Too many choices can keep us from the Excelerated Life™. When we are focused on living a life of flourishing and well-being and a life of meaning, purpose and service, then we do not have so many choices. We don’t make the same decisions again and again. We make them once and cut off other options.
This is a story about two people, the choices they face in a typical day, and the results of their decisions. With a question for you at the end.
The first person is Sally. Sally set her alarm for 5:00 AM so she can get a quick start to her day. When the alarm goes off at 5:00, Sally has a choice. She can either get up as she planned or she can decide to sleep a few more minutes. She decides to sleep a few more minutes and hits the snooze button. A couple more hits of the snooze button and now it’s 5:45. Sally gets up.
One reason she planned to get up at 5:00 AM was to go to an exercise class at the local gym. She has a plan to work out at least 4 days per week. Sally has a choice. She can either go to the exercise class – if she hurries – or she can skip today and go another day this week. She decides to exercise another day.
Simplifying your life doesn’t have to be complicated but it does require thought. In Keeping Life Simple, Karen Levine shares 7 guiding principles to help us have more time to do the things we love – and to figure out what those things are.
You Can’t Buy Peace Of Mind
It was Saturday morning and Kelly woke up in a foul mood. She was tired of juggling a demanding job, a house that was in constant disarray, and a husband and children that always seemed to need something – forms completed, lunches packed, arguments settled, and on and on.
Although she didn’t really need anything specific, she decided to give herself a break and go shopping; it seemed to be one of the few outlets available to her to make herself feel better. She left her husband in charge of the house and children and headed for the mall.
Our default behaviors are, by definition, those things we do without thinking about them. It’s a good idea to step back from time to time and examine your defaults. You may want to change some of your “settings”.
Default Settings – Making Life Easier
My phone is old by cell phone standards. But I still remember when I got it, trading in my old flip phone for a smart phone. And it was smart. The technician at the store took about 15 minutes to set it up and save all my contacts. He handed me the phone and it was ready to go. Such convenience.
Being well-enough organized does not mean you have all your possessions stored picture perfectly. It does mean you have a place for everything and everything is in its place . . . mostly. Well-enough organized means you are able to find what you need when you need it. It means all your spaces bring you pleasure and a sense of control. And it means no stressing about things you forgot to do.
From Perfect To Well-Enough
Once upon a time, I had the idea that I would become a professional organizer. I enjoyed turning a cluttered closet or room into a neatly organized space and this seemed like an interesting profession. So I bought a book on becoming a professional organizer from Maria Gracia at Get Organized Now and I became a devoted reader of her newsletters. I began working on the exercises in the book and drew up a business plan of sorts. I even purchased a truck with the idea that I could use it in my business to cart away discards when I helped clients organize their homes.
But as you can probably tell, I never did launch that professional organizing business. Somewhere along the path, I realized my visions of turning a messy, cluttered space into a picture from House Beautiful had a flaw. A picture perfect room or closet or garage was not worth the effort, nor necessarily even functional. I moved from the idea of being perfectly organized to being “well-enough organized” . . . clutter-free and able to find what you need when you need it.
Motivation is fickle. Willpower is unreliable. Don’t depend on motivation and willpower for changing behaviors. Make the behavior easy to do. Then repeat to make it a habit.
A Lack Of Self Control?
When Melissa came to me for coaching, she identified several goals she wanted to work on. Her most important goal was to get her home office organized. This was the area that was most disruptive to her life and the one causing her the most stress.
Melissa shared that she could get one section of the place organized, say her desk top or the stacks of paper on her bookshelves, but within a few days, everything was chaos again. She wasted a lot of time looking for papers or other items she needed which caused undue stress.
“I guess I just lack the self-control to make myself do what I need to do,” she lamented. “I spend so much time and energy looking for articles I need, that it is impacting my life. It is hampering me from getting important tasks done yet I can’t keep myself motivated to keep things organized.”
