You want to simplify your life, right?
Yeah, we know — you and everybody else, if we’re to judge by the pounding this subject takes in self-improvement and personal growth blogs and books.
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to simplify your life. In fact, it makes perfect sense in a world in which Alvin Toffler’s “future shock” seems to be getting to all of us.
The demands on us are many, in almost every area of our lives. Life seems to be getting harder and more complex, rather than easier, and that’s in spite of all our technological advances, affluence and education. Strangely, the very things you thought would allow you to simplify your life have actually contributed to the increasing general chaos.
Hmmm. How can that be?
It’s simple, really. We’re taught to be followers of conventional wisdom.
We’re also taught that such wisdom, because it rests on basic assumptions with which most of us were raised, doesn’t need to be challenged or tested.
In fact, most of us have taken far too much of that conventional wisdom and turned it into parts of our personal belief systems — and our egos. We do NOT like to challenged on that stuff, as there’s a tacit assumption that it’s irreproachably correct. When conventional wisdom gets us into trouble or we have difficulty following its dictates, we tend to blame ourselves and our personal shortcomings.
After all, conventional wisdom is rarely wrong….right?
Ahem. Yes, well…maybe not so much.
You do most of the things you do and make the choices you make because you’re following conventional thinking and expectations. Most people do this; it’s just the way most of us live.
Unfortunately, when you rely on conventional wisdom in measuring your own needs and nature, you eliminate the deepest and most important stuff there is, down in your inner dialogue, from the range of possibilities you’re willing to consider. Your work, your relationships, your choices — all reflect some kind of balance of priority between your own true needs and interests, and the dictates of conventional wisdom and community standards.
The balance, if you’re like most people, isn’t tilted in your favor. In fact, you may not even have gotten to the point where you can actually recognize the real you that’s waiting underneath some of the junk you’ve built into your sense of self.
If your goal is to simplify your life so that you can experience a greater measure of peace and joy, you have to be prepared to take at least a few meaningful steps away from conventional thinking in almost every area of your life.
5 Keys To Simplify Your Life
Please remember something as you read through these points: there’s no such thing as a magic formula to “fix you,” nor should you be looking for one.
Posts like this one (and the myriad of blog posts from other writers about “96 Ways To Get Your Head Out Of Your Ass In Under An Hour”) can’t really do more than provide you with some insights that might resonate with you. Then, you actually have to go and DO SOMETHING with those insights.
Most people don’t follow through. They read the information; maybe they even think about it for a bit. But they never take action, never push beyond their comfort zones to try making the suggested changes. Then they’re surprised when their lives don’t get simpler as a result of their reading.
The point — when it comes to being able to simplify your life, or anything else — is to engage in activities and thinking, from moment to moment, that will help you change your attitude and your experience of each of those moments. Posts like this one are supposed to encourage you to do that, and to point you in useful directions. So….
1. Simplify your relationships.
We’re social animals, and we maintain relationships with others because they serve us personally in a variety of ways. You can start to simplify your life by nurturing relationships that bring you joy, and abandoning relationships that cause you prolonged strife, with little return on your investments of emotion and time. There’s no rule that says you have to maintain a relationship with anyone — even a family member — who is always difficult, constantly putting you down, or sucking emotion out of you because of his or her own need for constant validation or control.
You need to become realistic about this. You’ll take real enjoy in meaningful relationships when you handle them honestly — no “head in the clouds” overblown fantasies, no attempts to change others to suit your real or imagined needs and desires. Some relationships are worth your time and effort; some are not.
And some are downright destructive.
You’ll find that your relationships become less difficult and complex when you learn to distinguish which is which, and then behave accordingly. Don’t allow convention to dictate who your friends and intimates should be.
2. Don’t allow your work or its complexities to become parts of your ego.
If you do, you’ll find that those complexities become parts of your day-to-day and moment-to-moment existence and thinking. In fact, you’ll end up reshaping your most important personal time around the demands of a career you may not even like.
And definitely don’t buy into the idea that peace and simplicity are yours only once you’ve done all your work and are therefore entitled to your “reward.”
That way lies disaster.
Work is work — it isn’t who you are, but you can take pleasure and satisfaction from it that iron out the wrinkles your job throws your way. Keep the separation clear between who you are and what you do, and you’ll find that your life — both on the job and outside your work — will grow simpler and more enjoyable.
3. Worry less about choices you think you’re supposed to make.
Instead, take both the risk and responsibility for making choices you think will truly serve your needs in a beneficial and humane way.
We realize that this is sometimes tough to do, even if you understand the concept. You’re raised to respect conformity and accept community standards, and neither of those is truly simple — especially if they require you to do stuff that you really don’t like personally. As long as you’re not thinking about doing things that will get you thrown in jail, you don’t have to “go along.”
Personal and spiritual growth involve stepping away from conventional expectations that haven’t served you. Stop trying to please or validate the opinions, beliefs or wishes of others (including family) in plotting your own course of action. Your life will quickly get much simpler. You don’t have to be an ass about it; just stand your ground, and do what you believe is right for you.
4. Don’t define your goals only in terms of risk and reward over time.
We’ve talked about this before. If you define happiness based on future events that will happen as a result of long periods of joyless effort, you give up most of the moments in which you could experience ongoing joy and peace. The levels of planning and complexity it takes to achieve specific long-term goals (especially those related to power, acquisitions and status) become mind-numbing really fast.
You’ve been raised in a society that’s built on a work-and-reward model. Even those of you who recognize this and know that you’re supposed to “enjoy the journey” get caught up in looking ahead to a shadowy future when you’ll be happy because you’ve “made it” somehow.
That’s doo-doo. You can plan all you want for goals and rewards you’d like to achieve. But if you’re not also finding an alternate means of fueling a sense of joy in each moment, things will never seem “simple” for you.
5. Remember that your personal and spiritual growth are ongoing, and they’re yours alone.
Clearly, this point is related to number 3 above, with a slightly different focus. You don’t need to overcomplicate your enjoyment and growth in every moment by seeking the validation of others for your goals or process.
You are NOT required to adopt the definitions of others in deciding what your own ongoing joy and peace should look or feel like. Understand that while you may find support and pleasure from the company of like-minded folks, your growth is yours alone — it’s an individual journey. You’re not required to rely on friends, family or community to be the primary sources of validation for the things you believe or want or plan. You never have to do things their way just because they think theirs is the only correct route to your destination.
Also, don’t mistake the sort of support or approval you get from institutional faith for the relatively harmless mutual support you can often get from folks who seem to think like you. The institutional agenda is primarily about leadership, control and furtherance of the group ego’s needs, not your needs as an individual.
Enjoy the process; keep it simple; don’t let others muddy the waters flowing from your inner wellspring.
Nothing remains fixed in life. Everything is fluid, even if you don’t always see the fluidity or it takes years to make itself apparent. If you really want to live life more simply, you need to figure out who you really are at your core, what you really want in terms of daily living, and what you’re prepared to do to get it.
And you’re supposed to enjoy the entire process.
Live, breathe, experience, reflect, enjoy. It doesn’t matter how much craziness is going on around you unless you allow yourself to be dragged into it by others.
It’s not that complicated.
Our best to you always,
David & Kathryn