I work hard to keep my life as simple as possible. Why? Because when my life is simple, I feel good – at peace, joyous, lighter, and more centered. The less I have to do that isn’t in some way related to the expression of my intrinsic purpose in life (or somehow related to the creation or maintenance of my deepest joy) – and the less that unnecessary burdens and complications weigh me down — the happier I am. This isn’t to say that I’m not extremely busy – I am. Nor is it to say that I’m not constantly stretching myself and pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I am (and that’s the real secret to my success). But I know my limits, I know what really keeps life simple (a pure, purposeful, and authentic life of the highest integrity…in a nutshell), and I know when to retreat and recharge. And by keeping my focus on having a focused, simple, pure, and loving life, I can then (with relative ease) retreat to that place of pure rejuvenation and centeredness whenever I need to.
For the 40+ crowd, it was easier to do this when we were kids, – to naturally recharge our batteries – because we purely flitted from one pleasure pursuit to another…the next laugh, the next smile, the next popsicle, the next great adventure. As adults, however, many of us have so aimlessly created so many activities, circumstances, and responsibilities in our lives that really have nothing to do with the expression of our purpose — or the creation or maintenance of our deepest joy — that many people are experiencing little – if any – satisfaction in their lives. Not at all what was intended for our lives.
NOTE: I’m talking here about practical, doable ways to simplify and experience more joy in your life if you’re one of the many mature, hard-working people –parents and professionals — who I routinely speak with who are stressed, burned out, mired in negativity, and in need of some relief. However, there is a new generation (or two) of surly young individuals who have made selfishness and the pursuit of surface pleasures – not integrity or purpose — a way of life. And that’s a different issue altogether (and these individuals in many ways contribute greatly to the stress and negativity that others are experiencing today).
But the opportunity is still there for all of us – to varying degrees — to return to lives that are as easy and simple as possible. We can create adult lives that provide comfort, joy, and peace to us when we need it. That’s not to say that we won’t have circumstances and complications in our lives that we haven’t asked for or created. Without question, there are bad breaks and tragedies that are not of our own making. And in these circumstances, it’s all the more important that we take care of ourselves – mentally, spiritually, and physically – or we can drown in our valid pressures and worries.
So, how do you start un-complicating – at least to some degree — a complicated life of your own making? How can you shed unnecessary burdens and stressors that are weighing you down and stifling your hopes and deepest joys?
Ask yourself, do I still view my life, my potential, and my future through the same hopeful, positive lens through which I so naturally viewed the world when I was younger? If the answer is “no,” it’s time for a paradigm shift — because no matter what you face in your life, you deserve to experience as much joy, hope, and belief in a better tomorrow as possible. When you consider the negative circumstances in your life that are of your own making, what specifically have you created or included in your life that is so spirit-draining? Bad career choice? Too-large of a mortgage? Toxic relationships? Over-spending?
In days long gone by, the living was easier. As a child, you moved in the direction of what was fun, what thoroughly engaged you, what brought joy, what felt good. There was no overthinking, no politics, no conditioned fears. There wasn’t even always a plan. Who was kind? Who was nice? What was fun? Who was fun? Who laughed a lot? Where were the best popsicles, the best pools, the best friends?
I rode my bike, picked blackberries, plucked vegetables from the garden and rinsed them with the hose, swam in the neighbor’s pool, jumped rope, played hopscotch, laid in the grass, drank Kool-Aid, ran with the dog, explored, and napped when needed. Ideal. And, as it turns out, even after many left turns and failed experiments, these are still the activities that bring me joy and center my soul (with a great bottle of wine thrown in every now and again). Why did I let my favorite activities go for so long? Sure, my teen years and young adulthood brought different interests. But at the same time, I allowed a core part of who I was to evaporate, as many people do. Why do we as adults allow the things we loved as children to become irrelevant, esoteric, and arcane aspects of who we once were?
Conditioning, pressures, expectations, difficulties, experiences, circumstances, coping mechanisms, etc. all kick in and change the extent to which we feel we can live freely and trust ourselves. We no longer view our choices, our activities, and our world through a simple lens. There is so much else to consider now.
We began orienting our lives differently and making choices that seemed safe in helping us to avoid what we don’t want, but that no longer necessarily move us toward what we do want. We do this as adults as naturally and effortlessly as we used to — in days gone by — gravitate toward bomb pops, smiles, and sunny playgrounds.
Think of the little ways every day that you “have to” avoid creating what would really make you happy because you are too busy prioritizing the avoidance of potential trouble or conflict. For example, for all of us, a loving, safe atmosphere in our homes should serve as our lives’ foundation, but you may feel the need to avoid conflict with your spouse, parent, or child and so you avoid being at home altogether or you avoid engaging with others in your home by working more, talking on the phone more, spending time on the computer more, drinking alcohol more…everything but really creating the loving, safe, peaceful, and joyful environment – a soulful baseline — that could feed your soul and move your life forward in all the right ways. And all of these meaningless activities and time-wasters complicate your life in ways that remove you from your center of mind-body-spirit balance.
