Clear the Deck First

Each morning I receive a quick read in my Google Reader from

Today's Stress Tip


some tidbit of wisdom to apply to my busy life.  I don't


agree with the advice, as was the case

last week

.  But for the most part, I usually come away with


I can use to transform my daily life.

Then there are tips like the one posted this morning, that seem so

common sense

until I read it over a couple of times, and realize ~

This is so much more that just

surface talk


Before you begin a project, first clear your desk, kitchen counter or work area of the clutter that will surely get in the way. Then take out and organize the implements you'll need to get the job done, leaving yourself ample room to maneuver. That's it. The minute or two it takes to do this will save you a considerable time and aggravation over the course of the project. Clear the deck first.

Pretty much common sense here ~ clean off your work space, make sure you have all the ingredients before you start, and plan your time so you can finish what you begin!  Got it!

But are there areas of life where we tend to


apply this common sense?  As a mediator and conflict coach, my mind takes this tip ~ from the desk, kitchen counter or work area ~ to our relationships.

When it comes to relationships, it seems we tend to

clear the deck

with a broad stroke ~ quite literally sweeping away problem people in our lives.  The trend we see in our

mediation center

is to simply dispose of individuals who cause us conflict, avoid people who hurt us, and begin again with a new set of friends, a new spouse, a new family, even a new faith community.

What if we took this common sense tip and applied it to our personal relationships?  How would we live it out?

Before you begin a new relationship, first reconcile the ‘clutter’ in your heart and mind from past relationships that will surely get in the way of making new relationships. Then take out and organize the interpersonal skills you'll need to establish a lasting relationship, leaving yourself ample time to put these skills into practice. That's it. The time it takes to do this will save you considerable hurt and aggravation over the course of the new relationship. Clear the decks first.

I know it is never



But here is the bottom line: if we don’t deal with the brokenness in our old relationships, we carry it into our new ones.  Many people call it baggage.  I call it our default response to things that confront us ~ our usual reaction to conflict, pain and loss.  It is what we bring into each new relationship, learned from our family of origin and past experiences.

When the pain and hurt is not addressed; when the broken relationships are not reconciled, we simply bring all that


into new relationships, hoping each one will be better than the last.  Take today’s tip and think about how to clear the deck in our personal lives.  Not with a broad sweep of the arm that pushes all the hurtful people out of our lives, but with a purposeful act to restore relationships that are sure to get in the way as we creating relationships in the future.