When I was in the College of Communications at The University of Texas at Austin, one of my college classes was a design and layout class. We learned Photoshop and other design programs. I was always more of a words person than a visual design person, but this experience was formative for me, even if I wasn’t the top student.
One of the concepts I was most fascinated by in my design class was open or white space. As in “this space is intentionally left blank.”
People in the publishing and design industries will probably have a more cohesive explanation, but for me, my main take-away was:
We could fill this up. But we aren’t. Take a breather because we have plenty of space.
It felt really powerful to NOT fill up the space.
I grew up in a home where stuff was always collecting and, understandably, I had a hard time discerning what to keep and what to shed.
- I would cram into the margins of my journals.
- I would shove my bookshelves and drawers full of stuff.
- I would push everything that I didn’t want to see under my bed.
I finally realized why I was drawn to more simple, less busy designs and spaces.
It felt sophisticated and even luxurious to have space for everything AND have space left over.
It felt empowering and grounding to not cramp so much in.
Over the years, I have started looking for open space in my home, in my calendar, and in my life. I learned that this isn’t just about decluttering a space, the real gift was learning to find margin in many parts of my life.
As a life coach, people often come to coaching in a state of overwhelm or stress. They are high-achievers who can’t keep up with the demands of their life, their work, their own expectations.
I define margin as the space between what we are carrying (our stress, responsibilities, LIFE in general) and our capacity (when we want to run away and never look back).
Margin is the space in our lives that we intentionally leave blank.
For some, lack of margin will manifest as anxiety, depression or illness. This is serious and needs the support of a health professional. You do not have to do this on your own.
At other times, lack of margin is the alarm bell that something has got to change. Now.
In my nearly 10 years as a coach, I’ve seen lack of margin show up in so many ways.
- I’ve seen it in the financial stress of a young professional.
- It shows up in the overwhelm of a small business owner.
- It demands attention for the creative who feels she’s lost the spark of herself.
- It whispers in the negative self-talk of an overworked parent.
When people are living and working at their capacity, there isn’t room for play or joy or freedom or gratitude.
It is nearly impossible to grow when we are stressed and overwhelmed.
The first step to growing, therefore, is finding margin.
That is why I am determined to help as many people as I can find more margin in their lives.
Here are a few things that you can do RIGHT NOW to help you feel more margin:
- Practice Gratitude – one of the quickest ways to shift out of the feeling of scarcity is to identify what you are grateful for. Try this: make a list of 20+ people/things/experiences you are grateful for.
- Take a Pause – while counter-intuitive, sometimes the very best thing we can do when we are feeling overwhelmed is to pause, rest and recharge. Try this: give yourself permission to pause and step back from the tasks and projects that are overwhelming you. Take a nap, a walk, meditate, get into water, listen to your favorite music. Do something to tell your brain: it’s okay to step away from this stress for now.
- Explore it in Writing – journaling about where you are feeling overwhelmed. Try this: grab my new digital workbook for a guided process to gain clarity and establish small steps to build more margin.
- Connect with a Coach – a coaching conversation is a powerful way to gain clarity. Try this: book a free discovery coaching session with me and let me guide you to more clarity and less stress.
Here’s to the open space.
“there is relief in the white space for the reader.”Leni Zumas