Going Back to Simple

I’ve been thinking about simplicity recently from many perspectives. On one hand I can appreciate the layers, steps and things that are involved in making things get from point A to point B. We don’t simply go to the farm stand and pick up our vegetables for the week, we go to the food store that got food from around the country or even around the world. Both are “simple” for the consumer, but for everyone else involved, it’s not that simple anymore. I also understand that there’s a lot more involved in getting electricity from point A to point B or creating an app than it may seem on a surface level. I also understand that what one person likes another doesn’t and that’s why families buy several different kinds of mac and cheese or other products because they can’t agree on one.

But at the same time I think in many ways we over-complicate things. Why do we need 6 apps to communicate with each other when email works just fine? Why learn things in school and college that have no practical application on your future especially with all the advances in technology and information? Why do busy work at your job? Why assign the same task to two different people with there being only one logical answer or result? Why make people jump through hoops when it’s truly not necessary? Why can’t we reduce the red tape and go back to a simpler life?

What is it about the simple life that has been speaking to me recently? I think a big part of it has to do with freedom and not making things super complicated when it’s not necessary, not having to learn new things around every corner, and not trying to fit your square peg into a round hole. As I said earlier, one size doesn’t fit all, so why are we trying to put everyone into a box or force everyone to do things one specific way? I think part of it has to do with not understanding what others don’t find simple, and not understanding that what you find simple isn’t simple to them or vice versa. It also may have to do with things not being explained in a way that makes sense or shows the value of switching or doing it differently.

This week I encourage you to release yourself from some of the pressure you might be feeling to add more to your list or do things a certain way. Especially with the holidays coming up and more that’s going to be added to our plates, now’s a great time to either learn how to do it because it makes sense to or find a way that works better for you, even if that means stepping back according to some.

6 Simple Steps to Victory

I read a headline the other day about how big projects must address 6 key criteria. I’m not big on clickbate, but it did interest me so I looked below the headline to see what the sub text was, and it actually said what the 6 criteria were. To my surprise they were something that I was taught at a very young age, and you may have been taught too: who, what, where, how, when, where and why! It got me thinking about how much things have changed and how little some other things have changed. In some situations that’s a good thing, and in others they’re long past due or unnecessarily changed.

We’ve complicated our lives in so many ways, and that there’s value in slowing down, in simplifying and going back to some of those tried and true methods. Whether it’s sticking with email communication instead of 6 different apps and calendars, using a paper to-do list, sitting down for coffee or a beer with friends, or doing a yard sale, they may not be the trendiest things, but if they work for you, use them! Don’t get me wrong, I love how we carry phones and mini computers in our back pockets and have so many awesome things they didn’t have a hundred years ago.

As far as who, what, where, how, when, where and why, it’s amazing how these 6 simple words can help you figure out or organize so much information so simply. Many victories aren’t as simple as it is to spell the word, they have layers and steps and many people involved. For the big victories, it can feel overwhelming to try to figure out what to do or where to start. Using these 6 words can give you a very simple framework to help you make a really great plan for many victories, whether at work, home, church, with your family or in any aspect of your own health and happiness.

If your week is too much already or you’re feeling overwhelmed by being 3 months to Christmas (and almost also to the end of the year), take a deep breath, slow down for a few minutes and make a plan, perhaps using these 6 words and a piece of paper, to get things back in control and with a good idea of how you’re moving forward.

Appreciating Your People

This month we’ve been talking about some of the simpler things in life, and over the past week again I’ve been reminded how important the very simplest thing is to appreciate: each other. We’re surrounded on a daily basis with people whether we’re watching TV, going to work, on the internet or doing countless other things. Sometimes we take retreats and separate ourselves from others, but it’s really hard to get away from the other people who share this world with us. Which I think can be a good thing and a bad thing.

The reason I want to talk about today is the idea that because we’re so surrounded with others we don’t often appreciate them. Last week the world lost two great souls, Aretha Franklin and Kofi Annan, and this summer quite a few well-known individuals passed away as well including Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. You don’t know when life will reach an end, when you won’t get to see someone again or talk to them again, or make memories again with them.

