A Simpler Life, Step by Step
“Most people think it takes a long time to change. It doesn’t. Change is immediate! Instantaneous! It may take a long time to decide to change…but change happens in a heartbeat!”~Andy Andrews, The Noticer: Sometimes, All a Person Needs Is a Little Perspective
Twenty-some years ago, I taught all new hires in my retail store a simple customer service strategy. “You can be sure that everyone we meet each day shares the same three problems. They’re tired, they’re in a hurry and they are hurting inside about something we can’t imagine- no matter how perfect the package appears. Show them kindness.” Being tired and in a hurry hurts all by itself.
Today’s biggest battle is time starvation and it’s why we’re always tired and in a hurry! Why has it become the norm? Can we do anything to avoid the suffering it causes? In our frenzied approach to life, we grab at quick fixes, Band-Aids to patch up our body and soul enough to drag through one more ridiculously over-scheduled day. We all know the crutches; mobile devices, energy drinks, planners, multitasking, prescription meds and escape substances like alcohol.
The hard truth is most of us are trying to fit a completely unrealistic amount of activity into the 24 hours we are given each day. No one gets as much as an extra fraction of an hour, ever. Once in awhile, there’ll be times when we will have to jam more into every hour than makes any sense, it happens. But when there’s never a let-up, the constant push drains our energy, strips our gears, causes friction and creates huge amounts of stress in our relationships. It wears down our immune system, makes us irritable and steals our joy.
Is there an answer, is there hope? Yes, but it’s not easy and it can’t happen all at once. It needs to become a daily practice, as basic as bathing. We can’t slam on the brakes of a dangerously speeding existence, but time does have a fascinating dual nature. Time can be the enemy or the ally- it depends on how we spend it. The best use of time, quite often, is to “practice the pause” and rethink where we’re headed!
The hard part? Admitting to yourself that in some ways we’ve become addicted to “busy”. We’ve got to get intentional about what we are doing with our daily allowance of time. It is about choices, mental triage. Make a tough decision to live in a way that honors our values and priorities and if something doesn’t contribute to that, it needs to go.
It doesn’t have to be a head-first dive off a cliff but from time to time we need to dump everything out and take a good look, the way we clean out our purse or pockets. We sort stuff into piles and decide what needs to be tossed and what’s worth keeping. It’s a basic cataloging process, really, and will be unique to each person. Begin with small changes. Gradually minimize activities that don’t add quality to our life or serve our personal values.
At times, we’ll be amazed at how little we miss the things we thought we had to do! Give the changes some time to feel normal. Remember we can always add back, but don’t forget it’s how we got ourselves into overwhelm! Keep trying to find a better balance, be patient and stay the course.
Even the smallest changes multiplied by time can create huge improvements. The trick is to stop or at least slow down long enough to think clearly. Once that hits home, start chipping away the unessential clutter between where we are now and where we genuinely want to be. We truly can begin this very minute.
I’d love to hear from folks who have chosen to embrace a more simple life. What lost treasure, what joy have you regained? Please share your thoughts. Your success, more than anything else, will give others the courage to step off the hamster wheel like you did!