“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” ~E.F. Schumacher
I used to live the most complicated life you could imagine.
I tried to be perfect at everything. All the time.
I was constantly proving myself. Trying to climb the corporate ladder while juggling work and family life. I would step into my boss’ shoes whenever she went on leave, no matter how little notice she gave.
I’d extend my hours to ensure I had her work covered, along with my own. That’s right, I’d happily do two jobs at once.
Was I insane?
Looking back, it certainly seemed that way. Whenever anyone would ask how I was, I would answer, “I’m crazy-busy. I can’t stop and talk right now.”
I kept thinking that I just had to work smarter and put in more effort to get over the “hump.” But I never got over the hump.
For a while, I was too busy and overwhelmed to determine how to get out of that mess. I even thought I was having a nervous breakdown, so I went to see my doctor, and she put me on stress leave.
That’s when it hit me—my job was costing my sanity, and my life was too precious for me to be stuck in that vortex.
I had to make some serious changes to make my life simpler, easier, and more enjoyable. Here’s what I figured out.
1. Don’t hide what’s inside.
You might invest a lot of time and energy trying to be the way you “should” be and conforming to all those things that you think people expect of you. If so, you don’t even do it consciously.
But in adhering to what you think other people expect of you, you’re adding a layer of complexity that you don’t need. It’s like you’re trying to be someone else.
Start getting to know who you are and what you value so you can shed the extra layers and live on your own terms.
Life is simpler when you satisfy yourself and meet your own expectations rather than try to satisfy everyone else.
2. Reframe bad situations.
We all have crappy stuff that happens to us. But when you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, stop and reframe.
I don’t mean paste a smile on your face and try to convince yourself everything is rosy. That doesn’t work.
But looking for the silver lining, or finding the opportunities behind the challenges, really improves your outlook.
My workplace became a nightmare, and my doctor put me on stress leave because I was a mess. But that’s what gave me the necessary push to rebuild my life.
Even when I was in the middle of the mess and feeling like my life was falling apart, I kept thinking maybe this is an opportunity; maybe this is just what I need to make a change.
3. Use your understandascope.
One of the biggest complexities in life can come from misunderstanding someone else. It can lead to anger, frustration, and damaged relationships.
Instead, actively work on your ability to discover and view someone else’s perspective, or understandascope. Suspend judgment and get curious about the other person’s perspective.
I did this recently with my ten-year-old daughter who was being disagreeable and downright horrid to everyone. I wanted to pull her into line, but I stopped myself.
I got curious about her behavior, hugged her, and asked what was wrong. She explained that everyone loved her sister more than they loved her.
Once I understood her perspective, life became much simpler. Instead of telling her off and upsetting her, I could discuss her feelings and provide reassurance.
4. De-clutter your mind.
Don’t you just hate when your mind gets chaotic?
Like when it races around at 3:00AM going faster and faster and faster. Or when you try to remember all that stuff you’ve got to do, and you think your brain might just burst.
The way to prevent that is to actively practice being calm for a few minutes every day. It de-clutters and slows your mind for a few minutes.
Whether you meditate, practice mindfulness, daydream, or do yoga, the effect is to calm your mind and increase focus. Miraculously, the effects of practicing calm for a few minutes gives clarity and makes life easier all day.
5. Re-evaluate your relationships.
Consciously re-evaluate your relationships, one by one. Ask how the relationship enhances your life, how it serves you, and what you gain from it.
This sounds calculating and manipulative, but it’s not. The healthiest relationships are ones where both parties are giving and receiving what they need in terms of happiness, support, and development.
Whenever I realize that a relationship is not serving me well, I reduce contact with that person. Of course, I don’t do this just because a friend is going through a rough patch and needs support.
I look at the full life of the relationship and establish if it’s healthy and beneficial for both of us. If not, I reduce contact and let the relationship drop away.
6. Reconsider your corporate climb.
Someone once told me that they’d found themselves climbing the corporate ladder, and then he realized it was against the wrong building. In other words, he was moving in the wrong direction.
If you find yourself climbing the corporate ladder and wondering if it’s all worth it, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate. Moving up isn’t necessarily bad; just be sure it’s what you truly want.
Will it give you the satisfaction, joy, and life balance you want? Will it fuel your passions and get you leaping out of bed each morning, eager to get to work?
If the answer is not a loud “Hell, yeah!” then it’s worth looking at your options and evaluating what you want from life and how you can get it.
7. Live your best life yet.
Life is limited, but we take the time we have for granted. We get complacent.
People who have a short time to live or have a serious health issue often find immense clarity and drive. They know what’s truly important to them.
Thinking yourself unwell is a fairly challenging mindset to adopt; instead, embrace the idea of making the next six months the best period of your life to date. Use this as a lens to review every decision and establish what’s included in this best period of your life.
What would make the next six months the best of your life? Work out what that would look like, and then set about ensuring those things happen.
It truly is as simple as that.
If It’s To Be, It’s Up To Me
It would be nice if your Fairy Godmother could appear, wave her magic wand, and make your life perfect.
She could wave away complexity, give you the perfect job, and rearrange your life so that it satisfies your every whim.
Want to know why you’ll never actually see your Fairy Godmother?
It’s because she’s inside you.
It’s true. Her wand and her fairy dust are your direction and determination.
They’re your ability to work out what you want and how to get it.
You want to live a simpler life? Then establish what’s important, and eliminate as much of the rest as possible.
It truly is that magically simple.
So, what things are important to you?
Simplify image via Shutterstock