I know that it’s cool and fun and exciting to do new things, go new places, try new foods and meet new people, and it’s healthy to do so because we do need variety in our lives, and we do need to work our brains in different ways to keep it healthy. But sometimes we’re so focused on the new and different that we don’t take the time to appreciate what we already have, and the people who are already in our lives. I think this is one of the reasons that our romantic relationships fall apart; we’re so busy trying to keep up with life that we don’t take the time to nurture and love on what we already have.

With these last few weeks of summer upon us, I encourage you to take time to rebuild some of the relationships that you may have let fall by the wayside to do other things in your life. Start with taking a really good look at how healthy your relationships are, and consider if they’re in the condition you want them to be in, or if it’s time to work on them before they’re too damaged or distant to fix. If you’ve got great relationships, now’s the time to let the people in your life know how much you appreciate and enjoy them.

“Sometimes, what you’re looking for is already there.” Aretha Franklin

The Simplicity of Love

This month one of the things we’ve talked about is simplicity, and when we think about that topic it’s often with regards to how we can simplify our lives. While there are some more things going on now than there were years ago, simply because we can get things done faster, I think the bigger change is in that we’re aware of all that’s going on around the world. So it’s not technically that there’s that much more going on, it’s that we’re aware of what’s going on in cities and homes around the globe, and not just in our little town where we live.

To an extent we see this with all of the traveling that was done in the Bible, because if the people who are the main characters in the Bible didn’t travel we wouldn’t know about all of the other people who existed with them. Jesus too touched so many people because He traveled to where they were. Yes, some came to see Him because they heard great things, but a big part of His ministry was going to the people where they were physically and meeting them where they were in their lives.

Aside from Jesus being the Son of God, people came to see Him for one big reason: love. While Jesus didn’t recommend or celebrate sin, He didn’t turn away the people who were sinners, especially those that the world looked down upon for one reason or another. Jesus chose to love them for not only who they were but who they were made to be. Jesus could give them the forgiveness they needed to move on with their lives as well as the love to help them break free from their past.

We aren’t able to do all that Jesus can, and I don’t think we have to. We just have to choose to live with love. When we choose to love others regardless of who they are or what they’ve done it gives us a greater chance to build a healthy relationship with them, and for them to see that not everyone is a judgmental jerk. It’s a simple and complicated as choosing love as your first emotion, feeling and thought whenever you are with others.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Enjoying the Simple and the Complicated

As I’ve been thinking about the simple things of life and about taking a break, I’ve been realizing how not simple life really is. Some of the not simple things are awesome like washers and dryers and roller coasters, but some of the not simple things aren’t so great like all the chemicals that have been added to products we use and consume in our daily lives. And while over the past few years it has been slowly changing with technology, the number of people who used to be involved with bringing one product or service to fruition was quite large. The fact is we’ve done a really good job of including complications in our lives, and sometimes that’s not a bad thing.

I’m not interested in going back to a life that’s overly simple. I like being able to call half way around the world and talk with someone in moments. I like to collaborate with people in Australia and Africa as well as just a few blocks away. I like that the internet works when I need it to without me knowing the ins-and-outs of how it works. I like that I don’t have to be responsible for creating all the food I eat or the products I use. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to make time for the simple things.

There’s incredible value to be found in taking time for the simple things. Whether you take time to pick up and enjoy the color of an autumn leaf, you dance around in the first snow flurries of the year, you sit down beside the fire with a good book or coloring page or knitting project, or you enjoy a meal of locally grown products, they’re opportunities to slow down and to appreciate the individuality of life.

As we roll through these last weeks of summer I encourage you to take time to discover exactly how complicated life is, how many parts make up the whole, and how awesome those little parts are.

Simple Starts

This month one of the topics we’ll be talking about is the topic of simplicity.  Today I thought we’d talk about a few ways to simplify our lives.

