Season of the Snail

 

snailTransitioning from a life with narrow margin to one that offers freedom and opportunity can be a slow-moving process.  Sheryl and I started on our journey in June of this year (2013).  We began by having two moving sales to reduce our belongings by about 80%.  We then updated floors, counter tops, interior paint, and made minor improvements to our large home before putting it on the market.

We did not expect to sell our home quickly.  Here in Eugene, Oregon, the housing market is stronger than in other areas of the country. Nonetheless, the general economy poses many unanswered questions.  For those looking to purchase a home in our price range,  careful shopping is the norm.

***

Every year about this time (July to October) a little creature appears here in Oregon that reminds me of the current crop of home buyers moving about in search of their next home.

This is the season of the snail, that tiny, slow-moving Gastropod Mollusc that slides along with its house on its back, taking in the world micro-inch by micro-inch.  I think they are God’s little accountants, come to make their calculations on the business of the world; the lushness of the vegetation, Earth’s solidity, water acidity, and, of course, the precise distance between objects.

The creatures move so gradually, at least by our human standards, that they seem methodical in their purpose.

Patience has never been a strong suit for me.  Who knew the common snail could provide instruction?  As I encounter conditions that do not match my expectations, the snail teaches 5 basic principles:

1)  Slow-moving objects may be moving faster than they appear;

2)  Staying busy when waiting on others to decide requires less patience;

3)  Knowing you are moving in the right direction alleviates much doubt and fear;

4)  Planning and executing well, assures that you have prepared for success, not that you are guaranteed to achieve it; and

5)  Watching nature, particularly snails, in your back yard can be instructive and soothing.

***

No animals were harmed in the contemplation or writing of this post.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Your Life Depends Upon Your Creativity

Morgan's clayThough we may not be conscious of the desire, we yearn to create.  Whether it is a special cupcake, a sculpture,  a song or a paper airplane,  we delight in making something to share with others.

Unfortunately,  as the years go by,  we discard our creativity for consumption. Instead of sharing a special recipe with friends, we pop a box in  the microwave and eat alone.  Instead of creating a  gathering place,  we pay someone else to design a space which is rarely used.  Instead of creating a play structure, we pay to be a spectator to our own lives. That which would have been beautiful and meaningful had we involved in and shared its creation,  becomes another bland accretion.

“BUT…”,  I hear you object,  “I DON’T HAVE TIME TO BE CREATIVE.”  Precisely!  What are we inviting into our lives which is crowding out the sharing of our most basic gifts?”

Dave and I recognized that we were out-of-balance.  Though we believe we are made in the image of our Creator and are called to “create” for the benefit of others,  we were spending most of our resources “consuming”.  Such was not good. It was degrading our lives and our ability to contribute to others.

Base consumption is transactional  and isolating. Further,  the habit of consuming lulls one into being a passive receptacle which is never fully satisfied.  In contrast,  creativity, in its multitudes of expressions,  is inherently joyful, energizing and relationship enhancing.  Creativity connects individuals and gives color and meaning to our lives.  Reclaim your creativity!  Your life,  and the lives of those around you, depend upon it!

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

But What Will People Think?

JudgesFor many of us, our reluctance to make needed changes stems not from an unwillingness to sacrifice for long term gain, but rather from a fear that such changes will lower us in the esteem of others.  We are deeply invested in activities and possessions which signal our status and abilities. We would rather suffer greatly, and have our families suffer greatly,  than risk a potential down click in perceived social rank.  Perhaps this is why many of us delay making needed changes until after a significant life event, retirement or a move away from our community.  Such delay is tragic on many levels.

So,  how do we overcome this fear of what others might think so as to take needed action?  Pithy advice in the vein of “feel the fear and do it anyway” has not helped me.  I must repeatedly return to my faith that it is better to seek the approval of God than the approval of man… and I still struggle.

In Simple Life Reboot, Dave and I share our challenges in the hope that such will encourage our readers.  Additional resources on this topic include work by Brene Brown.  Brene speaks on authenticity and vulnerability and has written a terrific book,  I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”.   Another great resource is Joshua Becker.  Joshua Becker writes at “Becoming Minimalist” and has an insightful post addressing communicating with family members about making changes in  Your Son/Daughter is a Minimalist.

