SLR 081: Inspiring Snapshots of Simplicity

Simple Life Reboot“Tell your story.” – Joshua Becker,  Becoming Minimalist, speaking at  SimpleREV 2014

There is something beautiful about hearing a person’s story that allows us to connect with both the individual and his or her experience.

Whether a person’s circumstances are dramatic or cumulative, the sharing of a struggle to overcome challenges has the extraordinary power to instruct and inspire.

Courtney Carver of  “Be More With Less” is a beautiful example.  In 2006, Courtney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  When she learned that stress could complicate her symptoms, she began exploring ways to simplify.  In five short years,  she transformed her life.  Her inspiring story can be read in the March 2014 issue of “O” (Oprah Winfrey’s magazine).

For an account of hope and determination, Tico and Tina’s unflinching  “Messy Beginnings” is a must read.  Their ongoing 10+ year journey from drudgery to lives of purpose and passion is shared on their website “Make Room for Greatness” . Tico and Tina lay bare the challenges of supporting a young family while providing practical guidance on transitioning to creative and missional work. Their desire to help others is palpable.

Equally impactful is the story of Brooke McAlary of “Slow Your Home“.  Brooke was a high-strung perfectionist with clear expectations of what life should be. Her world was turned upside down when she and her husband were assaulted in separate incidents. Not long after the assaults,  she was overwhelmed by post-natal depression and anxiety.  Unable to function well,  she was forced to pare her life down to the essentials. As she recovered,  Brooke discovered a new way to live.  She now shares the joy of a simpler, slower life with the world.

A powerful example of intentionality is Christy King of “The Simple White Rabbit”.  Christy,  an accomplished attorney, author and life-long learner, had been intrigued by minimalism for years.  Until recently,  she believed she needed to defer desired changes until the children were grown or she retired.  A few years  ago,  she decided to begin making modest, incremental changes.  She discovered that even small changes produced significant gains.  She discovered more time and energy for family and friends, enjoyed healthier living and found new interests in additional activities.

This is just a handful of stories of the life-changing impact of simplicity and minimalism.  What is yours?

As Joshua Becker urged us all to do,  please tell your story.

 

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

SLR 079: Unmasking Our Fears About Essentialism and Simplicity

Simple Life RebootFear is deceptive. It often masquerades as something else, fooling us into believing an outright lie or otherwise thwarting our ability to make lasting positive change.

Far too many of us yearn to reboot our lives into ones of greater simplicity, but we are stopped short by fears we cannot bring ourselves to face.

Essentialism calls us to relinquish our armor of possessions and busyness. Unfortunately, such leaves us feeling vulnerable to unacceptable loss.  Bowing to fear, we hang on to the armor and forfeit what would have been a more abundant, joy filled life.

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The goal of this post is to cut deeply into those noxious hidden emotional pockets. It’s only when we acknowledge our fears and contributing shortcomings,  that we can undergo the necessary surgery to heal and move forward.

Disclaimer and  Explanation

Many of the following articulations may seem overly harsh.  The list is not meant to discourage or condemn,  but rather to expose the full fear spectrum as it might relate in some degree to  us.  Also, this list is for personal reflection and application only. It is not properly imposed on others. Accordingly, the references are in the first person.  Finally, the term “stuff” is used as shorthand to comprehensively describe property, activities and overload of any nature.

So, without further ado…  fears hindering our ability to edit our “stuff”  so as to lead a simpler life include:

1.   Fear of Engagement.  Developing a genuine connection with people is costly and time-consuming. Focusing on my stuff permits me to limit my engagement with people.

2.   Fear of “Oblivion” or Lack of Significance.  Like Augustus Waters, a cancer patient in the novel “A Fault in Our Stars“,  my greatest fear is “oblivion”.  I am afraid of having no significance. My stuff is evidence that I exist and that I have an impact.

3.   Fear of  Missing Out or of Emptiness.  I cannot bear emptiness, empty space, or potentially missing out on anything. Besides, I’m sure the next thing will finally satisfy me and fill that nagging void.

4.   Fear of Being Overlooked or Underappreciated.  I crave recognition. I fear that people will lose interest in me. My stuff demonstrates my accomplishments,  skills, sophistication,  and worth to the world.  How can people appreciate who I am if I have no stuff to display?

5.   Fear of  Settling or Mediocrity.  I do not want to be like the fox in Aesop’s fable “Fox and the Grapes”  -pretending to despise “stuff” when the truth is that I deeply desire the stuff but cannot attain or maintain it.  If I “settle” for just the essentials, it will only prove that I lack ambition, work ethic and the ability to achieve.

6.   Fear of Lack of Control.  I fear letting go.  I need my old stuff to keep a connection to the past.  I need my current stuff to protect me against the uncertainties of the future.  Stated differently,  I must hang on to stuff  “just because” for my past and “just-in-case” for my future.  It’s the only part of life over which I have control.

