I define mental hoarding as having and continuing to amass vast amounts of information, usually on the same topic (self-help, in my case), and being unable to put it into practice, due to an overload of contradictory data or seeking more information before thinking a choice of action can be made.
I feel I have suffered from this type mental hoarding. I’ve told myself for years that I had a love of self-help information – books, TV shows, audio tapes, and podcasts, to name a few. My need to consume information would wax and wane as events in my life passed, but if a good source crossed my path, I would snatch it up immediately. I wouldn’t always consume it, but I knew I could at anytime that it was needed. However, the only times I tried to use empowering self-help information were when things were not going the way I wanted them to. For over 20 years, I consumed knowledge. But with all the information, nothing seemed to stick. I always sought out more information, more knowledge, more something that I thought would be the key to actually accomplishing something.
In my case and some others I have witnessed, one of the main triggers for wanting something better is that the situation I was in was not going as well as I would have liked. I sought out how to change the situation and change myself but it was done in an “altered mental state” of needing it right now, usually due to stress and anxiety. I needed the immediate gratification to change the way I was feeling. As stress and anxiety fueled the change, many times the change in self only lasted as long as the fuel did. So the next time something came up, I went in search of something new that “would work” or “would last” and I would not try to make a habit out of the old methods that worked.
This brings up the power of habits and ruts. Thoughts create neural networks in the mind and the more a person thinks or acts a certain way, the more permanent these neural networks of thinking, which are habits, become. As a result, it is more difficult to make a change to an old habit than a new habit or method of thinking, especially when the new neural network is created under conditions that are abnormal or undesirable, such as stress or anxiety. To create a stable habit, it must be repeated in all conditions until it is second nature. Just like the saying “If you have to ask yourself if you are happy, you cease to be happy”, if a person questions if the new way of thinking is a habit, then the person isn’t quite there yet. Mental Hoarders, such as I, often question their thinking and seek out more information to either confirm their thoughts or seek information to supplement what they already know. This gets in the way of just trying and making positive, consistent progress.
It is also my opinion that the culture we live in does not help our mental state. There are numerous sources that say the human sub-conscious mind doesn’t process negatives such as “I am not fat”. The mind only processes “I am fat” and sub-consciously drives a person to attain the image they have set for themselves. The culture we live in is ripe with negative qualifiers, such as “Don’t eat this …”, “Don’t become that …”, “Don’t let yourself slip into …” “Don’t be in debt …”, which trains our thinking into using negative qualifiers. When a person mixes the negative qualifiers of “self-improvement” with positive messages of instant self-gratification found in many junk food, quick loans, or instant mental medical fixes, then there is very little wonder why people are stuck in ruts they aren’t sure how they got in and not sure of how to get out of. This can lead to information overload to a person consumed with acquiring mass amounts of knowledge. This would be like being consumed with collecting rocks. The basket a person has will only hold so much weight and even if they throw some out, more will be there for them to pick up and overload the basket again.
Another aspect of our culture is as the pace of technology picks up, the easier it is for anyone to find information, and the information overload only gets worse. Self-Help books were at one time a prized purchase at the book store that I would read and re-read. Now, I can consume in mass, like a buffet, but not really taking the time to enjoy what is provided. I know there is so much more to consume and I only have a limited amount of time to read or listen or watch in a given day, week or month.
So what steps have I taken to correct my mental hoarding and recommend to others who might be in the same situation? The first step is that I am now careful how much information I consume. I can’t hoard something I don’t have. I love to learn, but that doesn’t mean I have to consume to the point of not being able to take action. If I am so worried about reading about setting goals that I am not actually sitting down to write out my goals and taking action to accomplish those goals, I need to read a bit less and do a bit more.
It might help in clearing the informational room of a mental hoarder to start with only consuming topics with similar messages. The brain can only make so many choices in a day before it starts to wear down and tire out, so if I have to constantly make daily choices on which is the best course to take, I will remove a course and try the other for awhile.
I have set times where I can reflect on my actions. There is value in knowing where I have come from and where I am going in order to make sure it’s positive progression. This is my time to look at new information, ask for help, and make adjustments if necessary.
Another technique to try is the “mimic technique”. Not everyone can be a leader in every aspect of their life. If I see someone making strides, I try and mimic what they are doing or acquire them as a “success mentor”. Someone to have as a “success mentor” can make all the difference if they are willing to work with you and help you out, such as I have done with the Success Freaks.
But above all else, I try to take consistent and persistent positive action all the time. Doing something is better than nothing and doing it consistently and persistently will make it a habit. Just as I can’t get rid of a physical hoard without taking the action to throw something out, I can’t stop being a mental hoarder without taking a positive step.
I have also learned not to be afraid to stumble. Stumbling and failing forward only shows I am trying to accomplish something. Anyone who is a success at something has at least twice as many stories where they failed trying to become that success. I am learning from the situations and continue to move in a positive, forward motion.
So this is my confession as an ex-mental hoarder starting to throw out what isn’t necessary and putting into action the steps I know will work. I will always keep learning, I just don’t have to let it get in the way of making positive progress.
~ Nolan Overton