***

If you have found helpful resources,  please share by adding a comment to this post.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

The 3 Key Principles of Simple Life Reboot

Americanitus

Dave and Sheryl focusIs your home too large, but still too small for your possessions?  Is your income good, but still too little to pay all of the bills, retirement and savings?  Is your day a confused jumble of rushed projects and lost moments?

Many of us suffer from what I call, Americanitus, a feeling of desperation and inadequacy unless we own the largest home, enjoy the most toys, and are perceived as the busiest people on the planet.  But are these true signs of success, or are they simply mirages our modern culture has taught us to pursue?

Perhaps true success is the kind that pays closer attention to personal relationships than to personal belongings.  Maybe it is having enough resources to spend time with family and friends, to occasionally travel, to be creative, and to enjoy healthy activities.

Simple Life Reboot seeks to focus on how we might lead better lives, with greater success,  and in a manner that strengthens relationships.

During the Spring of 2013, as Sheryl and I pondered the changes we needed to make in order to fulfill our goals and values, a number of key concepts emerged.  The following  3 key principles guide and inspire us to bring you Simple Life Reboot.  None of these principles originate with us, but are an amalgam, gleaned from a variety of sources, some of which are referenced in Sheryl’s post, Thought Leaders Who Have Inspired Us.    These concepts have been a driving force for Sheryl and me, and are briefly presented here. They will be examined in detail in future essays.

Create Margin:  According to author, Richard Swenson, M.D., “Margin is the space between our load and our limits and is related to our reserves and resilience. It is a buffer, a leeway, a gap; the place we go to heal, to relate, to reflect, to recharge our batteries, to focus on the things that matter most.”  (Margin, Richard A. Swenson)    Creating more margin in our lives is a foundational principle.

Simplify:  Give priority to the things that matter most in your life: your spouse,  children, family, peace of mind.  Reduce distractions.  Automate where you can with proactive measures so as to reduce repetitive mundane tasks.  Be intentional and purposeful in how you live.  Edit your life, get rid of the useless junk that surrounds you.  Focus on reducing belongings to those which have the greatest value to you.  (Check out the inspiring Simple Life Together podcast with Dan and Vanessa Hayes.)

Minimize So As to Maximize:   According to Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, (The Minimalists), “Minimalism is a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

Nothing is “inherently wrong with owning material possessions.  Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff.  We tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.  Want to own a car or a house?  Great, have at it!  Want to raise a family and have a career?  If these things are important to you, then that’s wonderful.  Minimalism simply allows you to make these decisions more consciously, more deliberately.”

Simply stated – minimize the junk so as to maximize the experiences and items which matter the most.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

A Fast Car on a Slow Budget

gas upI had just been discharged from the U.S. Air Force, and after four years as an Administrative Specialist, I could not leave Dover, Delaware, fast enough.  I drove towards Oregon in my hot, blood-red Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, making record time.  It took roughly two and a half days to cross the country, burning up 250 gallons of gas at $1.25 per gallon.  But the cost of gas on this particular trip did not matter.  All that mattered was getting home.

After settling back in Eugene, attending the University of Oregon, it felt pretty cool driving a Trans Am to school every day.  It appealed to my sense of being a post-military man.  I was a rebel with a red car.  I was a road-warrior, an adventurer with a big engine.  Oh yes, I was a sports car enthusiast.  But ultimately, I was broke.  Trying to keep the tank full in that gas guzzler was like trying to catch butterflies with your bare hands.  After awhile it begins to look desperate.

It did not take long before my blood-red ’73 Firebird (blood-red for blood sucker) was replaced with a dull orange ’69 VW bug.  My post-military status had taken a very practical turn.  Having run out of margin, the VW bug had become the solution.  I had to swallow my pride and admit I just could not afford the luxury of owning a fast car on a slow budget.

Looking back, I never really missed the Firebird as much as I thought I would.  The big engine and its status had to be sacrificed for the small engine that could get me where I needed to go with a few extra dollars left in my pocket.

***

Have you had a similar experience? Do you recall a time when you downsized to a smaller car, a less-expensive house, or changed your life in some way in order to find margin?

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Beware of the 3 Dangers of Organization

Dave at computerI am profoundly fond of organization and yearn to replace chaos with order.  Though I have failed to maintain organized spaces and events on numerous occasions, I am never willing to abandon the quest.  Imagine my consternation when I learned that organization could be misused!

