Life is not complicated. We are complicated. When we stop doing the wrong things and start doing the right things, life is simple.
Would you like to uncomplicate your life? I bet you would!
Marc and I received well over 1,000 replies to our recent ‘subscribers only’ email series (you can subscribe here for free) on simplicity. This inspired me to revisit the content, tailor it to some of the most popular replies and questions we received, and share this enhanced summary of our simplicity advice series with you here.
A simple life has a different meaning and a different value for every person. For me, it means getting rid of some of life’s complexities so you can spend more time with people you love and do more of the things you love. It means getting rid of the clutter, and eliminating all but the essential, so you are left with only that which gives you value.
For the cynics who might say that the list of ideas below is too long to be ‘simple,’ there are really only two steps to simplifying:
- Identify what’s most important to you.
- Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.
Of course, that advice is not terribly useful unless you understand how to apply this concept to different areas of your life; so I present to you the points below as well. And since there can be no ‘one size fits all,’ step-by-step guide to simplifying your life, I’ve compiled an incomplete list of ideas that should help you move in the right direction. Not every tip will fit your lifestyle, so just choose a few that do and apply them accordingly.
3. Learn to let GO of what wasn’t meant to be.
Letting go is part of moving on to something better. You will not get what you truly deserve if you’re too attached to the things you’re supposed to let go of. Sometimes you love, and you struggle, and you learn, and you move on. And that’s OK. You must be willing to let go of the life you planned for so you can enjoy the life that is waiting for you.
4. Stop berating yourself for being a work in progress.
Start embracing it! Because being a work in progress doesn’t mean you’re not good enough today. It means you want a better tomorrow, and you wish to love yourself completely, so you can live your life fully. It means you’re determined to heal your heart, expand your mind and cultivate the gifts you know you’re meant to share. May we all be works in progress forever, and celebrate the fact that we are!
5. Don’t wish your life away.
The truth is, your whole life has been leading up to this moment. Think about that for a second. Every single thing you’ve gone through in life, every high, every low, and everything in between, has led you to this moment right now. This moment is priceless, and it’s the only moment guaranteed to you. This moment is your ‘life.’ Don’t miss it. (Read The Power of Now.)
6. Forget what everyone thinks and wants for you.
One of the greatest freedoms is simply not caring what everyone else thinks of you. Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and what you want to be. The best thing you can do is follow your heart. Take risks. Don’t just accept the safe and easy choices because you’re afraid of what others will think, or afraid of what might happen. If you do, nothing will ever happen. Don’t let small minds convince you that your dreams are too big. They aren’t.
7. Stop worrying and complaining.
Start focusing on the things you can control and do something about them. Those who complain the most accomplish the least. And when you spend time worrying, you’re simply using your imagination to create things you don’t want. It’s usually only as good or bad as you think it is.
8. Start making moves.
Sometimes we ask questions not to seek answers but to affirm something our soul knows already. You’re not doing yourself a favor by merely hearing the same answer from people over and over again. It is accepting the truth, making a conscious change and finally moving on to other things that is your answer. Give your soul a chance to explore the life you are meant to live. Stop asking the same questions – at some point you have to make a decision and take action. (Read Getting Things Done.)
9. Focus on being productive, not being busy.
Don’t just get things done; get the right things done. Results are always more important than the time it takes to achieve them. Stop and ask yourself if what you’re working on is worth the effort. Is it bringing you in the same direction as your goals? Don’t get caught up in odd jobs, even those that seem urgent, unless they are also important.
10. Look for the silver lining in every tough situation.
When things are hard, and you feel down, take a few deep breaths and look for the silver lining – the small glimmers of hope. Remind yourself that you can and will grow stronger from these hard times. And remain conscious of your blessings and victories – all the things in your life that are right. Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
11. Spend more time with the right people.
These are the people you enjoy, who love and appreciate you, and who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways. They are the ones who make you feel more alive, and not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be, unconditionally.
12. Let things be less than perfect.
Smile every chance you get; not because life has been easy, perfect, or exactly as you had anticipated, but because you choose to be happy and grateful for all the good things you do have, and all the problems you know you don’t have. You must accept the fact that life is not perfect, that people are not perfect, and that you are not perfect. And that’s okay, because the real world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards people who get GOOD things done. And the only way to get GOOD things done is to be imperfect 99% of the time.
Truth be told, life is actually pretty simple, but we often insist on making it complicated. If you’re struggling with any of the points above, there is a clear path to getting back on track. Your habits are simply broken and need to be repaired. When you trust a broken set of habits every day, it’s only a matter of time before life gets confusing and complicated.
