The 7 Phases of Your Heroic Journey to Margin and Simplicity

Simple Life RebootWhat is the course of your life?  How we understand the unfolding of our lives not only impacts our ability to weather life’s storms, it also shapes the journey itself.

As Dave and I get to know people creating margin and focusing on priorities rather than stuff, we cannot help but draw parallels between the quest for simplicity and the heroic journey narrative described by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949).

Though from all walks of life, fellow travelers on the road to simplicity relate similar experiences.  As you consider the following phases, please reflect on whether you have had similar experiences.

1.   Starting Point

Each traveler starts at a point of compliance with cultural expectations.  The traveler, often perceived by others as “successful”, neither questions the norm nor the desirability of other options.

2.   Call to Adventure

The traveler receives information that questions the status quo and invites the traveler into the unknown.  In the simplicity realm, this might take the form of exposure to a simplicity podcast or article.

3.   Refusal of the Call

The traveler initially declines the call. Though he may perceive that something is amiss, the traveler believes he must maintain his current circumstances out of duty or fear.  In the simplicity context, such initial reluctance reflects the traveler’s prudence and consideration of  potential impact on others.

4.    A Helper Appears

After careful reflection, the traveler recognizes that a quest into the unknown is needed. A helper then appears providing needed tools and encouragement for the journey.  The Obi-Wan Kenobis of simplicity are numerous and include Henry David Theroux, Joshua BeckerLeo Babauta, Courtney Carver, Daniel and Vanessa Hayes, and Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

5.   Trials and Temptation

The traveler ventures into the unknown.  The traveler is tested and repeatedly tempted to abandon the quest and return to the familiar.  For those on the simplicity journey, such testing may take the form of  reluctance to let go of excess possessions and lesser priority activities, and the discomfort of sharing counter-cultural simplicity objectives with others.

6.   Confronting the Adversary

As the journey continues,  the traveler must ultimately confront and overcome the powerful force that previously limited or crippled him.  The Darth Vaders of the quest for simplicity include the traveler’s desire to signal success or significance, lack of intentionality and impulse control.

7.   Return to the People

The ultimate value of the journey is the extent to which it benefits others.  The transformed traveler returns to liberate his people from deception and bondage.  Though not as grandiose as the Campbell articulation,  the quest for simplicity achieves its greatest objective when the traveler’s experience benefits and encourages others.


Please share your heroic journey in the comments below.


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Prioritize Tasks Using the Decision Matrix

RestaurantDo you manage urgency, or rather urgently manage, the events of your life?  Simple living is made possible when we  focus on the long term important issues so they do not become short-term critical emergencies due to lack of planning and execution.

In a former life, I was a restaurant owner.  In the heat of battle, called rush hour, each employee would be fully engaged to ensure the customer had an enjoyable visit.  But the urgency the employee experienced was manageable provided  the important prep work had been performed.  If, however, the prior shift had not refilled containers, restocked,  or had missed any one of a hundred separate items needing to be done, the next rush hour would deteriorate into  high-stress chaos, as workers found themselves empty handed and unable to serve as intended.

Consistency and reliability were key.  While careful prep work was neither glamorous nor seemingly important during calm times,  it became the chain that held the process together in times of stress.

The rhythm of life can be thrown off track when we encounter a broken link.  But with a little prior planning, and attention to detail, urgent chaos can be avoided and turned into seamless flow.  Exercising prior planning, within the appropriate time frame, means you are acting with intention, rather than reacting out of desperation.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous quote on the principle of decision-making, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important”, was further developed by business thinker, Steven Covey, in his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Covey developed a decision-making matrix, to help us prioritize which things require our immediate attention, and marginalize that with lesser priority.


If a task is both Important and Urgent, it requires our immediate attention, and so Quadrant 1 gets first priority.  If a task is Important, not Urgent (Quadrant 2), it gets second priority.  If a task is Urgent, Not Important (Quadrant 3), it is urgent to someone else, but not important to us, and gets third priority status.  If a task is Not Important, Not Urgent (Quadrant 4), it has least priority, and generally should not be included on a daily planning list.

To take a lesson from my restaurant days, the more time we spend in Quadrant 2, taking care of the long term tasks, and preparing for the inevitable “rush hour”, the less time we will have to spend in Quadrant 1.  A simpler and more peaceful life depends on it.

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For further reading on this topic, we encourage you to check out Joshua Becker’s, “Minimalism, Blackberries, and the Tyranny of the Urgent“, and Michael Hyatt’s, “Is that Task Important or Merely Urgent?



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Simple Life Reboot: Survey Q & A

Simple Life Reboot Q and AFar too often we forget to tell people how much they mean to us.

Dave and I would both like to take this opportunity to thank you.  We recognize that by reading this,  you have taken precious time out of your day.  We treasure you as a reader and are committed to honoring your time.

