“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” ~Confucius
Happiness Principle #13: Simplify. Automate, delegate, or eliminate tasks or goals that complicate your life. Being content with simpler pleasures increases your opportunity for awe.
My youngest son completed the purchase of his first home last week, and we’ve begun the preparation for his big move.
Between the college experience, summers away, and a couple years being transferred around by his employer, Jared has lived in nine different places in the past seven years. Each time he moved, several boxes of clothing or supplies would end up at our house. As the sorting has begun, he’s discovering things he’d forgotten he owned (“hey, a set of pots and pans!”) as well as… a heck of a lot of junk.
Junk is in the eye of beholder, I suppose. He’s discovered, for example, that he somehow owns nearly 200 t-shirts…and he’s having some trouble letting go.
“Too much, too much, too much!” Do you ever find yourself thinking that? How you are is a result of choices you make and the way you surround yourself with stuff and challenges. Sometimes your choices can leave you busy and full yet unhappy. That’s when you need to start dropping what does not serve you.
Woven through many of the Principles of Happiness is a common thread I call “Eliminate Friction.” In physics, friction is a resistance to motion. Friction slows things down by removing energy. A flying rocket will move freely in space, but if caught by gravity and atmosphere, it slows. The larger the rocket, the more friction it encounters. Eventually, friction will cause it to burn away until all motion ceases.
While this example is physical, it describes what friction can do to you and your happiness. Think about the things that complicate your life – tasks, relationships, commitments, and all your material goods (aka “stuff”). How many of those feel like appendages on your 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 material possessions or busy schedules, but rather a reminder to keep what you have and what you do in perspective. Simplify is about striving to remove the clutter in your life in order to concentrate your energies on what really matters.
On another level, Simplify is a suggestion to avoid overindulgence as a lifestyle. When you surround yourself with all the best and the newest, or indulge in richer and more exotic pleasures, you actually narrow your options for experiencing happiness (because you’re weighted down for the “chase”). When you live a simple life, you increase your opportunity for awe.
- 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.
- Let Go of 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 greatest return on your investment of time. Cross off the rest. A simplified focus will increase your output and creativity while reducing your stress.
- Create Space. In her book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, author Karen Kingston walks through a non-judgmental review of all the places in life where ‘stuff’ accumulates and then provides a template to help clear it out. Even if you are not into analyzing energy flow or baguas, you will find a wealth of practical tips to help simplify your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual environments, thus creating space for Happiness.
- Lighten Your Load.Each of Jared’s t-shirts had some use or meaning when he first wore it, but if it’s been packed away in a box for four years, is it really necessary any more? Let’s not move stuff that will still be in boxes a few years from now…
One of my favorite simplification exercises I took from an old Oprah show. Each season when I rotate clothes I turn everything backwards in the closet (or upside down in the drawers). As I wear something, I put it back in the proper way. At the end of the season, I examine what is still backward. Sometimes I have a “story” about an item. But typically, I feel a great sense of relief, even lightness, when I give it away.
- Outsource What Doesn’t Serve You. What business is Me, Inc (that’s you) in? While you might know HOW to pay bills, clean house, cook, and mow the lawn, consider if these tasks bring you joy. If no, why not automate or delegate them? Have your bills automatically debited through the bank, delegate vacuuming to someone else, buy prepared (healthy) meals at the store, and pay the neighbor’s kid (or a lawn service) to cut your grass.
Then spend the hours you just freed up to do something that DOES bring you joy!