How often are you torn between doing what you want to do and doing what you have to do?
Life can feel overwhelming because we are so regularly pulled in many directions at the same time. We lead complicated lives balancing work, family, and the myriad demands of simply being alive – cooking, eating, maintaining our cars and homes, educating ourselves, and so on. Each hour of the day is filled with tasks which can make us feel like a juggler with way too many balls in the air.
The effect of this overload is that we suffer mental, emotional, and physical stress. These manifest as feeling unfulfilled and unhappy, with ailing bodies, and unsettled, distracted minds.
Society encourages us to ceaselessly pursue what’s bigger, better, brighter, and bling-ier. And we personally may be so focused on chasing praises, raises, recognition, and position that we end up living mindlessly. If we aren’t tuned into ourselves and our lives, then we are effectively absent from them, and before we know it, we will be old and ill and waiting out our days.
Everything comes at a price. The things we do, think, own, feel, and say all take up space in our minds, homes, schedules, bank accounts, and relationships – they profoundly affect our lives.
To regain energy, enthusiasm, and peace, we have to work on simplifying life.
Last month’s article was on decluttering your environment which is a very important part of simplifying life. Essentially the less you own the less you have to worry about; there’ll be fewer things to repair, to protect, to maintain, and to fill up your home. For instance, if someone said, “a car on your street was stolen” you won’t be as concerned because you don’t own a car. However, if you did own a car, you’d be worried. We underestimate the effect that possessions have on our mind and emotions. Releasing unnecessary things leads to relief and a feeling of lightness.
Simplifying life has many facets to it. It includes things like fewer possessions, fewer time commitments, meaningful goals, lower debt, heartfelt relationships, and a healthy lifestyle.
Become clear on what matters to you. This will help you prioritize how to efficiently fulfill your obligations and leave time and energy to enjoy the things you want to do. It will also energize you to take advantage of opportunities, to meaningfully connect with people you want to be with, and to spend quality time alone.
Ask yourself what can I remove from my life that is distracting me from focusing on the important things?
As usual, not all these suggestions will be achievable right away. But simply making the effort will give you a boost of confidence and energy. So go at your own pace and motivate yourself by remembering your reason for streamlining your life. Take it a day at a time.
Many of us don’t know how to just be because we are always busy doing. Train yourself not to do and to simply be. This isn’t easy. It is something you will need to practice on a daily basis until it becomes habit. Like you would with any other important appointment, schedule time in your day just to relax in the garden watching the trees sway and the clouds changing shape, look at the birds and insects getting ready for the spring, walk and feel your body in motion (put aside the podcasts and chats), or drink a cup of tea and taste its flavor.
Being gives you the space to stop thinking, pondering, and ruminating and just to observe, feel, hear, smell, taste and, well, simply enjoy.
Prioritize Your Time
Some people thrive on overloaded schedules. When I first came to the US, I met a woman who seemed to be constantly on the run doing a million things. I was impressed with her because she came across as a go getter and a person in high demand. My only experience had been with people who went to work or school, and who always had time to hang out or relax. I had mistakenly believed that being busy and having a full calendar were signs of being popular and successful. With years of experiencing the Bay Area lifestyle and trying to resist its hectic pace, I now know the danger of wasting our precious time on meaningless activities.
Time is valuable. And I don't need to remind you that it’s impossible to regain.
Be aware of the time you are losing when you are mindlessly lost in video games, social media, television, and so on. These activities may feel relaxing, but they are actually draining because they are so addictive and hypnotizing. One interesting theory about excessive television viewing is that while it may relax the body, the constant visuals and sudden noises can cause the brain to go into survival mode. Not a relaxing state.
Therefore only schedule those things that will help you live according to your priorities and values. Also avoid wasting time complaining, wishing, and dreaming things were different, but begin taking manageable steps to make change happen in your life.
Manage your Money
Live within your means. Don’t keep up with the Joneses. Don’t have champagne tastes on a beer budget. These are old and funny but wise sayings.
Debt drags you down and can become a black hole that sucks up your mental and emotional strength. To live a simple life, it is imperative that you manage your financial situation. Decide and commit to controlling your spending. Think over your life and your life choices to figure out what is necessary and what is not. If you are clear on your life goals and your priorities, then you will be able to create a budget and keep to it much more easily. You will also have to be strong in the face of temptation or coercion, so be prepared by having a response or strategy ready to deal with these situations.
When you simplify your life, you create space for the things that matter most. Owning, doing, thinking, and worrying less frees you to spend time on meaningful things.
May you find peace in living a simple life.