A slow-moving tortoise, with its back worn and scarred, ambles carefully down a difficult road. Blazing past it, a beautiful tan rabbit leaps and bounds with what seems like effortless grace. Which one appears will be more successful at reaching their destination?
These characters live out the choice of resilience or recklessness because of the ancient but well-known storyteller, Aesop. The life experience of that Greek fabulist, Aesop, remains a mystery for the most part. Did he really live in the 6th century? Was he really an advisor to a king? Did he even exist? We don’t know. Yet, the principles and truths illustrated through the Aesop fables aid us for good reason. They glimmer with a certainty that has helped illuminate difficult times for many cultures.
In the midst of the intensity of that race between the tortoise and the hare, isn’t it interesting the placid disposition of the tortoise? What gave the tortoise mental endurance amidst the hare’s taunting of his slow pace? Whatever it was (many surmise it was his patience), he arrived at the finish line while the frenzied hare ended up sleeping on the side of the road.
We ourselves are in the midst of a race—life’s race—and it comes in the midst of frightening times. It’s ok to admit that. Anxiety and suicide have sky-rocketed due to the pressures of this year: the pandemic, mandated quarantines, personal and work uncertainties, reduced social gatherings, economic losses, devastating disasters, riots. . . etc.
The list feels endless, right? And its impact is nearly impossible to quantify.
No wonder so many of us are struggling with overwhelming feelings of anxiety, while others lose hope and begin to see no point in the struggle. This is Biblical! In Luke 21:26, we read a prophecy for our time: “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: . . .” And yet, while it is normal to experience emotions, we are more resilient than we might know, and we will succeed through helping each other and turning to the Lord in sincerity. We do not need to succumb. We came to earth to experience mortality with all its opposition and to discover that we can turn to God and find success, no matter the circumstance.
The good news is that we know that we have many tools to help us in this race: General Conference messages, the scriptures, the Sacrament, service to others, our patriarchal blessings, temple recommends, and many other gifts from God that can inspire and then lead us. God will never leave us alone during these times of challenges. For example, powerful videos about the Savior exist like this one from the Church’s 2020 International Youth Music Festival. These kinds of support can point the way to remembering God’s offer of brilliant light for these darkened times. And, there are more aids, some of which are physical in nature. These too can contribute to our body’s strength and resilience.
As we journey together, you and I, moving ever forward on this bumpy path that leads to greeting the Savior during His triumphant return, the Lord has inspired many leaders to bring tools to us to help us live with confidence, both spiritually and temporally. Using both spiritual and temporal strengths, we can be like the tortoise, even when pressure is on us. It is important to remember, though, that incorporating inspired tools that help our physical body may take some practice. After all, neither Rome nor any other city was built in a day. Nothing is built quickly that is truly worthwhile.
When I was dealing with the series of concussions that I’d experienced in 2018 and 2019, I was frustrated with having to take a slower pace in life. That’s when the beauty of the tortoise’s steady pace began to tease at my attention, and my desire to study fortitude grew. I wanted to know tools and techniques that could help me feel resiliently successful, even though I needed to move in a different way. One of those tools is astonishing to me! And I share it now. It’s a pretty powerful way to build an even-keeled mindset when difficult events afflict you. It’s pretty astonishing how simple a concept it is and yet how powerful its impact is for health, relationships, cognitive ability, and, yes, even peace and balance. Want to know what it is?
The Royal College of General Practitioners, an international membership body for family doctors, hosted an article that reported on decluttering. Multiple studies have shown that decluttering reduces stress, improves sleep, increases mental calm, and decreases certain anxiety levels. Who knew, right? The author of the report, Libby Sander, shares that decluttering increases productivity and impacts positively mood and cognition. She warns that persistent clutter can be a cumulative drain in other ways, too. Researchers found that clutter is clearly linked to digestive issues, physical pain, poor sleep, higher household stress, and weakened health. Additionally, studies have shown the link between weight issues and clutter. (I gulped as I read this report because I thought of my garage with its clutter stacks!) But Sander does not stop there. She also reports:
People with extremely cluttered homes are 77 percent more likely to be overweight. Tidy homes have been found to be a predictor of physical health. Participants whose houses were cleaner were more active and had better physical health . . . .
She did report one exception that brought me a bit of relief: creative types may find their creativity enhanced because of an untidy desk or other work spaces; it keeps them from being restraint-bound when trying to paint or create. (I felt a tiny bit better reading that!)
So, what is a person to do? I realized these studies were helping me to understand how I could be placid like the tortoise too, even in the midst of life’s chaotic pressures. I could essentially clear clutter and feel better. To help me do that, I created a clutter-buster chart. And I gave myself permission to move as slowly as the tortoise because I recognized the wisdom of the old saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” I realized I didn’t have to clear immediately the surfaces of all cluttered areas overnight. (Trying to do it that way would bring feelings of overwhelmed self-loathing. No, instead, I could choose to be like the placid tortoise and win my personal races by using his even and steady gait.)
I want to be able to handle clear-mindedly these last moments before the Savior’s return. We know from scriptures, such as 1 Peter 4:12 and 2 Peter 3, that things will get dicey before He returns. Some might say it already has. Clearing clutter will help me keep my head about me as I face these final minutes in the last days. So, how am I going to do it? I’ve created a chart to help me track my clutter-clearing moments in one daily 15-minute (or less) segment. After all, little-by-little-soon-becomes-a-lot, right?
Would you like my clutter-buster helper, too? We can be traveling race-winners together! Simply download the clutter-buster PDF attached to this article. Each day you can simply check off that you spent a tiny bit clearing clutter. (Try to keep it to less than 15-minutes a day. Why that tiny amount? Because research shows important-but-difficult projects can have a better chance when approached in small segments, rather than over-the-top time efforts.) And after downloading the PDF, come join my Cindy’s 30-Days-to-Done Facebook group where we can report our successes together and enjoy the camaraderie that comes from lifting each other to brilliance. The tortoise won his race, and we will too step by step together!
Download the PDF below:
Cindy Sue Bezas, M.S., is a mindset trainer, author, and speaker who passionately believes all people are capable of great things. She obtained her master’s degree in Adult/Organizational Learning & Leadership from the University of Idaho, and her specific research focused on trauma recovery and low self-image. She is a multi-concussion survivor and host of the Concussion: There Is Hope podcast, which ranked #33 in Mental Health iTunes podcasts in the United States.
To subscribe to the podcast for helpful information on concussion research, please visit this link.
To join her Facebook group, Cindy’s 30 Days to Done, click here to celebrate small wins in fun ways, 30 days at a time. (If you are experiencing persistent, low mood symptoms, seek the advice of a board-certified mental health provider for assistance. We need you with us!)
 Sander, Libby. “What Does Clutter Do to Your Brain and Body?” RACGP.org.au, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 25 Jan. 2019, www1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/what-does-clutter-do-to-your-brain-and-body#:~:text=Clutter%20can%20affect%20our%20anxiety,other%20people%20decluttering%20their%20lives).