Internal Spring Cleaning: Removing Obstacles and Adding Positivity…to your life and your relationships

Herein lies a series of confessions from Aynsley Wong, an overgrown undergraduate who is almost finished a degree in Economics and a certificate in Sustainable Community Development. She’s wondering whether she should have adopted a pseudonym for this piece.

Aaaah. Sunshine. Flowers. Spring time. I don’t know about you, but after a long winter, I get the itch to attack spring cleaning in a couple of different ways. Recently, I did some spring cleaning of self. It was difficult, uncomfortable at times and also embarrassing! This “look under the hood” was my 21 Day Personal Challenge as part of the Leadership in Sustainability course taught by Dr. Joanna Ashworth.


Image Source:

My hope is that you can take my story and apply it to your life by figuring out where your trigger points for change might be. This process is meant to be iterative, so don’t be afraid to start somewhere and figure the rest out as you move along.

The Task

The assignment was to define my vision of sustainability, identify a disorienting dilemma that was an impediment to achieving sustainability, set some measurable goals, and then spend 21 days trying to fix things, while documenting observations, successes and failures along the way.

I created a word cloud which describes my vision of sustainability.


After a LOT of soul searching, I came to realize that I have some deep relational shortcomings which prevent me from achieving my vision of sustainability. Sustainability, after all, is about the intersection between the social, environmental and economic aspects in people, plans, organizations and cities.


Image Source: Science Education Resource Centre, Carleton College

Confession Time: The Problem

The problem is that I lack the skill of “mindfulness”, or the ability to be physically and mentally “present” in the moment, and to create connections with others and with the environment.

Symptoms of the problem are:

-I focus on tasks instead of people

-I don’t appreciate food because I am a distracted eater. I almost always work or read while eating.

-I don’t appreciate the outdoors because I focus too much on the challenge component of the activity (example: canoe x kilometers or bike y kilometers) and completely ignore the scenery or the enjoyment of building relationships with the rest of my team

-I take on too many tasks with work and volunteer projects and sacrifice personal time with family and friends in order to do this

21 Days of Change


My daily goals for the project were: 60 minutes of intentional behaviour(intentional listening, eating with purpose), 20 minutes of intentional time in nature (enjoying nature without a purpose, appreciating the sunshine, walking without a specific destination in mind), 20 minutes of spiritual time (listening to music, inspirational reading, meditation, attending a spiritual talk or event). The spiritual piece was added after the project was started, because I was starting to feel a little drained by the intentional listening and needed to fill myself up with positivity.

Outcomes I consider this project a success because I met my daily goal of 100 minutes per day of intentional behaviour 86% of the time. I also gained a lot of other positive benefits! Some of these are:

I experienced new feelings of energy and creativity, contentment and “balance”

I had increased connectivity with family and friends and enjoyed special moments

I boosted performance at work in my part-time job because I was better at listening to the customers. I was Associate Guide for the month of February!

I really enjoyed my meandering walks. I discovered some new areas and was able to revisit some places in the Strathcona neighbourhood which are special to me.

I found that I had increased resilience to changing circumstances. I was better able to manage stressful situations in my personal life without becoming emotionally reactive.

I did something spontaneous and joyful, which is usually way out of character for me. I took a sudden opportunity to adopt a hamster.


Meet Mischa, the youngest member of our family! 

Well, there you have it. I beat the doldrums of winter’s end by changing things up through a little self-evaluation. You can, too! I challenge you to make some internal changes…I guarantee you will see external benefits that will be wild.


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