Food is one of the topics that challenges most of us but there are some things we can do to make it easier to deal with. First, have healthy snacks on hand so that you’re not tempted to reach for the unhealthy stuff. Second, buy what you know you’ll eat in a couple of days’ time, and not more than that. If you’ve got a bigger family this can be a bit more challenging, but food stores and farmers markets are a lot closer to where we all live than they used to be, so it’s not as big of a deal to stop at the food store twice a week so you can have fresher items on hand. Finally, there are tons of recipes out there that call for shortcuts (like the store-cooked rotisserie chicken) or are only 5-10 ingredients, and one of my favorite tools is the crock pot. Take advantage of all these great resources and recipes to add not only variety to your culinary life but also simplify it too.

People are one of our greatest joys and one of our biggest challenges. I’m glad that we’re finally moving away from the seeming need to be friends with each and every person in the world, and working now on more meaningful connections. I’m not saying you have to unfriend or unfollow everyone you’re not really good friends with or that you should never make new friends, just that instead of saying to people that you should get together more often and not mean it, you prioritize the time to invest in the relationships that really mean the most to you, and let new relationships be a much less time-consuming event.

Finally, let’s talk about our stuff. I’ve got no issue with people having stuff. As much as I love clean and simple lines when it comes to decorating, I also really value having options and choices and holding onto the things that truly mean something to me. However, I’m also a big supporter of getting rid of stuff that’s not helping you, doesn’t mean much to you, is old and outdated (and you’ve moved on to other things and won’t be going back), isn’t healthy for you or doesn’t fulfill you in the way that it used to. I don’t believe in having stuff for stuff’s sake, there are lots of other people in the world who could benefit from what you’ve got and no longer use or appreciate.

So this month what’s one thing you can and will do to simplify your life?

The Summer of Simple Relationships

It’s summer so many of us are living slower, simpler lives. We don’t feel like eating heavy meals, we do less, we take time off and we do more of what we enjoy. All of this got me thinking about relationships and applying slower, simpler summer principles to our relationships.

It starts with the why. Why do we live in miserable or less-than-awesome relationships? Sometimes it follows the ‘boiling frog’ concept, that it snuck up on us and now it seems like it’s too late (it is too late for the frog but not necessarily your relationship). Sometimes it’s a situation of you never really being right for each other but trying hard anyway. Sometimes it’s a case of poor communication or mis-matched expectations. But really, if there are simple things we can do to fix or improve our relationships why don’t we do them?

Why do we resist doing what our partner has asked? Maybe we forget, maybe we don’t want to do it or maybe we just can’t stand that they asked us to do it the way they did. If you or your partner honestly forgets, it’s time to implement a visual to-do list, whether it’s a text, app or piece of paper. If your partner doesn’t want to do what you asked them to do but you physically can’t do what you need done, and you’ve explained why you need them to do it and they still won’t, it may be time to hire someone for that task. If you/your partner doesn’t want to do what you/they asked, see if there’s something you can trade from the other person’s to-do list so you’re both doing work but not something you don’t enjoy doing.

If you can’t stand how your partner asks you to do something it may be indicative of a larger communication issue, one that may be resolved with some dialogue regarding how you communicate with each other, how that communication (including method and tone) makes each of you feel, what’s working and not working, and what you can do to improve your communication and thus your relationship. Communication is a great topic to work with a life coach or relationship coach on, they can help the conversation go in the directions it needs to go and help keep the peace.

Getting back to the topic of simple summers, what if you just did what your partner asked you to do? What if you told them you didn’t want to do something or physically couldn’t do something instead of just letting it go? What if you took time to communicate with each other throughout the day with texts, emails, calls and in-person time? What if you talked about expectations, goals, needs and challenges on a regular (at least yearly) basis? What if we took off some of the requirements that are hurting your relationship instead of helping like they’re supposed to? What if you worked more frequently on love and forgiveness instead of stress?

Making one simple change or adjustment each day can put you on the path to a healthier and happier relationship, what will you do today?