We Create Our Own Stress
Do you ever find yourself thinking: “I have too much to do — I feel overwhelmed!?” How we are is a result of choices we make and the way we surround ourselves with stuff and challenges. Sometimes our choices can leave us busy and full — yet unhappy. That’s when we need to start dropping what does not serve us.
Happiness Principle #12 says:
SIMPLIFY. Automate, delegate, or eliminate tasks or goals that complicate your life. Being content with simpler pleasures increases your opportunity for awe.
Woven through many of the Principles of Happiness is a common thread I call “eliminate friction.” Friction – as you learned in fifth-grade science class — is resistance to motion. Friction slows things down by removing energy. A rocket flying through the vacuum of space will move freely, but if it strays near a planet it gets caught in gravitational pull or the resisting force of atmosphere. The larger the rocket, the more friction it encounters. Eventually, friction will cause it to burn away until all motion ceases.
While the example is physical, it describes what friction does to you and your happiness. Think about the things that complicate your life – tasks, goals, relationships, commitments, and expectations (and email!). How many of those feel like appendages on the rocket, splaying out in all directions to catch the atmospheric resistance and slow you down?
To Simplify is not necessarily about giving up goals or possessions or busy schedules, but rather a reminder to keep what we have and what we do in perspective. Simplify is about striving to remove the clutter in our lives in order to concentrate our energies toward those things that really matter.
On another level, Simplify is a suggestion to avoid over-commitment as a lifestyle. When we surround ourselves with all the best and the newest, or try too hard to keep everyone else happy, we actually narrow our options for experiencing our own happiness. When we live a simple life, we increase our opportunity for awe.
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” –Confucius
Start Planning Now for a Less-Stress Year
As you race toward the start of the busy holiday season and year end activities, don’t let the convergence of work, family demands, holiday gatherings, cooking, cleaning, and shopping push you over the edge into the Dark Pit of Stress. Start planning now to leave space to enjoy simple conversation and the best of what this time of year has to offer.
Here are some steps you might take to Simplify for a less-stress year-end:
- Schedule “Nothing” Time. Establish time in your calendar to do nothing. Learn how to be at ease in solitude, silence, and stillness. Realize you don’t need all that “noise” around you to feel content – plus a little downtime will give you space to recharge your batteries.
- Streamline Your Goals. We typically get 80% of the impact from 20% of our goals. Line up your personal goals and identify the handful that will provide you the most return on your investment of time. A simplified focus will increase your output and creativity while reducing your stress.
- Let Something Go. You may already feel some dread building up in you over your holiday chores. Consider cutting a few things off your list this year through simplifying. Last year I decided to simplify our outside decorations, and instead of spending hours stringing lights I opted for 10 minutes arranging three red and green spotlights to light the house. Imagine my surprise when our neighbor across the street took a photo of our simply lit home after a snowfall, then used it in his holiday greeting!
- Spread It Out. Cook, clean, prep, or celebrate over several days instead of all at once. One of the things I most DISliked about the holidays was the way everything seemed to happen at once, raising stress levels at a time when we’re “supposed” to be having fun. One of my least favorite “chores” was the annual house/tree decoration marathon: by the end of a very long day we’d all be crabby and tired. Five years ago I experimented with starting earlier, bringing out from storage just one box of “stuff” at a time. Now we do a little decorating every few days over weeks instead of hours, and it turns out to be a lot more fun!
- Ask for Help. Many of you live in the Story that if you take care of everything, people will admire you (or if you don’t get it perfect, people will assess you as inadequate). But the truth is that most people will help you if you ask, and no one will think less of you. And if you ask each person who’s coming to dinner to bring a dish, you may even discover a few new recipes to enjoy!
- Say No. The most powerful way to Simplify is to simply say No to something you really do not want to do. Note: it may take courage to push back against someone who says, “You have to do that.” I promise you, however, that you will survive skipping the occasional invitation, and the world will keep turning on its axis even if you don’t bake those holiday treats that your family has been making since 1952.
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” –Lin Yuta
The 13 Principles of Happiness can help you plan for more year-end moments of calm and happiness. Visit https://theexecutivehappinesscoach.com/happiness/philosophies.cfm, to download a colorful 1-page PDF Poster. Post it on your workplace wall or your fridge at home, and use them as a reminder to Choose Happiness.