Leftovers from yesterday, last week, last month or last year clog up your space and keep you from living in the present moment. Clear up the open loops from past projects and you are better able to deal with your current projects and activities. Live in the present moment, not bound to the past by items cluttering your space and your life.
Holdovers From The Past
Here is a thought that occurred to me the other day as I contemplated the stacks of papers, files, books, and other detritus covering my desk and work space. This clutter, these holdovers from the past, keep me from living fully in the present.
The unfiled papers, the books that haven’t been put away, and all the other clutter and debris keep me bound to the past and make it difficult to function in the present moment. As long as those stacks are there, I have open loops  — unfinished business. It is difficult to remain in the present moment, in the Now, with so many open loops.
The law of abundance says that things flow into our lives and things flow out of our lives. To experience true abundance, you must keep the flow going. It’s difficult to do if you get clogged up with paraphernalia.
“Messy surroundings and an untidy life reflect a weakened metaphysical and psychological state. If you are powerful, you will dominate your life, you will find time to clean up and order things, and you will want to do that as a part of your personal discipline. Mess is the external manifestation of the ego’s disquiet and laziness.” ~ Stuart Wilde
Well Equipped Backpacking
My friend, Spock (no, not the Spock), and I did a lot of backpacking when we were younger. Now, when you are backpacking, generally you are concerned with how much weight you are carrying. I usually went with the basics – sleeping bag, canteen, pot and spoon, dried foods, stove, soap, matches.
Spock, on the other hand, loved paraphernalia. He had 3 or 4 metal water bottles – in different colors. He had a dozen carabiners that he used to hook stuff to the outside of his pack. Besides that stuff, he had an extendable aluminum rod that he used as a hiking stick. And he had his camera with an assortment of lenses.
Willpower is like a muscle, according to some research, and gets depleted with use over time. Newer research has not replicated this finding, however. Other researchers believe willpower may get depleted because we think it will be. This is at the heart of the willpower question.
Cookies And Radishes
It was a cruel and heartless experiment . . . at least for the hungry college students taking part. They were told not to eat anything for several hours prior to the experiment so they were hungry when they arrived at the lab.
The students were divided into three groups. Group 1 was given a plate of warm, freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. And a plate of radishes. They were told they could have all the radishes they wanted, but they were not to touch the cookies.
Group 2 was given a plate of cookies and a plate of radishes and told they could eat all they wanted from either (or both) plates.
A rule of thumb is a type of heuristic that can help you perform desirable behaviors more consistently. Applying rules of thumb can also eliminate some mundane decisions, thereby conserving willpower.
Decision Making Short-Cuts
“Eat a fruit and a vegetable at every meal.” “Pay yourself first.” “Fill your gas tank when it reaches 1/2 full.”
These are “rules of thumb” – common sense guidelines that provide guidance in daily situations. They are short-cuts to decision making.
The phrase rule of thumb refers to “a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It refers to an easily learned and easily applied procedure or standard, based on practical experience rather than theory.” [Wikipedia]
To discover and understand your purpose and to organize your life around it requires time . . . time to think about how you’ll manifest your purpose and time to reflect on your performance. Organize your time and your calendar to explicitly schedule in these activities.
A Tale Of Two Workers
This is a tale of two workers. Call them Tom and Tim.
Tom works hard. He’s busy all day. Here is a typical day for Tom. When he wakes up, Tom immediately reaches for his phone to check for messages and e-mails. Before he gets out of bed, his mind is already teeming with thoughts of what he has to do today. He gets up and rushes through showering and dressing for work. He skips breakfast — who has time? He’ll grab a fast food sandwich and a cup of coffee on the way to the office.
Once at the office, Tom checks his e-mail again, then his calendar. He has several back-to-back meetings scheduled. He also has a major project that is due by the end of the week but he hasn’t had time to work on it yet. Maybe he can get to it today. And oh yeah, there was that upset customer that called yesterday . . . he still needs to call her back.