Category Archives for "Simplicity"
I think I had a minimalist in me from the beginning. I remember even as a kid, wanting to stay home to sort my messy bedroom into order when my friends would be knocking on the door to play. I have a natural tendency towards disorganisation, and an equally natural one towards wanting to find simplicity, ease and essentialism amongst the chaos.
In exploring ways to create meaning in my everyday life and live below my burnout threshold, I discovered that keeping life in all its aspects - possessions, time, relationships, pursuits, socialising, career etc - simple was pivotal. I stumbled across blogs through downloading Flipboard onto my iPad back when that was a cool and innovative concept, and one of the first topics to leap out at me was that of mimimalism. Leo Babauta, Joshua Becker and Courtney Carver were early inspiration, later The Minimalists joined the ranks as did Marie Kondo.
Language becomes important and powerful when we discuss embracing changes of lifestyle. At first the term minimalism was the only one I had for these ideas. And it's true that not all the minimalist blogs have the same benchmark exactly - some bloggers reduce their possessions to 100, their items of clothing to 33, their home to a tiny house etc. These stories captured my imagination. However, apart from the occasional fantasy of owning a tiny home (as my husband said, "Where will we put the wedding presents?"), what it boiled down to for me was keeping life simple, being minimalist in possessions while giving myself the freedom to go at my own pace, and creating space for what was essential for thriving in a meaningful life of my own creation. I hold all these terms loosely, and allow the interpretation of what that means for my life to flow with the changes. I have no real desire to be minimalist in enjoying my baby for example -I rejoice in the adorable outfits, the snuggly blankets, the cute toys all as expressions of love and support and joy from others in welcoming our little girl. Gradually we will find our balance.
One thing is for sure - this journey needs inspiration and support. Enter The Minimalists' recent speaking tour and their book (affiliated) Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
Their tour came at the perfect point in time, my sisters and I needed a night out together and what better way then to eat tapas and discuss what gives life meaning and creates ease? A favourite reminder from the evening was to focus on the why of what we do - if we are truly inspired by what something will do for our lives, the what and how will take care of themselves. This was balancing to my sometimes action-focused approach to simplicity. Questions and answers were poignant, baffling, funny (Australians laugh at everything) and reaffirming. Their classic quote reignited something within me, "Love people and use things, because the opposite never works".
Reading their work provided something more solid and tangible to accompany me along the actual journey. We are reminded to pursue meaning in our lives, and that aligning our short-term actions with our long-term values leads us to living purposefully.
My practical steps that I took from the book are:
1. Look within to discover what the "anchors" are in your life - the things keeping you stuck
2. After this honest audit, take action to remove these. Start with the easiest if you need to, but start.
3. Avoid "shoulds" which keep us powerless. The Minimalists recommend determining our "musts" for a meaningful life in the areas of health, relationships, passions, growth and contribution
4. Take small actions each day for these areas of life, to radically improve your life over time
The book then explores each of these in turn and a 21 day journey into beginning with minimalism in a style that is both simple and compelling. Occasionally I find their habit of referring to themselves in the third person and the presentation of themselves almost as a single entity as a bit grating, but really this is their creative choice and fades into insignificance compared with their grounded wisdom.
If the idea of living a more minimalist way of life instinctively calls to you as one of the paths out of stress and discontent then I highly recommend that you catch these guys on their next speaking event or have a read of their book.
And I'd love to discuss with you these juicy topics - what anchors do you need to let go of? What are your musts for a meaningful life? And what are you going to do about it?
My childhood summers were carefree ones. I stayed with my best friend at her beach house, and we spent our days running barefoot to the beach, taping (yep, it was that long ago!) songs from the radio and learning to bodyboard.
It took some practice. The waves were big enough to dump us, leaving us disorientated and not knowing which way was up. We had to learn to anticipate the wave as it came, to know when to jump on, and to paddle hard enough to stay afloat.
Overwhelm can feel like this. It's certainly a powerful enough experience to completely disorientate us, to leave us gasping and not sure how we might get through to the other side. But like a wave, we can learn to ride it. I've been dumped by the waves of overwhelm before, and know that enough waves one after the other can lead to longer term stress, anxiety and burnout. Learning to ride overwhelm is pivotal to staying afloat in our lives.
First, we need to become better at seeing it coming. For me, it creeps in by stealth through coping strategies like escapist TV/ social media, craving junk foods or feeling tired at the thought of what I feel I need to do. I now know these are my warning signs, and use them as a cue to cut back on projects and expectations, prioritise sleep and keep life simple.
Next, we learn our limits. I used to say that I had only 2 states at work - boredom or overwhelm. I always wanted more projects, more working parties and more clients to stay engaged and excited. But it was the finest line between engagement and becoming stressed and counter-productive. Too many projects and this adrenaline-junkie approach to life is intertwined with stress. The answer is not boredom! It lies in engaging more deeply rather than more broadly. Instead of flitting over 100 projects, deeply connect to a handful. Be present and practice mindfulness to draw fulfilment from life, rather than the pursuit of shiny objects.
We practice managing the expectations of others. I used to assume that those in both my personal and professional life expected me to bend over backwards for them, the way I expected this from myself. So imagine my surprise after a period of grief and burnout, when I set new limits in all my key relationships and no one battered an eyelid. Try it for yourself, you'll be amazed how the world keeps turning as before.
And finally, I surgically removed the word "should" from my vernacular. True, it tends to grow back from time to time, but I just cut it out more vigorously than before. If you take nothing else, try at least this. A large part of overwhelm lies within our own thoughts. When we remove the "shoulds" from our thinking, we allow ourselves room to fall short, to breathe, to be gentle to ourselves.
When we do these things, we see the wave becomes smaller and more manageable as it rolls towards us. We find strength to paddle, and may even enjoy the ride.
If you'd like to reclaim your time and learn to surf the overwhelm, I have a great 3 day video program, completely free for you below. And I'd love to hear from you - which of these strategies will you be using to surf the overwhelm? Let me know below! xo