There is much to be said about living a simple life. The first of which is that in search of this simplicity, we tend to inevitably create complex situations. This pursuit then defeats the purpose it was supposed to serve in the first place. Nevertheless, the good thing is that simplicity is not a myth and it is not impossible to attain, we simply need to know how to prioritize our lives and everyday tasks.
At the same time let’s dispel a myth. It is often misconstrued that living a simple life means the giving up of all material comforts or luxuries for a life similar to that worthy of being in a convent or monastery – this is really and truly not the case.
Victoria Moran puts it perfectly in her book, “Lit from Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty” when she wrote, “A simple life is not seeing how little you can live with – that is poverty.”
A simple life is about how clear you are on your priorities and how easily you can dispose of the things that do not support them. We need to remember at the same time, that simplifying our lives is the first step towards the much sought after state of being in total equanimity. Here then are three things you should stop doing in order to live a simple life:
1 – Stop over thinking things
Shaun Hick wrote the simple truth in “The Ghost and Its Shadow” when he said, ” You’re a clever strategist, but not all battles require tricks. Sometimes the simplest way to kill something is to swim up to it and bite it in half.”
That being said, it has become learnt human nature to think, rethink and over think for situations that do not mandate this. In the process we grow grey hairs and build elaborate mountain ranges out of simple mole hills. There are few habits as addictive and equally harmful to both our mental and physical well being as over thinking. Sometimes we even lose sleep for days and weeks only to find out later that the situation could have been fixed in a mere five minutes, then we call ourselves idiots and promise not to do it again yet we behave the same old way the next time a similar situation presents itself.
Over thinking is counter-productive. It leads to what can be called ‘action paralysis’, where we get so caught up in thinking and wishing the problem would go away that we fail to take the necessary actions to resolve it. When a situation arises, quickly put it into perspective and address it immediately. If it is a small decision give yourself a 1-5 minute deadline to decide. For a slightly bigger issue, an hour or two should be more than enough. For decisions of a life changing nature a week or just a few days should do. But for the best outcome, please do not sit and think you are doomed. Think positively, act quickly, deal with the issue then move on and you will see how much simpler your life will become.
Like Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in – North and South; “Thinking has, many a time, made me sad, darling; but doing never did in all my life… My precept is do something… at any rate, do something.”
2 – Stop taking things and people for granted
It is no secret that as human beings we have what seems like an infinite capacity for taking things for granted. We often don’t notice how beautiful the day is until it starts to rain, and all our beautiful outdoor plans are ruined. We do not tend to notice the security guard in our building who always smiles until a far less amiable one replaces him.
The beauty of Spring’s flowers blooming often escapes us until winter comes calling, then we wish spring would hurry up to get there. The one that never fails to amaze is how we take the gift of life itself and the people in it for granted until someone dies. Only with the pain of death does gratitude for life tend to come. That’s when a different perspective hits home and gratitude overflows.
These are ungrateful behaviors and sad situations. The laws of the universe, in simple terms, teach that if we take the time to show gratitude and appreciation as well as to acknowledge the small beauties around us, they will be multiplied. If you don’t believe this then try taking time out of your busy schedule to enjoy the smell of spring, the colours of Autumn, and that man on the corner who always greets you with a smile, to see just how much better your days will be.
Taking time out to be thankful for your small blessings will make the negatives pale in comparison. Soon you will find life to be far simpler, and you will mentally be in a better place to handle anything that comes your way.
Like Charles Dickens said; ” Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not upon past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
3 – Stop ignoring yourself
In a technologically dependent era where every latest development is focused on allowing us greater access to each other through social media, the ‘self’ is almost always forgotten. Couple that with the fact that our lives often make demands on us, which require our time and energy and you’ll find the ‘self’ takes a back burner, at least until sleep demands our attention.
This is unhealthy. Silence and solitude are two things often misunderstood and taken for granted, but are two things that are extremely important regardless of how pressing your responsibilities are. K.T.Jong poetically puts alone time into perspective by saying; “It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.”
Psychologist and physicians have stressed the importance of alone time to unwind and rejuvenate ourselves, mentally, emotionally and physically. For example, when you have a headache or a difficult day, a few minutes of peace and quiet eliminates the frenzied feel, and you instantly begin to feel better. Embracing solitude also allows you to better understand yourself and where you want to be in life. In turn this helps to simplify your life by seeing what doesn’t work, how best to get rid of it or how to remedy to the situation.
Schedule a few hours each day or even 30 minutes where you sit in quiet solitude. Life has a tendency of getting complicated, it is up to us to breathe, slow it down and simplify things. You will find greater peace is found when things are kept simple.