It doesn’t have to be this way though. You can make adjustments starting today that will instantly help you feel better, think more clearly, and live more effectively. That’s why we wrote our book, “1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.” It is filled with short, concise tips on how to do just that.
The floor is yours…
So which of the points above are you struggling with most right now? What has been unnecessarily complicating your life? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights with us.
Photo by: Poetic Outlook
Craig H. says
This post is very helpful. It reminds me of what George Santayana had once said: The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication. Thank you for posting. I just purchased your book and look forward to reading it.
Simplicity is freedom in many regards. I am working through many of these points at this moment. Prayers and wishes to all whom are too.
Susan Rae says
Great reminders. The meaning of life is just to be alive and aware in the present moment. It’s so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, so many of us continuously rush around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond ourselves in another time and place.
BTW, I’m loving your book. It provides a needed dose of inspiration whenever I pick it up and read a page or three.
Christy King says
We’ve been gradually simplifying our lives (because let’s face it, it’s not something most people can do overnight) for awhile now. Although we have a ways to go yet to meet our goals, we’re already seeing big difference. Less stuff, more time, more happiness.
Angel, really enjoyed this post of input from readers. This is really a simple list with 1 & 2 essentially summing up the whole philosophy on simple living. Once we simply start thinking about what matters and what doesn’t, we start living a more conscious life.
Many of of your other points can be summed up in living in the present moment and accepting what happens, instead of resisting it. When we accept and live in the present moment, we stop wishing, stop berating ourselves and do many of the things you suggest.
As Eckhart Tolle brilliant states – you get there by realizing you already are there! Thank you for this one!
Beth Worthy says
I appreciate your effort and agree every word written. “Spending time with right people” is the best point I liked a lot. As I think our life is all about how you are utilizing it. If you are at right place with right people you will always gain experience to learn new thing.
Ms. Anonymous says
#3… Does this apply if your spouse has been unfaithful?
Susanna Halonen says
I love this post and I can really relate to all 12 of them! Point 3 really resonates with me as I always have a very strong gut feeling and I’ve learned to listen to it because it’s always right in one way or another. Sometimes things just aren’t meant to be.
Equally, I need to do more of 11, spending more time with the right people. Even as a coach myself, sometimes I forget what’s most important to me and start to please others, instead of actually hanging out with the people who I can relate to best and who really bring out the best in me.
Really enjoyed this post… Happy Holidays from Happyologist! 🙂
Sandra Hamlett says
Reading your wonderful post has made me see that #3 and #6 are leading me to #8. I have had a confused sense of loyalty in my life and this has led me to hold on to people and events even when these people and events were making me miserable.
The psychologist, Carl Rogers, noted that people are often unhappy because of the lack of congruence in their lives which is another way of saying complexity blinds us to the simplicity of life. For Rogers, simply sitting with a patient and having them talk through their problems, without the therapist leading them of making judgments or giving advice, was the best way for them to solve their problem.
Life is really like that old vaudeville joke:
Patient: Doctor it hurts whenever I do this.
Doctor: Then stop doing that.
The pains and sadness in life come from continuing to live lives that give us pain. Sometimes you are blessed with an event that shakes the foundation of your life and makes you realize “you have to stop doing that.”
This is all great stuff. It reminds me of the 12 steps that Bill W. wrote back in the 30’s for AA. I would challenge any one to read the 12 steps of AA when u read them take out the word alcohol and put your own word in. This word can be anything anger food, gambling, violence, stress, etc.. anything that is making your day go sideways.
Renee Segal says
Great reminders even though I know a lot of these aren’t always easy to put into practice. I liked the part about spending time with the right people. If you don’t like someone don’t hang out with them. Thanks, I love your blog!!
This was a great post to read right before the turn of a new year. I have a lot of resolutions in place that are focused on being less stressed and not caring so much about what other people think.
Melissa Webster says
I’ve wasted way too much of my life with the wrong people who made me insecure and undermined my confidence, faith and abilities. I finally have them out of my life, but I’m still waiting for the right people who feel good and happy and supportive. I learned this lesson the hard way, but at least now I know the difference.
Letting go of the things that weren’t meant to be has been difficult, but focusing on new and positive projects that make me happy and empowered has helped a lot. I’m hoping at some point this will make that which wasn’t meant to be hurt less and less until it just doesn’t matter anymore and I no longer care.
Great list. Thanks!
