Simplicity in life is about subtracting the obvious and multiplying the meaningful.
Simplicity is not just about decluttering your garage or cleaning out your closets. As much as I love clean, well-organized closets and plenty of open space in my garage, there’s more to simplicity than what meets the eye. Simplicity can go much deeper than what is out in the open for the world to see.
There is this other aspect of simplicity, the one that reveals the needless mental clutter and internal “junk” you’re always carrying around with you. This kind of simplicity brings awareness to the self-sabotage you allow in the space between your ears.
When we feel overwhelmed or pulled in multiple directions in life, the situation may seem outside our control, but what if we believed for a moment that it is completely within our reach to shift into a place of peace and power?
The culprit is inside us. It is woven into our human habits, blocking our path to simplicity. The culprit is our tendency to complicate everything!
Most of us are brilliant at complicating the simple. We have anxiety and stress in our lives from adding pressure where none is necessary. We go on and on to describe a simple concept. We write longer emails, text messages or social media comments than necessary to explain simple points. We have heated discussions with our loved ones over insignificant issues. And the list goes on.
If you are doing any of these things, you are suffering from the constant form of mental clutter that is taking up unnecessary space in your mind. But you are not alone in this struggle, and you are not alone in your desire for less complication and more simplicity in your life.
So let’s get to the “how.” Here are five ways of outsmarting your own mental clutter with the power of simplicity. The more frequently you apply these strategies, the faster you will uncomplicate your thoughts, and the closer your life will get to the essence of simplicity:
1. Question your stories.
You know what they say, don’t believe everything you hear nor everything you read. Don’t believe the gossip columns in the magazine, the doom and gloom predictions from your co-workers, or the “shocking news” that you hear on TV … until you have verified it.
Well, the same concept applies to your inside world – your thoughts.
We all have stories about ourselves even if we don’t think of them as stories. Case in point: How often do you pause and logically contemplate what you really think about your relationships, your habits, or your challenges? How often, on the other hand, do you just blurt out whatever fleeting emotion comes to mind first – i.e., the pre-recorded story you’ve been holding on to – without even thinking?
Stories can be short, such as “I’m not a good writer,” “I’m not good at yoga,” or “I have intrinsic procrastination problems.” If we were to dig deeper, you’d be happy to go on and try to explain why that is the case.
So the uncluttering exercise here is to question your story. For instance, let’s take the writer example. Ask yourself: Why do I think I am not a good writer? What would it look like to be a good writer? Can I describe my current writing in a way that serves me better?
You will be surprised how often the questioning process helps you emerge with a much better and more accurate version of your story. Give it a try!
2. Prove the power of affirmations to yourself.
You may have heard of positive affirmations. They are statements in the affirmative implying something is already so, such as:
- I am a good writer.
- I am a talented person.
- I am a kind loving person.
Now let’s be honest. When you are feeling frustrated or unhappy, do you really feel like saying a positive affirmation and, more importantly, believing it? Um… probably not, so how do we outsmart our own negative side? By disarming what we call “blurts.”
Blurts are the rotten terrible things that your subconscious mind spews out at you every chance it gets. The idea is to leverage these inner demons by forming an inner dialogue with them that helps you get past your mental clutter and negativity.
Here’s a fun way to think about it: Remember in the old cartoons, they had a demon on one of the character’s shoulders and an angel on the other? Well your blurts are the demon and your affirmations are the angel. Now just play the part of YOU.
Let’s start with a blurt that is running in your mind: “I am going to be alone forever.”
Your affirmation rebukes that with, “Actually, I am going to find the right person to share my life with.”
Now your blurt will come back with: “Oh yeah, and when is that going to happen, 50 years from now?”
To which you say, “I’m not sure, but I feel confident that the right person will find me.”
“Well, what makes you so confident?” says the blurt again.
“Because I am a wonderful, loving person and have a lot to offer,” says the affirmation.
To which your blurt responds, “Oh really? Well, why hasn’t’ it happened already if you’re so great?”
And you reply with, “Well, everything in life comes at the right time.”
You may be chuckling, but I promise you this much, if you just commit to doing this (and it may help to actually write it out) you will be engaged in your own inner thoughts as you are “cleaning house,” and you will understand yourself and the root of your negativity far more deeply.
That is when you start to master peace over chaos in your mind – the beginnings of that internal simplicity.
