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Sunny Schlenger

Birds of Summer:
Making a Wish Come True
by Sunny Schlenger

It's ridiculous how much pleasure I can get from small things. Like hummingbirds, for example. I've always been fascinated by their odd little proportions, with their long beaks, tiny whirring wings, and seal-like bodies. I rarely saw them, however, until we decided to make an effort to attract more birds to our backyard this summer.

Organizing for the Spirit by Sunny Schlenger

The funny thing about our "decision" is that we never realized there was one available to us. For years I'd sit out on the patio, delighting in the arrival of each different species of bird, and always hoping to see more. (The summer that my favorites, the cardinals, nested in our Rose of Sharon was the best ever.) But it was a passive enjoyment. For some reason we never thought about being proactive and creating attractions that would bring in more birds to enjoy.

I'm not sure why, but one day I started obsessing about birdbaths and hummingbird feeders. We did some research on-line and interviewed our local flower nursery and bird store managers for ideas on creating a (very) small bird sanctuary.

The results, from my point of view, were spectacular. We built it, and they came, and we've had a lovely couple of months watching adults and babies of all kinds take advantage of our backyard amenities. So here's the question: What took us so long?

It certainly wasn't the time involved or the cost; those were minimal. I can't even say it was laziness - once we got the idea, we immediately took off. All I can figure is that we were stuck inside of a box of our own making. Somehow we managed to sit out back all summer, every summer, saying, "Wouldn't it be nice to observe more birds? Wouldn't it be great to see hummingbirds up close?" and that would be it.

What does it take to move us in the direction of our daydreams and fantasies? Often, all we need is the realization that we can step out of our box. And it's quite an eye-opening experience when it occurs: "You mean I could have been having all this fun starting years ago?"

So how do we begin box-hunting? How do we realize that we are capable of bringing more of the things we love into our lives? The first thing to do is to try to catch yourself when you hear words coming out of your mouth such as, "I wish", or "Wouldn't it be nice," Ask yourself, "What steps do I need to take to make that happen?" And if you hear yourself giving reason why you "couldn't" do that, make a list of your obstacles and tackle them one at a time.

I once had a client who created a beautiful home office for himself in the finished basement of his house. He told me that he had problems with procrastination, especially when it came to administrative paperwork, such as filing and forms processing. The truth was that he had procrastination problems when it came time to do any work that had to be done in his office. His preference was to work upstairs where skylights provided much more natural light.

How to Be Organized in Spite of Yourself

So, if he enjoyed working upstairs, what was he doing with a downstairs office? I asked him that question, and his response was one that I've heard many times before: "Well," he replied, "I figured that I should have privacy, and the basement was the most logical place to go." Logical, maybe, but hardly the right choice for a man who loved windows and light and natural views! Fortunately we were able to switch his office locale with an upstairs guest bedroom and the procrastination problem was solved.

An outside perspective can be helpful when identifying boxes. It was easy for me to see that my client's predicament came from his assumption that offices are supposed to be in "logical" places. But that assumption kept him trapped in a basement space that was all wrong for someone whose creativity flourished much more in the light of day.

The birds of summer are coming to my yard in greater numbers now because I wanted to see them, and I took action. Ask yourself what you're waiting or wanting to experience and go after it. The smallest things can make the biggest difference in your life.

© Copyright 2004.  All Rights Reserved.  Excerpted from the upcoming Organizing for the Spirit: Making the Details of Your Life Meaningful and Manageable by Sunny Schlenger (Jossey-Bass, April 2004).

Sunny Schlenger
Sunny Schlenger has been a professional organizer for over 25 years, working with large and small corporations, non-profit agencies, and individuals to help them manage their time and space more creatively and effectively. She does personal coaching as well as group training and special project facilitation. Sunny is the author of the best-selling How To Be Organized in Spite of Yourself, a Book-of-the-Month-Club featured selection. Her next release will be Organizing for the Spirit, to be published by Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Sons in April, 2004. Sunny has degrees from Johns Hopkins University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her clients have ranged from the producers of Live with Regis and Kelly, to her husband, an air traffic controller who tells us that the skies are now safer, thanks to her assistance.

Her website is www.suncoach.com.

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