It was not until I started cleaning other people’s houses that I realized that organization was only a tool and not a big “V” virtue.  Perhaps I could only see deficiencies in others’  behavior rather than in my own. Or, perhaps I needed to have multiple encounters with the phenomena  before I would finally catch on.  In any event,  I  became aware the following:

Organizational Smugness – If we are fond of organization,  we must ask ourselves why?  The purpose of thoughtful structure should be to make our lives and the lives of those around us better.  If our real purpose is to better showcase our stuff or our abilities, to pack more stuff or activities in,  or to simply project an image that we have it all under control,  then something is wrong and needs to be corrected.

Organized Stuffing – We must also examine the nature of the things we are “organizing”.  If we are organizing items we use regularly and are  planning our schedule to be more productive,  such is positive.  If,  however, we are  boxing and labeling an accumulation of unused belongings or scheduling additional events on an already overstuffed calendar,  we are engaging in nothing other than well-ordered hoarding and busyness.

Organization As Procrastination  –  We must ask ourselves, “Am I organizing things in order to avoid something else?”  For some, organizing can be a soothing distraction from an underlying problem.  For instance,  it might be more fun to experiment with productivity tools than to actually do the work.  Similarly,  it might be preferable to get bigger boxes and stack it all a little straighter and a little higher than to actually get rid of stuff. Organization might also be a way of dressing up a major lack in our lives.  We need to remove the varnish and carefully consider what we are doing.

Let’s face these dangers head-on  and use this valuable tool properly!

 

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

Things Your Attorney Should Tell You About Avoiding Family Disputes

Family on couchVoltaire had it right when he quipped that the problem with common sense is that it is not common enough. Far too often families are ending up in court.  In most of these situations,  the dispute could have, and should have been avoided.

One of the objectives of Simple Life Reboot is to strengthen and protect family relationships.

Here are a few basic recommendations:

1.  Don’t Sue Family Members.  Don’t place yourself in the position of believing you need to sue a family member  to recover on a loan or transaction.  If you cannot afford to lose money to a family member,  don’t loan it to or enter into the transaction with the family member.  Family relationships are infinitely more valuable than the money involved.

If you determine that it is important to enter into a transaction with a family member, only do so if you are prepared to forgive the family member for nonperformance. Let the transaction fail,  not the familial relationship.

2. Don’t Keep Financial Secrets from Spouses and Family Business Partners.  Keep your spouse and business partners fully apprised of financial matters. Period.  You are not “protecting” loved ones by denying them the opportunity to work with you on finding solutions. Secrets often hurt.

3. Have an Estate Plan.  The ugliest litigation by far involves family members fighting over the care of a loved one, and later, the division of the estate. Many disagreements can be anticipated and  prevented with well-drafted estate planning documents.  Take action now to reduce family conflict both before and after your death. Make an estate plan and communicate it as appropriate to your family members.

 

DISCLAIMER:  The information and communications in Simple Life Reboot do not constitute legal advice and do not create an attorney-client relationship for any purpose.

 

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

The Joy of Capture with Evernote

Kids jumpingOne of the biggest challenges in tackling a new project is the assembly of  pertinent information. When starting out, it is difficult to know what resources might be ultimately be helpful and how they will fit with the plan. As resources are gathered,  particularly from different mediums, organization and retrieval can also be difficult.

Fortunately,  there is Evernote. I have been using Evernote for the past year and my appreciation for the tool continues to grow. Though I am not an expert user, even my rudimentary use dramatically improves my work flow and peace of mind.

For me,  Evernote is the perfect capture tool.  For Simple Life Reboot, I use Evernote in the following ways:

Audio Capture: When I have an idea for a post or website improvement on my morning walk (which happens almost every morning),  I record an audio note.  Later,  I transcribe and enter the appropriate topical tags.

Photographic Capture:  When Dave and I brainstorm,  we often write on a whiteboard.  Instead of recopying  the information,  I take a picture in  Evernote.  I also take Evernote pictures of  the events in our journey including moving out of our house,  the moving sale, before-and-after pictures, and scenes which inspire me.

