In Praise of Simple

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This year my husband and I have both worked exponentially more than we ever have since we became parents.  It's great.  I'm teaching an intensive yoga teacher training program.  He has been day-playing as a camera operator on a television show that is shooting in town.  We're both psyched to be living deeply into our careers.

But.

As our work lives have ramped up, our home life still has the same demands.  At home, the laundry still needs to be done, the food needs to be prepared, and the dishes have to be washed and put away.

Oh, right, and our children still live with us.  Carpooling, doctor visits, and extra curricular activities mean that we are running around like decapitated chickens most days. 

One of the great life coaching tools that I apply to my life in cases like this

is to ask the question:

How is this perfect?

How is this perfect - this crazy busy, can barely make sense of anything life? Well, it's letting me see where I over complicate and make more work for myself than is actually necessary.  When I'm anxious and trying to avoid a task, I'm likely to give myself five extra things to do just to put off the one thing I was meant to be doing.

With all the extra work now and without any extra help, I have been forced to let go of that plan. There simply isn't time for messing around right now.

This has reminded me of one of my go-to Mantras for stressful times:

Nothing Extra

To be in Nothing Extra mode means no elaborate meals with long cooking times, no over thinking, no obsessing over trivial details, no cute, clever yoga sequences.  Nothing Extra means get to the point, get the job done and get it done with clarity and precision.

Nothing Extra mode gives me great appreciation for simplicity.  When you are in Nothing Extra mode, it cuts through the noise and distractions to what is essential.  This mindset minimizes the choices you have for how you will spend your time and resources.  And that cuts down on decision fatigue - a real thing - that can completely drain your energy.  In my life, social media feels like an extra. Meditation is Essential.  Quality time with my children is Essential and often very simple, just reading a story before bed.  Junk television is absolutely not necessary.

I'll remind you again.  Simple does not always mean easy because sometimes it is very hard to simplify.  Our world is full of distractions so it takes focus, dedication, and attention to move into the zone of Nothing Extra.  It is worth it because you learn to discern what is filler and what is fundamental in your life.  The result of simplicity is that you feel stronger, cleaner, more clear and much more efficient.  You get more done that is of a higher quality and you feel better doing it.  

As Bruce Lee says:  "Simplicity is the key to brilliance."

Ready to give it a go? Try this exercise....

You will need a piece of paper and about 5 - 10 minutes by yourself.

Write down your to-do list for the next 24 hours.

Take a look at your to-do list and circle the most complicated item on it.

Ask yourself these basic questions:

  1. Does this absolutely need to happen?

  2. Does this absolutely need to happen in the next 24 hours?

If you answered NO to either of the above, take it off your to-do list and you've simplified your next 24 hours.  Good for you!

If you answered YES to either of the above, continue.

Please list the steps for your complicated activity.

Ask yourself these basic questions for any or all of the steps:

  1. Is this step absolutely necessary?

  2. Can I remove or shorten this step and still get the same or close to the same results?

  3. Is there someone else that can do all or part of this step for me?

Did you answer NO for number 1 or YES for numbers 2 or 3? If so you've just simplified by taking one step off the list or off your plate.  Try it with a few more of the steps and see how simple you can make that activity.

Still struggling? 

Try asking yourself some deeper questions:

  1. Am I trying to avoid something by keeping this thing and all of its steps on my list? What am I avoiding?

  2. What am I afraid of that is making me keep myself busy?

  3. How am I overcomplicating this thing?

  4. What would happen if I let things be simple?

  5. How is this complication perfect?

After answering the deeper questions, try going back to your list and asking the first set of questions all over again.

Did you try the exercise? How did it go? Are you stuck somewhere or wondering if there is an angle you are missing? I'd love to take a look and help you out. Leave a comment below or shoot me a private email.  Let me know how it went and what questions you have.