3. Run your thoughts through three key filters.
Sometimes you are in a hurry, and not having a great day to boot. On days like this, there’s a mental decluttering exercise I use that’s super quick and keeps you in check…
I’ve been in arguments with my husband in the past and one of the things I regret is not filtering my words before saying them. At the time, I did not have the right tools, except “Be nice!”, which does nothing for you when you are feeling the opposite of nice. Some years later, I ran across this simple trick and it helped me shift my behavior. Here’s how it works:
Before you utter anything, run your thoughts through three key filters and don’t speak unless you get three resounding YES responses:
- Is it true?
- Is it kind?
- Is it helpful?
For example, let’s say a running thought in your head says that your partner doesn’t care about you, and you are about to shout those words out because he or she didn’t do the last chore you requested. Question that thought first: Is it true that my partner doesn’t care about me? Is it kind for me to say or think this? Is it helpful for me to say or think this?
Remember you can’t take your words back. What’s more, you will never regret behaving in a true, kind and helpful way down the road. So get in the habit of applying your three key filters.
4. Treat yourself the way you would treat your best friend.
We’ve all heard the expression “Treat others as you would treat yourself,” but do you see the irony of it? As I grew older, and became more aware of my thoughts and stories, I realized that I hardly ever treat others as I treat myself. I actually treat others much nicer, much kinder and way better all around. Yet I manage to treat myself with so much anger, harshness and impatience, and I know I’m not the only one.
When was the last time you said something loving to yourself? When was the last time you held your own hand and hugged yourself just for trying?
Poor self-treatment has become an epidemic, often confused with self-discipline and the drive for success, and it is hurting us far more than it’s helping.
Here’s the truth: You can be both driven and kind, self-disciplined and gentle, successful and happy.
The mental decluttering exercise here is to turn around the statement: Treat yourself the way you treat someone you love. Pick a beloved person or a best friend. How do you treat them? Are you kind, thoughtful, generous, forgiving, and compassionate with them? Now do the same for yourself. After all, are you not worthy of the same treatment, if not better? Of course you are!
5. Simplify, simplify, and then simplify some more.
The easiest yet most challenging decluttering exercise is to think from a place of simplifying. When you have no idea how to tackle the mental clutter, the troubling thoughts or just the general sense of overwhelm, step back and ask:
- How do I simplify this situation?
- What can I let go of without losing a thing?
Come up with at least one creative way to simplify, to take away the complexity, to make your situation easier. Maybe you take a five-minute break and come back to the problem. Maybe you let go of one unnecessary obligation. Maybe you eliminate distractions for a set time frame. Or maybe you simply decide that, for now, you will accept it the way it is and not fuss over it.
Just remember that these two questions apply to all situations and they give you the space and permission to take a step back and decide on the next best course of action.
Trust yourself in this process of simplifying. Your nature does not consist of complication and overwhelm. Your negative thoughts are not true, but they are real in your mind and questioning them helps you overcome these ingrained self-sabotaging beliefs.
At your core, you will find your essence on this journey. Your nature is peace, simplicity and love. You may be far removed from that state now but you are just getting back to where you really belong, so stay with the right questions and the right answers will gradually show up.
It’s all about uncomplicating your life, one thought at a time.
Which of the “simplicity strategies” discussed above resonate the most with you?
What else helps you uncomplicate your thoughts and find peace of mind in stressful times?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Author Bio: Farnoosh Brock is a published author, business coach and speaker. She started Prolific Living after a successful corporate career. She helps corporate executives, business owners and entrepreneurs to be more successful. Grab her 12-minute Morning Affirmations for FREE and wake up energized and happy!
Photo by: Noelle Buske
I love your point on affirmations in #2. Positive affirmations (or reminders) have been a tool I’ve used for years with great success. This is one of the reasons I resonate so deeply with Marc and Angel’s emails, book, etc. – so much of their writing can being singled out and used as affirmations.
Two examples that I’ve been using this week:
* Life does not have to be perfect to be amazing.
* Head up, heart open. To better days approaching!
Keep up the amazing work!
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you for continuing to support our work, Amandah! 🙂 I’m so glad you resonate with our teachings.
Denise Martin says
I resonate deeply with both of the questions from your final point, but especially:
What can I let go of without losing a thing?
That’s a different way of looking at all the attachments we have, both physical and emotional. Good perspective.
Now I’m thinking…
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it helpful?
Thank you SO MUCH for having me on one of my most favorite blogs, Marc and Angel (and little Mac!). Such a pleasure to write for you and your fabulous readership. Thank you and keep rocking this space with wonderful insights! Big love and gratitude!!!
Wendy Cain says
Thank YOU for the excellent article!
Marc Chernoff says
Thank you, Farnoosh! You are amazing!
