There is a short story I once heard that goes something like this:
A woman was redecorating her living room. She re-painted, installed new bookshelves, and re-arranged the light fixtures. In the center of the room was an old couch that wasn’t particularly comfortable any longer and looked out of place in the recently redone room. Although she searched, she had trouble finding a sofa that she felt was right for the space. Not wanting to be without a couch, she would come home each night and sit down, grumbling about the discomfort of the old couch. Finally, she consulted a Decorator. She told the Decorator that no matter where she looked, she just couldn’t find anything that she could visualize fitting into the space. Sympathetic, the Decorator came to the woman’s home and was surprised to see the old couch still sitting in the living room. “Well,” the Decorator said, “I think I see the problem. How can you find something new if you don’t make space for it? Get rid of the old couch and then you will easily be able to see what fits.”
It can be amazing what great things can happen when we make space for them. Whether it’s time, relationships, work, or our closets, often the best way to move forward is to clean out what is no longer serving us.
This can be challenging in a culture that presses us to do more, stay in the loop, get ahead, achieve, attain, purchase, accumulate, and win. Whether it’s intentionally blocking free time on our calendars or throwing out the junk in the basement, our human nature makes us hesitant to let go – at least not until we can clearly see a replacement.
From a survival perspective, our biological make-up has created a tendency to be risk-averse, so there is comfort in holding onto an “old couch” until we find a new one. But sometimes we don’t realize that hanging onto the old may, in fact, prevent us from discovering the new. Our anxiety over letting go and lack of faith that there’s something better ahead causes us to miss opportunities. We settle for “good” because we can’t quite see “great” on the other side of the horizon. We’re afraid to potentially lose what we have (even if it isn’t what we want) in order to chase our dreams.
So, what are you hanging onto? How can you create space for what you really want in life? Is it time to throw out the couch, even if you can’t yet see what will replace it?