Your life can be as simple and balanced — or as complex and off-kilter — as you choose to make it. Here are some suggestions for finding your way back to simplicity, balance, and joy. Make a habit of as many of the following approaches as you can and you will see your life begin to change for the better:
- Don’t make things so hard – the moments when you feel at peace, calm, and balanced are those times when you are doing what is right for you. Trust this feeling. Strive to make the circumstances and activities of those times the predominate themes in your life.
- Maintain your health. Nothing will work right in your life without it. If you’re not focusing on being healthy, start here.
- Give your body the sleep it needs. Physically, mentally, and spiritually, your body needs to operate from a place of balance, and sleep is an essential aspect.
- Go to bed earlier and get up earlier. Avoid starting your day off by rushing or being late.
- Catch yourself comparing yourself with others and feeling competitive and jealous. Shun those thoughts – shut them down, as they are completely wasted time and mental effort.
- When you’re wrong and you know it, just quickly say so, apologize, and allow everyone to move on. Don’t allow stupid things to fester. We all make mistakes; we’re all wrong at times.
- Stop being a people-pleaser and stop trying to make everyone a friend.
- Stop being offended when everyone doesn’t want to be your friend. You can be kind, a nice neighbor, a compassionate human being, and helpful co-worker without having to be friends with everyone. Many of us already have a boat-load of significant relationships that we’re not paying enough attention to. I am extremely selective about with whom I’ll establish a personal relationship. There should be a values-match with the people you allow in your life. They should support you and you should support them. If they don’t make you feel good about you, question that relationships place in your life.
- Don’t talk incessantly about yourself. If you’ve been visiting with someone and all you’ve done is talk about yourself, trust me, they won’t want to visit with you anymore (and this may explain why everyone doesn’t want to be your friend).
- De-clutter your primary living and working environments – office, home, car, etc. Clutter is damaging to your energy – mental and spiritual.
- Forgive those who have hurt you – do it for you. There are many great books on learning to forgive. Living with Certainty: Experience Deep-Soul Joy also provides a strong approach to beginning the process of forgiveness.
- If you don’t know the answer, ask for help – be it directions, advice, instructions, etc. Get the help you need and move on. Asking questions or for clarification politely is not confrontational and is not belligerent. Getting answers will help you do things right the first time.
- Figure out where your life’s primary frustrations and time-wasters are, and put a plan in place to fix it. Get help, eliminate, put processes in place…fix it…now.
- Don’t assume …just stop making assumptions. Ask questions, clarify, converse, communicate.
- Don’t expect others to make assumptions. If you want something done a certain way, say so. You are not being aggressive or out of line when you politely state what you want.
- Take control of your temper by remembering to pause and breathe when you are about to say something nasty or rude. Stop yourself – pause — before a single word comes out of your mouth. You’ll save yourself a lot more time and heartache if you don’t speak out of anger.
- Always, always, always live below your means. Don’t make big impulse purchases….ever. Think about it first.
- Never, ever forego your monthly savings plan unless for a catastrophic emergency.
- Really do surround yourself with people who are smarter, funnier, and healthier than you. It really motivates you to raise your game and also comes in handy when you need help or guidance.
- Remember…what you do to others has already been done to you. There is no avoiding karma. Allow karma to serve as a self-governing system for all of your actions and words.
- Do what’s good, what’s right, what’s true for you. Always. Even when it’s not popular. Follow your own internal instruction system. And I don’t mean, if it feels good, do it. I’m referring to getting in touch with your spirit core and living from this place of pure, purposeful, high integrity. There is only one kind of authenticity – and that’s spirit-driven. Only the “Ego-You” is suggesting that you get tattoos, dress scantily, be rude, and so on.
- When stressed, anxious, or angry, go workout, go for a walk, physically burn off some energy.
- Never drink and drive.
- Be trustworthy. Honor all commitments and be known as an honorable, responsible person. Follow through, follow up, be impeccable in word and deed.
- Know that it’s never okay to say, “I’m always late.” (It’s very character revealing.)
- If you feel love, say so — frequently. “I love you” is a good thing to say.
- Use prioritized “to-do” lists every day/week if you really want to get things done and see forward progress in your life.
- Incorporate technology into your life wherever and whenever possible. It should expedite and simplify, not complicate, a lot of routine tasks.
- Never lie. Never steal.
- Avoid long daily commutes.
- Be honest with yourself. Living from a place of denial will prevent you from being deeply, truly happy.
- Live authentically; embrace your unique spirit-self. Allow others who are important to you to know who you really are.
- Only multi-task if you are someone who can get things done. If you only really accomplish things one task at a time, then, by all means, do one thing at a time as expeditiously as possible.