Rose Costas says
Thank you for this great post. All five resonates with me but I will focus on # 2 Proving the power of affirmations to myself. The little devil on the side of my shoulder many times has been given the opportunity to run havoc in my life. I tend to quit arguing my case and so he is left feeling strong and powerful while my Angel on the other side trying desperately to get me to stand my ground. I am working on it and will get better. Thanks again for the post.
GURPREET SINGH DHAMI . says
I always enjoy reading the posts on your site. I honestly feel that I have gradually become a better person by doing so.
Keep up the good work. God Bless.
I feel the same way, since I have started following Marc and Angel I have changed a lot, and am still learing to grow and change and become a better version of myself 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
You are welcome, Rose. Thank you for the continued kindness and support.
I love number 5.
I try everyday to say, “I am alive!” When I say this, everything else is secondary. When in pain or ill, I say, ” I am alive” and in pain. These three words anchor me in challenging times.
I’ve been reading your blogs for quite some time, but this will be my first comment. The words today are so in line with what I’ve been learning this past week or so! I just finished reading Dr. Joe Vitale’s book, The Zero Point, and did an online training class by him – it’s about Ho’oponopono and Self I-dentity. The steps you outlined here in your blog are the same ideas as Vitale’s – you just use different words – you use ”blurts’ he uses ‘counter-intentions’ but they are the same thing – basically – the root thought. You can say all the affirmations you want, but if your root thought is “I am NOT worthy” then that is what speaks the loudest and what will show up in your world as experiences.. The synchronicity of this post showing up for me today when I am working on mastering my own inner dialogue is perfect. Thank you!! And I’m sorry for all of the posts I’ve been reading for over a year but never verbally thanked you for! I love you guys!
Marc Chernoff says
Excellent perspective, Teri. And cheers to mastering your inner dialogue. It’s a lifelong journey, and it’s a wonderful one.
I have been subscribed to your blog for couple of years now. Repeatedly, I have found comfort in the wisdom of what you share. Thank you, thank you for what you do to help so many!
LOVE the article! Thank you, Farnoosh, Marc and Angel. I have found many shared practices and beliefs through your site and now “friends of Marc and Angel.”
When I think back a few years, I was desperately grasping for a positive voice and message. I was the walking, talking version of mental clutter. I landed on Marc and Angel’s page. I am so happy to say that your blogs helped me change. Thank you.
Marc Chernoff says
I’m so happy we could assist you in some small way! Keep growing, Tania!
Joanne B. says
Oh wow. Here you go again, writing posts specifically for me. We really have to stop meeting like this! How is it that you are able to hit the nail on the head so many times? Thank you for making me feel that perhaps I AM special. The things I was told as a child-or more importantly-the things I was NOT told-have left a hole in me that I am constantly trying to fill up with clutter so I don’t notice the void. As a child I was always reminded that I was nothing special-just average, and that average was good enough-don’t be “bad” because you will draw attention to yourself (and this family) and don’t be “great” because you will draw attention to yourself and no one likes a braggart. So I was nothing more than mediocre. I heard a commercial on the radio the other day that was talking about a “girls’ weekend”. A girls’ weekend”? I don’t even know what that IS! A weekend of shopping and luxury and non-sense and primping and pampering yourself as if you were —“special” What IS that? That is for others, how could that be for me?
Well tomorrow is my daughter’s 24th birthday and instead of celebrating HER day I am going to schedule a day of beauty for ME and go shopping, for ME. I am going to treat myself like I would be treating HER. I go out of my way to make EVERYDAY like it is her birthday! In spite of me not wanting her to turn out like me, I always go out of my way to make HER feel special. I don’t know for sure if she does feel special-that remains to be seen (I recognize that I will probably make my own set of mistakes with her! ), but I do know that I am going to try to take care of myself the way I have always taken care of her- like she was special! When my mother passed away, (16 years ago on my daughter’s birthday/how ironic) I remember looking down at her in the coffin. It was the first item I ever say her “hair done” and having a manicure. I don’t want MY daughter to cry over ME and think the same. We teach our children by what we tell them, but also by what we DONT tell them. I clutter my brain and my mouth with noise so I don’t notice the silence. Poor self treatment is NOT a badge of honor and self discipline is a curse. I can go on and on, and perhaps I already have. When those negative thoughts-or for me, the ones that tell me i”m just “average- nothing special” I will tell myself that is simply not true.
I AM SPECIAL and I will continue to find ways to show myself that I do care. About me. WHAT A CONCEPT!
