5 days of S-mas: Straighten

The 5S attribute we’ll be discussing today is “Straighten.”  Yesterday we discussed how to sort through your thoughts and perceptions to identify which ones are helping you, and which ones are holding you back.  Today we’ll be exploring how to best put that sorting effort to use.

An alternative translation for “Straighten” in 5S is “Set-In-Place”, because this step is all about finding places for tools and other necessary items so that they can be easily accessed, and returned to keep the machine shop or factory clean, safe, and efficient.  The old adage “a place for everything and everything in it’s place” is basically what we’re talking about here.  For mental engineering, this step is all about keeping your most helpful, productive thoughts at the front of your mind, and banishing anything that is a constant distraction, upsetting, or otherwise just not useful.

Sorting through these thoughts and feelings was, in many ways, the hardest part, but luckily dealing with them is relatively simple.  In fact, you effectively can “Straighten” your mental life in 3 simple steps:

1)Acknowledge what you’re feeling

After identifying “Useful”, “Sometimes Useful” and “Not Useful” perspectives and mindsets, you may realize that some of these thoughts and emotions are negative and need to go.  This is good!  Allowing yourself to realize that is huge, and the next step is simply to give yourself permission to feel freely.  What this means is, don’t try to tell yourself to just “not feel a certain way”, but give yourself a bit of time to just feel whatever way you do without reprimanding yourself.

For example, you may have realized that your perception of yourself as “not outgoing enough” is holding you back from forming meaningful relationships.  Instead of getting upset at yourself for being that way, or upset about the fact that you need to change, just acknowledge what you’re feeling.  Frustration at your natural tendencies, fear about moving outside your comfort zone, or just irritation at such a seemingly minor trait having such a huge impact would all be natural reactions.  Let them happen, then move on to the next step.

2)Write it down

Writing things down seems to almost magically remove things from our mind.  Interestingly enough, this can help for both positive and negative mindsets.  I can contest to the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal as well as a rage journal, and while you don’t need a bound book, you will need to write down all your positive mindsets, as well as all of your negative ones.

For the positives, I’d suggest something that saves what you write down.  Whether your prefer hardback, typed, or app-based, you want something you can revisit easily.  Positives can include anything from affirmations, self-praise, motivational quotes, favorite memories, or anything that makes you feel happy and energized when you think about it.  Record these in your format of choice, and if possible make this practice a daily habit.

For the negatives, loose leaf scratch paper is the top choice, but anything that you can get rid of will work.  In addition to any mindsets that upset you or you feel you need to change, write down your reactions to these thoughts and perspectives  You really want to get these out of your head, so you stop ruminating on them.  Putting them on scratch paper is the perfect way to do that.

These differences in how you record your positives vs. negatives are essential because of how they’re dealt with in the final step.

3)Place appropriately

For the negatives that you wrote down this step is easy: just throw them away!  The action of physically tossing out these thoughts, feelings, mindsets, and reactions that are holding you back will make you feel a thousand times lighter 🙂

For the positives, this is a bit more work, but the payoff is worth it.  Place the positive things you’ve recorded somewhere you’ll see them every day.  This could mean placing your journal on the coffee table, setting a reminder on your phone to scroll through your typed record at a certain time of day, or using the app settings to keep up your positivity habit.


That’s it!  By writing down your negatives and throwing them away, you’re dealing with them in a healthy manner.  Additionally, you’re training yourself to remove mental clutter from your life.  By writing down the positives and placing them where you’ll see them often, you’re bringing these good thoughts to the front of your mind.  Everything seems to be in it’s place, so we’re through with “Straighten” and ready to progress to tomorrow’s topic of “Shine”.

Feel free to write down a positive thought you’ll be keeping at the front of your mind in the comments below!  Until tomorrow 🙂






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