“Complexity is the curse of the digital age. It is a type of intellectual pollution that smothers clear thought and which has direct negative benefits on individual productivity . . .” ~ Gary Ryan Blair
I am in love with ideas. Ideas intrigue and fascinate me. I like to learn new things and new ways to do old things. I am constantly searching for new twists on old ideas or concepts. One reason is that I am basically lazy. I want to have and do and be various things — and I want to have and do and be them NOW with the smallest amount of effort.
And so I seem to be constantly on the search for the silver bullet, the miracle cure, that will get me what I want. I flit from this book to that audio CD seminar to the latest program of something or other.
One simple tool
But recently I read something that stopped me in mid-flit. It was in a book called The Power Of Inner Choice by Mary E. Allen. True to form — “Wow! A new idea!” — I had downloaded a copy of the book from somewhere at sometime, but I don’t remember any of those details. I stumbled across it last night in one of the folders on my PC and opened it up.
When I logged on this afternoon, it was already opened at a page toward the end of the book. And there I read: “. . . an individual only needs ONE simple tool in order for significant spiritual growth to occur. Select any one simple spiritual principle that resonates for you, and then apply it, without exception to every area of your life. . . . This wisdom applies universally — in spiritual development, in goal achievement, in personal growth, and in being fulfilled. Whatever the desired outcome, if one powerful tool is utilized consistently — without exception — over time — enormous results naturally follow.” [Allen 323 – 324]
That was the concept that resonated with me — the idea of sticking with one thing over time, to give it an opportunity to become integrated in my thinking and thus my behavior. What better principle or tool to choose to practice this on than Simplifying? I could simplify Simplification.
To simplify one’s life can reach into all areas — work, home, finances, relationships, hobbies, spaces, time, electronics, gadgets, etc., etc. I suggest we select one area and / or one practice and stick with it until we’ve mastered the practice and simplified that area. Then, and only then, move to another area or begin implementing another practice.
When you boil it down, simplifying is simply a matter of choice. We have, as Gary Ryan Blair points out, two options to choose from.
1. We can be caught up in a “wave of complexity, becoming increasingly rushed, stressed, and unfocused as we try to fit everything in and absorb everything thrown at us.”
2. We can make a conscious decision “to start pruning away the unnecessary and getting back to basics.” In Blair’s words, to “engage in radical acts of simplicity”.
Deciding to let go
If you are ready to embark on option #2, here are 3 questions provided by Eric Barker to help you decide what to hang on to and what to let go; what to take up and what to leave alone.
1. “Is it useful?” Is it something you want to keep or want to continue doing? Make a decision. “There is nothing the wise [person] does reluctantly,” said Seneca. Do it wholeheartedly or not at all.
2. “Must I have this to live a happy life?” “A good character,” said Seneca, “is the only guarantee of everlasting, carefree happiness.” If you separate your belongings from your self-worth, you’ll likely find you need relatively few material goods to be truly happy.
3. “Is this who I want to be?” Remember a time when you were “on top of the world”. A time when everything seemed to work out perfectly for you, when things simply fell into place. You were able to perform almost effortlessly and get exactly the results you expected. This is you as your wise self, your Empowered self. Remember what it is like to act from this wise self and use this inner knowing to decide what to do and how to be.
Steps to begin a simpler life
If you are ready to begin the journey to a simpler life (and it is a journey), here are some steps to get you started.
Use a simplified approach to simplifying.
According to Leo Babauta, author of The Power Of Less, there are only 2 steps needed for simplifying anything. 1) Identify what’s most important to you. 2) Eliminate everything else.
Most Important Task.
Start your day by tackling your most important task for the day. Use the Focusing Question provided by Gary Keller in The ONE Thing: “What is the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” [Keller 106]
Instead of mindlessly performing a task or chore the same way you’ve always done it, pay attention. Are there steps you can combine to streamline the process? Are there steps that you don’t need to do anymore? Maybe they were important at one time, but over time they’ve lost their meaning or importance? Then consider this: Do you even need to perform this task or chore any more? Can the entire task be eliminated?
Do what is necessary and no more.
Realize that not everything has to be 100%. Many things are fine at 95%, 90% or even 80%. Understand and use the law of diminishing returns. Will it be worth the extra time it takes to get that last 5 – 10% perfect? Don’t spend time doing things that nobody values. (If you don’t know — ask.)
Use routines and habits.
Use the power of habit and routine to simplify aspects of your life, particularly in the area of self-care. Create an energizing morning routine to get yourself up and moving. Create a relaxing evening routine to get yourself relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep. Set up other routines to help you complete daily or weekly tasks. Routines followed again and again over time become habit. Habits allow you to accomplish with a minimum of effort or even thought.
I offer this list as an idea starter, a menu that you select one or two things from, not a to-do list. Remember the main thing is to pick one idea or concept and stick with it until you’ve mastered it and it becomes 2nd nature. “Select any one simple . . . principle that resonates for you, and then apply it, without exception to every area of your life.” That is the way to simplify simplifying. And that is embracing the Excelerated Life!
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Excelerated simplicity — freeing yourself from unnecessary complexity — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of happiness and well-being.
Allen, Mary E. The Power Of Inner Choice. Fawnskin, CA: Personhood Press, 2005
Keller, Gary with Jay Papasan. The ONE Thing: The Suprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinay Results. Austin, TX: Bard Press, 2012