4 ways to Clean Up Your Act

By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 7 May, 2016

How many times have you heard: I have to clean up my act, or somebody tells you to clean up your act? What exactly does it mean to clean up your act, assuming the entire world is a stage and we are but players on it, to paraphrase Shakespeare? If I were to be candid at this point, I imagine people are heard to say I’m going to clean up my act, oftentimes after a night or day of indulgence in food, liquor or drugs. As they awaken to a world that seems quite a bit dimmer than the day before, they are often heard muttering, “I have to clean up my act.”

And so they do for a time, perhaps after announcing to the world that they are going to begin that diet that is always waiting in the wings, or throw away those bottles of booze or prescription drugs.

While I might sound cynical, please believe that I am not, having been on what were more than a few binges with covenanting afterwards to start that new diet. One of the mysteries of cleaning up your act initially is that as soon as your act feels relatively clean, one often reverts back to the old way of indulgence, perhaps grateful for the respite but anxious to resume the indulgence. It is truly the lucky person who is able to escape returning to the same old rut.

Too often we think that “cleaning up one’s act’ involves only some new austere lifestyle including some kind of formidable discipline that feels quite unnatural and usually leads to its opposite. While it might seem that our so-called vices are what the problem is, in actuality it is only the expression of something much deeper within us that is calling out for help. A friend of mine once said, “It’s not what you are eating, but what is eating you.” Similarly, I notice that when people think of cleaning up their acts, they usually start by taking more vitamins or signing up for an exercise class or perhaps going to that meditation class which they had promised. The problem with those solutions is that they are still about focusing outwardly on what can only be solved by looking within at the source of the so-called “act.” The act then becomes larger than life and everything is focused on the cleansing of that particular vice, which is a symptom but not the main cause.

Similarly to A.A. there is something internally that must be changed or transformed within for success to clean up your act. While I don’t presume that the items listed below are the “cure,” they are a good mental start.

A good mental start to clean up your act

  1. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. When you don’t say what you mean to occur, you lose trust in yourself, whether consciously or unconsciously. When you begin to say what you mean and mean what you say, there is a certain respect for yourself that starts to accrue. A friend of mine told me that while she does not do perhaps all the good deeds she intends, she still is faithful and can be counted on to do what she has promised.
  2. Don’t say to anyone unless you can say to everyone. Think about the secrets you can hardly wait to say to your best friend. Now think about what that would mean if you were to tell everyone that little confidence someone swore into your ear or even something about yourself that brings you feelings of embarrassment or shame. Shame comes from hiding a secret or quality of yourself that you keep close to your vest. Perhaps it would be good if you were to confide it in a therapist or some close confidante so that you might bring it into the light. This is a better remedy than continuing to berate yourself for some omission or act that keeps you burdened. While it might not be something you could say to everyone, it is surely a good step forward.
  3. Don’t say inside what you cannot say outside. If you are used to calling yourself names and haranguing yourself in a dismissive or unkind manner, or even somebody else, and you do it furtively and secretively, imagine how much better you might feel if suddenly if you were to address and make conscious all those negative things you say. To do so would make a great step towards improving your life and giving yourself an inward feeling of lightness and kindness.
  4. Don’t say it unless it is true, useful or kind. Well, we knew immediately that gossip or rumors are what this little saying is talking about. Think about what life would be if you no longer gossiped or sent out rumors unless you knew they were true. When you give yourself permission to no longer be a rumor or gossip mill, think how much better you would feel about yourself from not sending negative energy towards anyone else. Wow, you might even become that paragon of wisdom and virtue you have long envied.

These simple four exercises will go a long way to clean up your act and are reflective of cleansing your inner self. Good luck to you!

If you have a question about how you can “Clean Up Your Act,” or anything else, you can write me at Ask The Spiritual Explorer

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