Screenshots.  When I am on my computer reading a post or looking at a website with helpful information,  I take an Evernote screenshot and attach the URL.  I also take screenshots of tutorials to display on my iPad as I acquire new technical skills for Simple Life Reboot.

Linked Master Note.  While I can review all information on a topic by searching or reviewing tabs,  I further organize disparate information by preparing a Master Note linked to other notes. For instance, when attending a conference recently,  I linked maps, a screenshot agenda, and emails saved in Evernote to a Master Note on the conference.  One stop shopping for all the information!

Journal.  Dave and I  seek to document and accurately convey our  Simple Life Reboot journey.  In order to do this,  I maintain a journal with simple Evernote notes tagged with “SLR Journal”.  The ease of use, access on all of my devices, and the fact that it is searchable makes it easy to access information.  At the end of a long day,  I sleep better knowing that my notes and thoughts are safely tucked away.

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

3 Simple Ways to Harness the Power of Stress

Frankl space quoteOver the years we have heard time and again that stress is an enemy – a ubiquitous foe to performance and health.  To protect ourselves,  we are encouraged to  “manage” or  reduce stress.

But…  what if we have it all wrong?

Kelly McGonigal in her June 2013 TED talk on “How to Make Stress Your Friend” shares that it is not stress,  but rather our attitude toward stress,  which controls the biological outcome of the experience. Upon what aspects of stress do we choose to focus?

Dr. McGonigal emphasizes that we need to re-frame the narrative we tell ourselves.  We need to remember that our rapidly beating heart, the butterflies in our stomach, the perspiration, etc. are all part of our bodies’ preparation for a challenge. With stress,  we have enhanced awareness, improved coordination and decreased response time.  If we view stress as something which propels us forward,  as opposed to something which holds us back, the negative cardiovascular and cortisolic impacts are avoided.  Further,  with such an attitude, exposure to stress  strengthens us,  leads to resilience, heals heart tissue, and enhances social connection with others!

Stress is not our enemy.  Further,  as recognized by Viktor Frankl,  there is space between the stimulus of stress and our response to the same which provides great opportunity for growth.  So how do we seize this opportunity and harness the power of stress?

There are 3 simple steps:

1.  Keep It In Context.  The long term importance of the event likely pales in comparison to our  greater priorities such as faith, family and health.  We need to remember why we are engaged in the stress-inducing event. Aren’t we willing to endure some momentary discomfort so as to provide for our family,  share and care for others, etc.

2.  Healthy Framing. We have the ability frame the stressful event.  For instance,  we don’t have to give a speech.  We have the opportunity to do so.   We don’t have to get our finances under control.  We voluntarily and selflessly make hard choices to live within our means.

3. Change and Control.  We need to be able to adapt.  We need to be open to unanticipated opportunities and challenges.  Life will not follow our script.   We need to live out the serenity prayer penned by the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

[If you enjoyed this article, please consider reading The Secret to Overcoming Obstacles and The Secret to Growth.]

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

The Secret to Growth

Amusement rideGrowth involves discomfort.  Whether it’s appropriate soreness after a workout or pre-speech butterflies, it is often not possible to make progress without experiencing this unpleasant sensation.

Good parents recognize that their children’s health and growth is dependent upon trying healthy foods,  learning new skills and suffering a few uncomfortable moments along the way.  A child cannot learn to walk without falling.  A young adult is not likely to go through his or her first interview without some level of nervousness.

The problem is, particularly as we get older,  that we somehow come to believe that we have graduated from the need to experience discomfort.  We do not go camping because we prefer our own bed.  We do not learn a new language because we do not want to sound  silly.  We do not start a running program because we do not want to be sore. The list continues…

What we fail to recognize is that by seeking to avoid discomfort,  we are crippling ourselves. We may also be damaging our health. We are blind to the  terrible bargain we are making in trading long term health and growth in order to avoid momentary discomfort.  We miss out on so much!  I can’t help but reflect back upon a sign I saw hung to encourage triathlon participants in Ironman Canada. The sign read:  “The suffering is temporary but the satisfaction of completion will last a lifetime.”

It’s time we all embraced discomfort as a healthy indication of expanding our  life experiences and capabilities.

 

[If you enjoyed this article, please consider reading The Secret to Overcoming Obstacles and 3 Ways to Harness the Power of Stress.]

***

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com