Get rid of clutter, lose weight, improve relationships: Surprising lessons from car manufacturing

small angel carrying an enormous flower in a basket

Image by h.koppdelaney, via Flickr

What does car manufacturing have to do with relationships? Perspective. If you feel a need to control every step to make everything go right, that’s a hindrance to life, peace, and, surprisingly, manufacturing.

Needing to control also causes the need to hoard. If you need parts for your assembly line to run and you need to feel in control of the situation, you will make sure to stockpile a large inventory of all the parts you need. This will make your company less agile and flexible.

That’s why successful companies use just-in-time manufacturing—they get as close as possible to having their inventory arrive right when they need it.

Our lives are like that, too. Often, the more we try to control things, the more bogged down we get. The need to control comes with a “just in case” mentality—trying to make sure we’ll be ok if bad things happen.

The “just in case” mentality stems from the fear that there won’t be enough of whatever you need. It’s the idea that good things are scarce. Sometimes this is true, but for the most part, there is more than plenty of everything.

It’s smart to think ahead and be ready for disaster, but it can also waste a lot of resources. Just like the car manufacturers, if we can adopt a “just in time” mentality, we can be more flexible and effective, and improve our cash flow.

The idea that good things are scarce is a relic from the past. Now, it’s more accurate to say that good things are readily available. In fact, one life coach, Martha Beck, phrases it as “Everything good is readily available.”

“Everything good is readily available.” Doesn’t that sound great? But what if you don’t believe it?

Well, there are examples all around us. If you have the resources to read this blog post, chances are, you also have access to enough food, clean water, and shelter to have a reasonably comfortable life.

But really, everything good?

I tend to be a little mathematical and control-freakish, so this one is a bit hard for me. But yes, I’ve come to believe it’s true. Or at least a close corollary: you will get everything you need.

What this means in our lives

If you believe you will get everything you need, you don’t have to control everything or worry. After all, if you will get everything you need, what do you have to worry about?

A lot of people try to make sure they get what they need through worrying and control. In fact, many of us seem to believe that worrying itself will improve the outcome, and if you’re not worrying, you’re falling down on the job. But if you think about that, clearly it’s absurd. Worrying alone never improves anything.

In fact, people who worry and try to control things often end up getting in their own way. How many times have you seen people smother their romantic relationships by insisting on too much togetherness, or destroy the trust and pleasure of the relationship by being overly jealous? By trying to control the situation, they cause the exact outcome they fear.

This is the problem with control. By focusing on what you don’t want, you make it more likely to happen. That’s why expert drivers tell you to look where you want to go—because where you look is where you will end up. If you don’t want to hit that wall, don’t look at the wall!

You can say the same thing about objects. People accumulate stuff because they’re afraid they might need something and not have it, but by having all this extra stuff, they’re keeping themselves from something better: a clutter-free house, more available cash, maybe even just the ability to buy better quality things and space to use them.

When we believe that everything good is scarce, we can never really feel safe. We always need more money, more things, more love, more food, because there’s never enough to counter every “what if?” scenario. Also, when others succeed or get good things, we feel threatened or jealous because we believe that leaves less for us. Even our bodies get into the act by storing fat in case of lean times—thanks a lot, body.

hands overflowing with peaches and plums

Image by Madilyn Peiper via Flickr

But if we believe that everything good is readily available, we don’t have to worry or hoard. All that stuff we’re not using can go to other people who need it, because if we really need one later, we can just get another one.

We can stop trying to control other people—love them as they are but be ready to let them go if need be—because there is plenty of love available for us.

Some people have even lost weight this way. Given all the fat and sugar that’s readily available, almost unavoidable now, about the last thing most of us need to fear is starving to death. So you can let go of the belly fat now, body. It’s ok, we can get more.

How to make the switch

If you find yourself in a scarcity mentality or afraid that you won’t be able to get what you need, the first step is to decide you want to change. Even if you don’t 100% believe that everything good is readily available, try assuming it for the sake of argument, and see if your life seems more or less pleasant when you filter events through this assumption.

I still have a hard time believing it completely, but I’ve found that just assuming it has made my life a lot nicer and eliminated a lot of my worries.

  • What if I can’t do this? You’ll get help, or someone else will do it, or it won’t get done, but it will work out ok.
  • What if I lose my job? You’ll get another one or find something else to do for money.
  • What if I give away this fireplace screen only to have a fireplace again in my next house? You can get a new fireplace screen if that happens. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the space that’s not being taken up by something you’re not using.
  • What if I lose my income? You’ll find a way to make do with less. Start reading some minimalists: Everett Bogue, Leo Babauta, Nina Yau. The less stuff you have, the less money you need, and the more resources you have to throw at living.
  • What if I lose my spouse? You can still get love from other sources: family, friends, pets, and maybe even a new romantic relationship someday.

I still have room for improvement in letting go of worry and control, but when I look around, here’s what I see: happy people live from the abundance mentality.

Look at the people who are designing their own lives. Chris Guillebeau, Everett Bogue, Leo Babauta, Corbett Barr, Pat Flynn—they’re not sitting around hoarding things and freaking out at every dip in the value of their 401k. They do their thing and trust that what they need will come to them. It seems to work, and they appear much happier and freer than the rest of us who are still worrying and trying to create security for ourselves. I want that.

Getting into the abundance mentality

You can trigger your own switch to the mentality of abundance by focusing on examples where it has proven true. I’m not suggesting that you disregard reality and adopt this belief as a feel-good blindness to the problems in life. I don’t believe in ignoring or denying reality. But there are plenty of instances where “you will get everything you need” really is true in your own life. That’s what I suggest focusing on. These exercises, suggested by Martha Beck, can help.

  1. List ten times when you feared you would run out or not have enough of something, but you made it anyway.
  2. List ten areas in your life where, far from having too little, you actually have too much.
  3. List twenty times when you’ve gotten exactly what you needed or something wonderful, exactly when you needed it, without trying—it’s just fallen into your lap.

Make these lists, and you’ll be showing yourself that you really don’t have to control everything. You may not get every single thing you want, but you will have everything you need. What freedom! Here’s to a life of abundance for everyone! (Thanks, Toyota!)

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2 Responses to Get rid of clutter, lose weight, improve relationships: Surprising lessons from car manufacturing

  1. Jess says:

    “Consider the lilies….” 🙂

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