question again.

Keep going until you’ve hit on something that makes you stop, pause, or catch your breath. That’s when you’ll know you reached the core clutter.

So how can you take care of yourself around this newly-discovered clutter? Capture some ideas and then act. The best way to deepen your trust with yourself is to put action behind your intention. Show yourself you matter; that you have your back; that you can rely on you.

The deeper the trust you have in yourself, the smaller the obstacles will be in your life.

2 replies
  1. Tammy
    Tammy says:

    Another great blog post, Kerri. Just wondering… since many of us have all kinds of clutter (physical, emotional, and mental), would you recommend focusing on the physical first? It seems that dealing with the material world is a necessary starting point to access the emotional and mental areas hiding out in that physical clutter… and once that’s dealt with then there is open space and clarity with which to address the non-physical “stuff.” Your thoughts? Thanks, as always, for your awesome work!

    • Kerri
      Kerri says:

      Hi Tammy!

      You’re absolutely right. The fastest way to excavate the message in the mess is to start with physical clutter clearing, paying attention to your inner dialogue and mental chatter as you do. It’s when you stir up your resistance that the wisdom comes forth. It may sound like a temper tantrum or whining, but listen underneath the words. So you can actually work on both mental and physical clutter at once, but yes, starting with physical clutter is a great way to get the ball rolling.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.