Marc Chernoff says
Yes, YOU are special, Joanne! So happy to hear that you’re owning this reality.
Cathy Shouse says
I really appreciate #1, “question your stories.” As a writer, I am aware of story. But I am generally unaware of how I’m telling my own story to myself and how that influences me. Stopping to reframe my story and filter out negative thinking helps me to unclutter my mind.
I’ve recently been reading your posts that I get emailed to me. I’m a recovering addict that has found dealing with life to be a bit challenging. ..I’ve managed to get over 10 years up … I’ve done this by pure fear of what is waiting for me if I was to relapse. My issues are all fear based. .tried yoga, basic, affirmations, herbs.. you name it… but for the last 2 months I’ve made it part of my day to read positive readings that inspire me … even taping some of your writings from http://www.marcandangel.com by reading them and implementing them before anxious situations.
I wish I could support your work by buying your book, but sorry but I have no $ … but I do appreciate your work and really wanted to say thank you for giving hope when I need it.
Your ever well wisher,
I love it!
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it helpful?
I personally battle the concept of remaining positive towards myself and others every day. I fight those negative thoughts that creep in and manage to pull me down. Some days I win, some days I can’t wait to be over, but I fight each day.
Thank you for providing such a positive forum for those that are working towards love and happiness in our lives. I recently lost the love of my life to petty differences and unrealistic expectations. I’m trying to learn the lessons I need to be a better me today and in the future. I’m trying to learn to be less critical of others and myself.
My challenge to be a better person won’t be easy but I look forward to the fruits of my rewards when I can look in the mirror and see the person I want to be.
Wendy Cain says
#2 did resonate, how did you know? I did smile at having a chit chat with the blurts. Great advice. The whole article was very helpful and just what I needed to read. Will take the excellent advice, thank you.
Jan Ramsey Brick says
Awesome insights. I’m going to share on my FB page. Thanks as always!
Thank you for the beautiful article……
I loved point #3.
Another first time poster here 🙂 As I began to write, I thought #1 and #3 really hit home for me, but as I went back up to reread those 2 points, I was struck by #5, “How do I simplify this situation and what can I let go of without losing a thing?”
I have been struggling with so many issues for the past few years, losing my mother to suicide, a long drawn out divorce after nearly 30 years, a new relationship in turmoil, turning 50 something, earlier this year, I was diagnosed with BPD … it has been a whirlwind of chaos and nonsense.
This past weekend, I had an opportunity to make a drastic change for the better in my life, all the signposts were literally screaming at me, but in my hesitation, as it got caught up in the mental turmoil in my mind, I let it slip away … and with all the things I have endured, as I thought the outcome was assured, this shocked me to the core!
As I now must pick up and find peace in my current situation, I happened on this post, WOW! I wish this was last weeks post, as it has made a world of difference in my mental state, and as I faced my crossroad last weekend, I might have had the presence of mind to change my “story” and begin again.
From here forward, I will adopt these coping mechanisms, so when the next opportunity comes, I will be ready to seize on it!
Thank you for all your insight, your blog has been a Godsend in my life!
Positive affirmation psychology is so in fashion right now, its all over my facebook news feed. I do feel like a little bit of a trend setter since this was what I was all about when I began reading your work many years ago. My news feed actually feeds me now. More and more people understand the power of positive thoughts, I just hope they are diligent enough to apply them to their day to day lives.
Thank you so much, I love it…
Is it true?
Is it kind?
Is it helpful?
I will try to apply this to everything I do and say from now on. And I thank God for a wonderful human being in my life.
Elmaz Krasniqi says
I have always asked myself this question: why do I need any reason to be happy? Life should be easy, that in any circumstances, a human kind should not need any reason to be happy, he or she should be happy by itself. By thinking this way, than the thoughts should in natural way be easy and never, never complicated.
…when i get all that nonsense thoughts… i simply say to myself “hey! buddy! u know these are wrong thought patterns, so why u r listening to them? , just do ur work! “
ROY KAMAU says
Thank you so much for the great work you do. Your articles help me move on better, reason much deeper and relate with life’s experiences much more positively.
Andra Miclaus says
Hi Angel, I do love your post, I never though about it that way. Reading your post I realised that when I was younger I was overcomplicating my life so much with hair extensions, fake nails and fake eyelashes and my father used to make so much fun of me. Now that I am grown (I`d like to think) and realised how insignificant those things are and there are more important things to work on in our self-improvement journeys, I realised that a good analytical thinking and great control of our thoughts and emotions are the things that lead to longevity and unconditional love.