David Rapp says
I think one of the best ways to uncomplicate life is to eliminate gray areas as much as possible. I know a lot of people, including myself, that want to keep options open. SO Maybe, Perhaps, Possibly become the big 3 choices we make over and over again. Saying Yes or No, is the only way to eliminate anything.
Another way I am going to approach simplification this year is acombination of elimination/prevention. By this I mean purging books I have read and probably will not reread, and NOT buy new books until I read the ones I have already purchased. The same with clothing, donate clothes that I no longer need or wear, and NOT replace them unless its necessary (not a WANT).
Lastly, I am going to filter everything coming into the household. If we have 5 kinds of kitchen cleaner in stock, do we need a sixth? If I have 5 flannel shirts, do I need 2 more? Does my son need 2 more Ipad games, or can he continue to play the ones he has? This way we can lessen expenses, and manage “inventory” a lot easier.
Points 1 & 2 say it all. My biggest problem right now is #4 and #7. Not accepting that being a work in progress is ok, and constant worrying about everything.
Small steps lead to bigger steps. Enjoy these posts and find them and comments from your readers very helpful.
Thank you all, again.
Again, good thinking material and totally on point. Wish more people could connect and try with these ideas. The world is a better place because of your website. Happy Holidays from Dracut, MA.
Beautiful words, how do I help my partner simplify his being…he has gotten better, I just wish he would be at ‘awesome.’ God bless you for reaching out and inspiring us. Happy holidays.
Jil Sonia Interiors says
Heart stoppingly beautiful words.
Thank you so much! Merry Christmas, xo
Thank you for those inspiring tips. I am lost for words here as all of them spoke right to my heart. These are definitely things that I will work towards in the new year. What I hope to achieve more next year is to take action and be there for those that are most important to me. Nothing else matters. Period.
A great list, thank you. We all get used to being, living life a certain way. It feels like an exhausting undertaking and it is obvious to anyone reading this comment that I am looking at life in a very negative fashion, I will try to change this.
After juggling too many balls for too long, simplicity is a wonderful relief… #5 consciously bringing my awareness into the present moment has made a tremendous difference to me. I like to take just a moment before starting anything (the car, computer, lunch etc.) to check where my attention is and adjust when necessary (read often!).
And #8 busting old patterns through self-inquiry challenging old beliefs has also helped to eliminate a lot of mind clutter so I can remember (and appreciate) what I actually value and work towards that.
Super post, thanks Angel.
I have to say that, like another reader who posted, I too, struggle most with #3 and #6 which, yes, does in fact lead to #8! When I saw this article this morning, just reading it alone got me thinking just how badly I’m looking for affirmation of what, indeed, my soul probably does and has always known! Thanks…this was a refreshing, eye-opening read with perfect timing for me.
I love that I have found your blog, it has become my favorite to read. Wonderful post!
Thank you for pushing us forward and for giving us courage. You share wisdom and joy. Thank you
Your posts are just what I need. This is snapping me back into reality after being in a very long depressing, just pathetic slum. Whenever I need a dosage of inspiration and motivation, or just a simple reminder to be happy, I can truly rely on your posts. So with that being said, I sincerely thank you guys.
Angel Chernoff says
@All: Thank you, as always, for the insight. Marc and I are enjoying a peaceful and simple holiday season – no hectic travel plans or expensive gifts – just good company and lots of love. And it’s been amazing.
I think as you grow older your holiday wish list gets smaller and more simple, because the things you really want and need can’t be bought.
Happy holidays! 😉
#13 (or #1 in my opinion) – Don’t be materialistic.
At least for me, this has been an extremely important step to making my life simple. Every quarter/6 months I clean out my closet, literally, and donate the clothes that I’ve used less then 2 times during the previous period to a church nearby. Other belongings that I haven’t used/that feels like a excess I usually sell.
I could fit all of my belongings (except furniture) in the trunk of a sedan without problems, and it’s not about being able to move without hassle, but more about the feeling that I own what I need, and nothing more.
It’s not easy, I’ve been “working” at this (and almost all other points presented in this article) for about 5 years now. Would I do it differently if I had the chance? Never. Excess is a problem, at least as long as poverty exists for other human beings.
And Bookmarked. Fantastic article, helped put things into perspective for me!
Greg Schenk says
Very well done, love it! My biggest issue is doing it alone, not having a partner/wife to share the good and tough times with. Not how I pictured life.
I’ve hit some very high goals but know I haven’t scratched the surface of what I am capable of doing. Sometimes though it would be nice to have someone in your corner to ride the waves of life with you.
