S is for Simplicity
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” Confucius
What do you think of when you think of simplicity? For me it is the idea of paring away the non essential, the things that stop us focusing time and energy on reaching and enjoying that which is truly important and has true value. As with habits, it is not a case of simply removing things from our lives but of replacing them with something more positive and meaningful.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak” Hans Hofman
We live in a world which is cluttered and screams excess at every turn.
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.” Henry David Thoreau
The more things we own, the more responsibilities we have and the less freedom we enjoy. We are bombarded with publicity insisting that we need to buy more, or have certain things in order to be happy; looking in the supermarkets one is overwhelmed with multiple choices for many every day items; each one insisting that their brand is a better version.
“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
With technology we have even more access to information but this doesn’t always make our life easier with ‘fake news’ and biased reporting the norm.
In order to live simple lives we need to return to what is essential; to our core values. Simplicity is not synonymous with easy.
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains” Steve Jobs
Our environment impacts our health ; both at work and in our homes. Simplicity is the essence of happiness
"We are happy in proportion to the things that we can do without " Henry David Thoreau
Although important, simplicity is not just about decluttering our external environment, it needs to be internal too ; we need to rid ourselves of the masks that we put on and live the simple, authentic lives that we were meant to. Living a simple life derives from looking inward and a journey of intentional self-care, growth and functioning through your true self ; this then becomes the clarity in which we find meaning. Simplicity works from the inside out and the outside in
“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ”
Henry David Thoreau
Living a simple life derives from our journey of intentional awareness, self-knowledge and growth and learning to live according to our true values. Simplicity becomes the clarity in which we find meaning by removing the unnecessary to discover what we value most.
When we simplify our lives we don’t end up impoverished, in fact the complete opposite is true we end up with more quality time, greater clarity of thought and better health.
“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.” Victoria Moran
Simplicity doesn’t look the same for everyone ; there are lots of versions, but the one that improves your quality of life is the one that is right for you. As we start to notice the improvements in our lives we become more open to change, and have an enhanced ability to embrace new ways of improving our own life and the lives of those around us. Being more or less simple than anyone else doesn’t matter, it is simply about what works for you.
There is a Swedish proverb that says,
So how can we simplify our lives practically?
1) By evaluating our use of the time we have and our commitments is probably a good start because “The way we spend our time defines who we are”. Jonathan Estrin
2) Evaluating our social connections and the type of support network and friendships we have is also important. Our choice of friends is important for our mental health.
“Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” Tennessee Williams
It is important to develop friendships that enhance our lives. We should look to find people that motivate, inspire, help us and share the same values and reduce the time spent with those that drain our energy.
3) By looking with fresh eyes at the environment we spend time in and seeking to create spaces where energy can flow freely, by decluttering and creating areas of calm and generally looking at ways to streamline our day to day activities to free up more time
“...I'll continue to see things as a child. It's not so far to fall.” Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
4) By spending time alone to process our lives, becoming more self-aware and living mindfully in the present moment.
5) By spending time in nature. Nature is vital. With technology and advertising constantly pulling for our attention, we rely heavily on higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking. Many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and it is this that can lead to a mental overload, mental fatigue, a sense of being overwhelmed, burnout etc Many studies show that nature has the ability to restore depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving. Nature has the power to affect everybody positively regardless of age, culture or physical health.
When our minds are less stressed we will find it easier to step back and detach ourselves from the thinking self and tune in with our observing self. The Observing Self allows you to observe every thought, feeling and memory and see them as what they are, neutral; simply a collection of pictures, images and words ‘interpreted’ by the Thinking Self. Thoughts are not facts, they are judgments, evaluations and opinions by the Thinking Self but by ‘defusing’ our thoughts we can become more objective and see things more accurately which gives us greater freedom and time to respond not react.
“Simplicity is ultimately a matter of focus.” Ann Voskamp
Cognitive defusion involves creating space between ourselves and our thoughts/ feelings so that our responses are simplified and we are not ‘fused’ or ‘entangled’ and don’t blindly accept them as reality. By practising defusion we are likely to make better decisions based on our values and be able to set clear boundaries to prevent anything stopping us make the choices we want.
When we live a simple life we are not only caring about the present, about living as fully as possible now, but caring about the future enough that we do not abuse it in the present.
"when i think of peace i think of simplicity. stillness. meditation. and a feeling of being present. in the moment. that kind of mindset takes work. intentionality. reading and learning. putting those tools into practice. it’s a way of thinking even when life is chaotic. difficult. or even downright stressful. it takes effort to remain in a mindset of peacefulness. but the rewards are a more balanced and meaningful life" /topher kearby
Some questions to think about/or discuss below:
What areas of your life would benefit from simplifying?
How can you practically prioritise the people or things of value to you?
If you want to reflect more on this subject, here are some links to get you started: