I’ve long had the desire to keep things simple. It’s not an easy task in today’s society. There is so much information flowing toward us it’s difficult to ward it off and remain focused on the basic needs that matter most.
We get caught up in consumption of things and wanting more stuff, more food, better experiences (convincing ourselves we need these things). Most of us leverage ourselves financially to get them, placing ourselves in considerable debt and becoming owned by the very things we desired to own. I’m certainly guilty of this. We live beyond our means and fill our lives with things that we wouldn’t miss if they were gone. Why do we pursue them then? Why do we hunt and gather for the sake of hunting and gathering? Why do we seek to acquire a particular thing, then once we have it put it aside to find the next thing to pursue or acquire?
I believe the answer to the question of why is rather simple, we are made this way. Evolved (or perhaps not) from the hunter gatherers of our ancestry. Yet we have little to hunt and gather for in the historical sense, it’s been reduced to shopping, buying, acquiring. It’s how we get the fix that’s been engrained in us. Hunting and gathering is now the continual pursuit of a better partner, a bigger house, a better car, more bikes, walking up and down aisles in the grocery store picking boxes and cans off a shelf. Somewhere along the line of progress we’ve lost track of improving our lives by making basic needs more readily available to everyone and instead have fallen into creating lives of excess built on debt and future income… all to keep our economy growing.
If I believe and conclude that this is fact and that there is a level of auto-response to it and that our culture collectively has reenforced this engrained cycle by creating and marketing more things to gather and acquire, then what can I do to break this pattern. This is where simplifying resurfaces. If I live my life by a mantra or manifesto of simplifying can I better control the urges that cause spending and unnecessary change for the sake of a fix? Can I develop a habit of simplifying?
Simplify: to make less complex or complicated; make plainer or easier.
Habit: behavior pattern regularly followed that it becomes almost involuntary.
Simplicity must have a balance. Simplifying means narrowing things down to what is most important. It’s developing the courage to say no to things that don’t impact the big picture. It’s about being more conscious and self aware of one’s thoughts and decisions. What it isn’t is becoming a hermit and moving to the mountains, or becoming satisfied with less in the sense of accomplishments and drive. Simple must be balanced with continued pursuit of the most epic life while at the same time managing personal expectations and the expectations of others to be all and do all.
The more balls we juggle, the greater the risk we’ll drop them all and have to start over again.
There will likely be a continued post to this topic as I further explore this balance of simplification and living epically, bravely, a well crafted life. Here are some action steps I’m pursuing in an effort to get there.
1. Create a life mantra that includes a reference to living simply. One or two sentences that I can apply to situations or decisions that help me evaluate what fits into my plan… into my life.
2. Try to drill down my tasks and goals to one thing in each of several categories of my life, such as personal, work, finance, health, etc. What is the one thing I need/want to focus on in that area such that I won’t allow other things get in the way until I accomplish that one thing.
3. Be conscious/aware of what drives my decisions. Evolve to recognize and become more objective, and thus less emotionally driven.