This is so current for me (and probably others right now too); I’m sitting here crafting my plans for the new year and this feeds right into making those plans. Thank you!
David Crowley says
Glad to have come across your post. I like the one about being “productive not busy” as it’s easy to mistake the latter for the former. Related to that a bit, I’ve been working on aligning my daily habits and practices with longer term goals, so that I’m not just being busy with those daily activities.
I have been reading your material for the last few weeks and I just love it all:-) Very helpful inspiring and full of love.
Thank you for your work and sharing it.
jo allebach says
This has been in my inbox for quite a while I see. I am sure glad I finally read it. All the suggestions are great. I do need to simplify my life, my possessions and already dealt with the relationships. #3 about getting moving is an issue for me. I know what I need to do, but I just need to do it now. I think too much sometimes instead of following through. Thank you for all of these ideas and I really get a lot from your work.
Christina Scalise says
Very nice article! This part I especially liked…..
“…getting rid of some of life’s complexities so you can spend more time with people you love and do more of the things you love.”
Some people just don’t realize how much they give up when they live in a world that’s over complicated and filled with clutter (both mental and physical). Taking time to simplify things can save so much time; and some sanity as well.
One of my most “liked” quotes…..
“Organization isn’t about perfection; it’s about efficiency, reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving your overall quality of life.” – Christina Scalise, Organize Your Life and More”
Jake C says
I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about this, but seem to have gotten little past thinking. What complicates my life is the never ending concern that there is something I need to be doing: building a blog, building a business, building a friendship, building my career, building my wealth. I feel like a beaver, always beavering away, never in a resting state. I need to become a “better” person. I need to achieve my goals in a world where for many of us achievement is measured by others because we allow them to. A boss, a spouse, a friend.
We all talk about making things simple and we all develop lists. I’m not critical of list building but in a way it complicates rather than simplifies. So the minute I build a list in my view it complicates my life. The argument will be that I can’t get to simple without going through complicated. Perverse thinking some may say.
I have four bank accounts, three smartphones, six credit cards. They need to be managed even if they are just out there. Tax reporting, credit ratings all sorts of stuff that is effected by all this record keeping and activities financial and otherwise. Our society encourages us to consume products and services, the mantra of growth. And most of us get in the game. I don’t know why.
And then there is the myth of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy is based on the cognitive model, which states that thoughts, feelings and behavior are all connected, and that individuals can move toward overcoming difficulties and meeting their goals by identifying and changing unhelpful or inaccurate thinking, problematic behavior, and distressing emotional responses. By examining our behavior we will be set free. I have been involved is this type of therapy (by myself or with a coach) for decades and nothing has changed. So what’s the way out? For example, for years I have done work that I hate. Hate going to work, hate getting up to go to work. It stresses me out and makes me anxious. The longer I do it the harder it is to get out. So the therapy has always been to understand this and I do and to move on. Fight the demon inside! Understanding the problem has not helped me solve the problem. The therapy in my case has not be actionable.
So I am like a tire stuck in the mud. The harder I try to get out, the deeper I get in.
Any thoughts or suggestions on how I can make things simple when I am the one making them complex? Quit my job, find a new career, throw out my old clothes? How do you dispose of mental clutter when mental clutter accumulates just by being alive? Can we reformat our brains the way we reformat a hard drive to get rid of all the old accumulated junk that is slowing down our ability to process and enjoy?
Janice Taylor says
So much of this really resonates with me, but in particular the ‘stop berating yourself for being a work in progress’. Really helpful
I feel afraid to express myself openly. I want to experience life, but i sometimes feel tight in my body, to live a life at the fullest. Trying to let go and make improvements.
This is exactly what I needed this morning. I grew up loving art in a family that never appreciated my talents, I spent mounds of money in college trying to find a profession that would make them proud, and now I am drowning in school debt. I’m graduating in a year with a degree in a field I do not think I’m good enough at and scared to get a job in. But only a job in my degree will help me to make those insane loan payments. I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place every single day with this debt I required to impress people who’ve never had my best interests at heart… I know that I won’t be happy until their paid, so I’m trying to simplify my life. I love to travel and have no money for it, so I’m working on that too but finding it difficult to find the balance. I found this article extremely inspiring and helpful for my journey, thank you very much for this.
Nydia Serrano says
Yes, we can make our lives easier. I have always said that we often make life difficult, without good reason.
My complication is letting go of someone who’s been in my life for a long time, but isn’t the healthiest person I could have close to me. I think cutting ties is very difficult.