Anyone can make today more complicated than it has to be, and most people will. It takes a touch of wisdom to do the opposite.
Our days fill up so fast, and are so frenzied and jammed with drama and distractions, they often seem to be bursting at the seams. And the craziest part of it all is that we get so accustomed to this kind of chaos, we think it’s normal. We go about each day without ever questioning why we feel so darn stressed out.
Angel and I lived this way for many years, until a time came when we were dealt a series of harsh reality checks that forced us to reexamine everything. One of the key lessons we learned through this reexamination is that it’s not terribly hard to make our lives a whole lot simpler and happier, one day at a time… one step at a time.
Today, I encourage you to join us on our daily journey of living a simpler, happier life by following the seven steps I’ve outlined below. Keep in mind, however, that while Angel and I have fully incorporated each of these steps into our daily lives, we did so gradually. I suggest you choose one right now and begin working on it. Then revisit this list when you’re ready to take the next step.
- Identify what’s most important, and eliminate the rest. – This may sound like a drastic measure to some, but it’s really not. Today will quickly fill up with time-wasting activities if you aren’t careful. Thus, you must remember that being productive isn’t just about getting things done – it’s also about leaving things undone. The simplicity and efficiency of today relies heavily on the elimination of non-essential tasks. You must identify what’s most important to you, and then eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else.
- Declutter your physical space. – Decluttering your physical space not only makes things more organized, but it also leads to a less cluttered mental space. The visual distractions in your environment pull on you and distract you in more ways than you likely realize. If you’re holding on to things you don’t need, let go and donate them to someone who does. Give yourself some extra breathing room. And remember, it’s not just how many (or how few) things you own that matters – it’s whether you make those things count. For example, it’s better to have three great books on your bookshelf that you’re actually going to read rather than 300 that only take up space. (Read The More of Less for decluttering strategies that work. Note: We read an advance copy of this book, and it’s a must-read.)
- Schedule at least one distraction-free time block each day. – Distractions are nothing more than complications. So once you know you’re focusing on what’s important, and your space is relatively clutter-free, eliminating all distractions for a set time while you work is one of the most effective ways to get things done. Just lock your door, put a sign up, turn off your phone, close your email application, disconnect your internet connection, whatever it takes. You can’t remain in hiding forever, but you can be twice as peaceful and twice as productive while you are.
- Leave space between everything on your to-do list. – It’s tempting to fill in every waking minute of the day with tasks. Don’t do this to yourself. Leave space. The space between the things you do is just as important as the things you do. Remember, your overarching goal is living a life uncluttered by most of the things people fill their lives with, leaving you with space for what’s truly important. A life that isn’t constant busyness, rushing and stress, but instead mindful contemplation, creation and connection with people and projects that bring meaning into your life.
- Disconnect from the drama. – When your day gets stressful and the people around you aren’t helping, keep in mind that the battle you’re going through is never fueled by the things other people do; it is fueled by your mind that gives these things importance. Even if you have a good reason to be angry and resentful, don’t. Channel your energy into thoughts and actions that actually benefit your life – build positive daily rituals that build YOU. And as you move forward positively, remember, there is a huge amount of simplicity and freedom that comes into your life when you take nothing personally. (Angel and I build positive daily rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- Let go of life’s uncontrollable outcomes. – When you attempt to control too much, you complicate things, and thus you enjoy too little. Sometimes you just need to let go, take a deep breath and love what is. Make mistakes, learn from the realities around you, laugh about it all and then move along. Waste not a minute on outcomes you can’t control. This, I’ve learned, is the best way to be in all walks of life… You can stop trying to change people, and just let go and dissolve into their presence – just notice who they truly are, just appreciate every idiosyncratic quirk. You can stop complaining about your life circumstances, about your losses, about how the world is, and just let go and love what is. Just be. Just accept. Just appreciate.
- Reflect on the goodness. – One of the primary reasons we complicate our lives is because we become ungrateful. We lose our enthusiasm and then we go looking for it in all the wrong places. We think we need more of everything to find it again, when in fact we need less. We need less clutter, less distraction, less drama and less busyness, so we can create the space we once had to appreciate what we have. And what we have is always more than enough. Reflect on this. Never let all the things you want make you forget about all the things you have. Consider how very fortunate you are. Consider it every day. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Simplicity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Please leave a comment below and let us know which step above resonates with you the most. Do you have any other thoughts or tips to share about making life simpler and happier? We would love to hear from YOU.
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Photo by: Dustin Lee