As part of our commitment to serve you,  we reached out to our readers in a recent survey.  We were humbled by the extraordinary response. Again, thank you!

As promised,  our answers to your most frequently asked questions are as follows:

Do you find that the journey is getting easier or more difficult as you go?

It has become more difficult.  While we believe that this is just a challenging season, we have come to realize that lasting change does indeed take time. Last summer, caught up in the excitement of changing our lives to align with our priorities,  we edited 85% of our belongings and put our “dream house” on the market.  We naively believed that by the summer of 2014, we would have created significant margin and have things all figured out.  While we are confident that we are on the right path for us, we are learning that we need to be patient with the process.

How do you avoid old habits?

It is an ongoing struggle.  However, the first step for us is to recognize our weaknesses.  Then, we implement measures  to help us stay the course.  We realized that in order to make the type of change desired,  we needed to burn the metaphorical boat behind us by selling our house. We knew that moving into a significantly smaller space would help us   1)  limit the accumulation of possessions; and   2) be more active and engaged.

 Do you ever slip and want to replace items you let go of?

With the exception of a small corner hutch,  we have not missed nor felt any desire to replace edited items.  In fact,  we look forward to making further edits.  We continue to have several  larger furniture pieces that we would like to replace with pieces better suited to our needs.

Do you ever regret your decision? /Any remorse?

None.  Seriously, none.  At present,  we have had almost a year to change our minds and return to our former lifestyle.   I occasionally walk around our house on the market and ask myself,  “Do we really want to leave this behind?”   I can tell you,  without hesitation, the answer is “Yes”.    By letting go,  we can move forward into a beautiful future.




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Don’t Be Afraid Of The Journey

photo 8Quiet time is hard to find.

So when a client canceled an appointment a few afternoons ago, I decided to drive to a local hill and get in a short, solitary hike.

Mt. Pisgah is situated a few miles south of Eugene, Oregon.  It rises over a thousand feet above the surrounding Willamette Valley, and offers a variety of hiking trails.  The trail I chose was on the west side, a less visited area with a rutted gravel path that rises gradually as it meanders along a grass-covered savannah with a steep pitch near the summit.

In early Spring the sun is bright, with a nip in the air.  It is not uncommon to walk this section of Pisgah and never see another soul.

After hiking a good half hour solo, I spotted two people coming down the path toward me.  I sized them up as two 20-something men.  I thought it odd that the larger of the two had his shirt off on this still chilly day.  As they approached they began photo 19whispering back and forth, raising an alarm bell in my head.  Why were they not greeting me with a nod or a waive?  Instead, they seemed to be coordinating some last minute strategy before they reached me.

I noticed the big man without a shirt suddenly looked up and fixed his gaze on me.  While he was half-smiling, there was still no greeting.

By this time all of my alarms were going off.  In fact, the alarms had now turned into blaring sirens as I came alongside them and noticed the smiley-faced man drift back across his friend and photo 17raise his arm to strike.  I reacted, countering with my own arm, knocking his away.  I ducked, pivoted and ran, putting a good twenty feet between us before glancing back.  When I saw they had stopped walking, I halted and studied the situation.  The smaller of the two stood scolding the man without the shirt, asking, “Kenneth, what are you doing?”  He called out to me, “Don’t worry, he’s harmless!  He’s autistic!”

Still, I gave them a wide berth, and as I continued my climb, the truth began to sink in, even as the adrenalin continued flowing through my bloodstream.  How could I react this way?  I should know better!  I work with individuals with disabilities every day!  I was never in danger.  The big man just wanted to give me a hug.  Instead of recognizing the situation for what it was, I chose to react out of fear, scampering away.

photo 12Years ago, after beginning to work with people with  disabilities, I noticed something disconcerting, not from the people  with whom I worked, but from others.  When walking in public with my clients, strangers walking towards us would look away as we passed.  At the time I wondered if I had ever done that, avoided making eye contact, or any contact at all, with a person who had a disability.  Having worked with them, now, my sensibilities had changed, which made my reaction to Kenneth all the more disappointing.


photo 16Sheryl and I are taking this journey to simplify our lives together.  We feel “safe” because we can discuss our fears and work through them.  We are able to keep heading up our Mt. Pisgah, not fearful, but excited for what we will encounter along the way, because together we are able to sort “reality” from the shadows.  It would be our hope that we are able to reach out to others who struggle at times, just like we do.

If you find yourself on a journey alone, we urge you to seek like-minded people with whom to share the burden.

Please share your journey with others, as we share our journey with you.

                                            We are never truly alone, only unaware.

After returning to the parking area of the head trail, I searched for Kenneth and the man walking with him, but I was too late to shake his hand and assure him I was no longer afraid.


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