I was sitting looking through various simplicity blogs this morning and I found them extremely varied in their “purpose.” Some were about financial simplicity where the author was aiming for purchasing less and saving on the daily essentials, others were focused on the Marie Kondo-type journey of getting rid of clutter while some were connecting to sustainability and the environmental impact of too much stuff. Simplicity itself seems like a goal- but truly it’s a means to an end. Everyone focusing on “slow living” or simplicity or even minimalism has a deeper reason for their journey.
So why should any of us care or attempt to simplify our lives, our schedules our children? What’s most interesting about this answer for me is that we all simplify for completely us-centric reasons- our values. The big “v” word is thrown around so much and it is extremely hard to nail down what our “values” are. The task seems daunting at best to find a few word that should sum up our entire life meaning. What’s funny though, is that we already are living out our values, we just aren’t aware of them. We may value stability so we stay at the same company for 10, 20, 40 years. We may value novelty so we travel to new places as often as possible. Our lives are filled to the brim with values.
So what happens with this life of automatic living, values we haven’t named? Well life starts to feel like it’s being lived for us. It feels like we are living someone else’s life. We are on auto-pilot through so much of it that we can’t remember what meaningful connections or events happened this week or maybe even, this month or year? We crave contentment so we drive through our favorite coffee shop for something sweet we crave connection so we surf facebook. We are living a life of reaction and none of our true needs are being met.
How then do we start? I think it all starts with looking backwards honestly, then we can work our way to the present and finally the future. This process can take as long as you like. I think at least a week for each step makes sense.
- Look at the past week and list threads of “Whats & Whys.” What things do you do every day? Why? What were some major events of the week? Why did you choose those? Why did you drive through starbucks 8 times? Why did you arrive late (or early) to work? Why did you read with your children every night? I recommend looking at both the awesome things you do/did and the ones you may not like looking at and ask yourself the same question.
- Link the what/why list to values.
- Spend a week (or more!) noticing and noting those Whats/Why’s while you are choosing them, when you are there, in that moment.
- Finally, take a look at your upcoming month or year- your choice and starting thinking about what matters to you and where you’d like to see it in action. This process is the hardest for me. I find it overwhelming to think intentionally about the FUTURE. What if I don’t live up to my lofty goals? In previous years this looked a lot like a list of new year’s resolutions. Working out 3 days a week, eating all the healthy foods, getting my kids to be “more active.” And after a lot of thought, this year is different. I am asking myself one question: Do the people around me and in my community feel comforted, loved and supported? Do I? What steps might I take to bring more of that to all of us?
What is your true north? Why do you simplify?