- When packing for a trip, take the time to plan out what you will really need, and limit yourself to that.
- Clean as you go.
- If a job isn’t worth doing right the first time, then why do it at all?
- It’s not cool — male or female — to be proud that you can’t cook. It just isn’t. Learn to grill, learn to make a few simple things, but please don’t brag that you can’t cook.
- Shop when you need to, not just because you want to.
- Use cash, not credit, as much as possible. If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy an unnecessary item on credit.
- Mind your own business. Nobody really likes a nosey-nose.
- Don’t be a sounding board, or whipping board, for crazy, negative people.
- Never forget…where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…
- Spend time taking good care of your most significant assets – your body/health, your relationships, your home, your vehicles, and so on.
- Smile – doesn’t matter who smiles back. Putting out more love and good energy in the world can only be a good thing.
- Avoid bad people as much as possible. If you can cut them out of your life, do so. If you have a crazy, evil, addict neighbor – or someone else distasteful in your life, i.e. a co-worker whom you would never choose to associate with, but have to be exposed to everyday – limit your exposure or ignore them to the extent that you can. A daily dose of evil can only hurt you – ignore it. You’re better than that.
- Avoid doing things that make you feel bad about yourself as much as possible.
- Treat others as you wish to be treated.
- Be optimistic. Positive people rock.
- Treat the elderly with respect. If someone is frustrating you by moving slowly or otherwise impeding your path, imagine it’s your grandmother, grandfather, or other beloved elder. Show the same respect and patience you’d show – and want shown — to your own loved ones and family.
- Expect to forget things. Write things down. Commit to staying organized.
- Commit to learning something new every…day, week, month. Be a lifelong learner. Be curious. Engage in interesting moments and contemplate the relevance or applicability to your life. How can the learning of everyday moments be incorporated into your life in ways that can make you better?
- Give compliments.
- Say please and thank you.
- Hold the door for others behind you.
- Drink LOTS of water every day.
- Got a great idea. Pursue it. Pursuing talents, dreams, and passions is what your life was meant for.
- Don’t give up when the going gets tough. It’s going to be tough nowadays. Start-ups were never easy – and they’re even harder today. The people who innovate, persevere, and hang in there today will rule the world tomorrow.
- Spend time in nature as much as possible.
- Don’t be afraid of the sun….just wear sunscreen.
- Stop texting and driving.
- If you meet someone you like and would like to develop a relationship, let them know.
- Never stop building your network.
- Don’t repeatedly ignore people who reach out to you and then call them when you’re out of work or when you need something. Ever.
- Be bold. Be courageous. Don’t base your life, your choices, your actions on what you think other people will think.
- Never eat when you’re not hungry.
- Incorporate 30 minutes of activity into your every day schedule. How many days should you exercise…Well, how many days do you eat?
- Remember, people are what they do…not what they say.
- Give thanks every single day for all that you do have. Make gratitude for what is going right in your life – for what you do have—the foundation from which you approach your life. I give thanks for all that I have every single morning upon waking and frequently throughout the day. I learned through my cancer experience last year to take nothing – not a single day – for granted.
- Write out your life’s priorities. Create a life “purpose plan” and allow it to guide your priorities, decisions, and choices. If a major decision or choice doesn’t move you toward what you ultimately want, why do it in the first place?
- If you can’t change something, learn how to live peacefully with it.
- Remember, “luck” goes to the hard workers.
- Be a great problem-solver. Think deeply and move toward the solutions that – upon considering them – immediately lighten your load emotionally.
- Be a great friend. Be the kind of friend that you’d like to have.
- Don’t try to be older than you really are. Relish every age. The sweet times pass quickly.
- Find the lesson in everything…and then move on. Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t be a victim. Live in the here and now and create your future moment by moment.
- Make sure you choose a vocation that you truly love, that doesn’t feel like work. Love your job. If you don’t, figure out what you do love and get about the business of doing it. Get a foot in the door. Volunteer. Hang your own shingle. Life is too precious to unnecessarily spend it doing something that sucks the life out of you.
- Don’t allow anyone to discourage you when you are following your heart and dreams…go for it!
- In the midst of the hardest times, tell yourself, this, too, shall pass.
- Take time to smell the roses….literally. Breathe deeply the fresh air. Take in the sunset/sunrise. Gaze at the stars. Soak up a sunny, blue sky. Don’t lose your sense of wonder. Listen to the Lee Ann Womack song, I Hope You Dance.
- Give yourself a pat on the back, a toast, and “three cheers” when you have even small victories.
- Laugh…hard and often.
- Give affection, allow yourself to receive affection.
- Focus on what you’re good at – and then strive to be very, very good. This brings pride and satisfaction, and helps to eliminate frustration.
- Don’t defend or overlook out-of-line, incompetent, or incorrigible behavior. Better to say nothing than to defend or protect evil.
- Meditate, meditate, and meditate. Did I mention that you should meditate? Meditate.