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If any of the above apply to you,  please do not  “feel the fear and do it anyway“.   Making major life edits before you have worked through significant fear is reckless.  The important takeaway is to commit to not being held captive by fear.  If you determine that living a life of greater simplicity and margin is best for you,  but are unable to act due to fear,  please consider seeking guidance from clergy or counselor. You are precious. Your life is precious.  The effort is worth it.

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Do you have any suggestions?   What applicable fears did I omit or mischaracterize?  Please share in the comments section.

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If you enjoyed this post,  please see  “What Are You Afraid Of ?”   and   “But What Will People Think?”

 

Originally posted at http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

SLR 077: 7 Steps to Help a Loved One Embrace Change

Simple Life RebootOne of the most difficult questions we get is:

“What do I do when I want to make changes,  but my loved one does not?”

Whether the desired change is to rightsize, de-clutter, reduce activity  or financial overload or otherwise,  we generally encourage the inquiring party to make individual changes, and then wait patiently in the hope that demonstrated benefit will persuade the reluctant party to embrace mutual change at some point.

While we continue to recommend this approach,  we recognize that additional advice might be helpful, particularly when the “just-be-an-example” approach appears to be failing.

We have boiled our recommendations down to the following 7 points:

1. Maintain the relationship as the priority.  As a starting point, resolve that if a choice must be made,  your relationship with your loved one will always trump your desired life edits.  The greater purpose for the desired change should be to benefit the relationship.

2. Identify loved one’s pain.  Many of us become so accustomed to bearing a burden that we fail to recognize that such even exists.  Be sure to identify what pain your loved one is experiencing that your desired changes will relieve.  Resistance may be lessened if changes are understood to be a mutual solution,  as opposed to a life change that is simply your personal preference.

3. Do NOT pressure loved one.  Resist the urge to pressure (or nag) your loved one into making changes s/he is not ready to make. Making significant life changes and edits is complex and often involves deeper issues of security and identity.  Attempting to coerce or shame a loved one into letting go of cherished items and/or activities will be counterproductive at best.

4. Maximize individual changes. Implement as many individually-impactful changes as possible. Such increases the likelihood that there will be measurable,  persuasive benefits that can be observed over a period of time by the reluctant party.

5. Use “Season in Life” as context for change.  Provide a new perspective on desired edits.  Change might be easier if it is understood as a natural transition or transfer as opposed to  “loss” or “letting go”  of something.   Examples might include donating outgrown baby clothes or selling an oversized empty-nesters’ house to a growing family so that such property can again be used and enjoyed as intended.

6.  Propose a trial period or game approach. Consider proposing a limited, no-commitment trial period.  An example would be Courtney Carver’s 3 month fashion challenge, Project 333.  Other approaches include permanently editing items such as playing the Minimalist’s game for a month,  or trying Simple Life Together’s year long “Edit and Forget It” challenge.

7. Inspire and encourage.  Keep two words in mind when trying to help a loved one with change.  To “inspire” is  to breathe life into someone.  To “encourage”  is to imbue with courage.  Recognize and celebrate how momentous even small changes can be in you and your loved one’s life.  Commit to serve, inspire, encourage and be a source of hope for a better future.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

 

SLR 075: 5 Proven Strategies to Crush the “Sophomore Slump” of Lifestyle Design

Simple Life RebootHave you had this experience?  You start out strong, buoyed by the excitement of a new challenge and the promise of better things to come.  Then,  somehow,  as you move beyond the initial phase,  the load intensifies, progress slows and you lose some degree of confidence in the attainability, if not the desirability, of the objective.

It can happen to the best students, athletes and artists,  and it can certainly happen to those of us seeking to increase margin, de-clutter and otherwise simplify or “re-boot” our lives.

Instead of beating ourselves up,  we need to recognize a “slump” for what it is – a complication common to many passionate achievers that can be temporary or permanent,  depending upon our response.

So how do we make sure the “slump” is only a temporary drag?

Employing the following 5 tactics is key:

1.  BE AWARE OF THE SIGNS

Awareness is our best defense. If we can unmask perceived apathy, fatigue, confusion, failure, or disillusionment as nothing more than hallmarks of a “slump“,  these feelings lose their hold on us.  Not only can we continue,  but in the very act of continuing, we strengthen our ‘overcomers’ muscle and become better equipped for the next challenge.

2.  LET GO OF FALSE EXPECTATIONS

We need to let go of any hidden hope that the road to lasting positive change is simple, easy or fast. Living intentionally is a lifelong process of growth, and foundation building is not without its complications. We need to give ourselves permission to stumble and travel slowly at times.  The critical element is to keep going.  Period.

3)  CHANGE IT UP

Experiment and try different approaches.  If a routine flounders,  try another.  Focus and commitment is demonstrated by retaining the objective, not by throwing oneself against a wall of personally ineffective or stale processes.

4)   RE-CONNECT

Isolation is jet fuel for a “slump“.   Starve a “slump” by reconnecting with others in the community.   Attend in-person lifestyle design events, conferences, talks, and meetups, if at all possible.   Participate in, or better yet host your own  online gatherings via Google hangouts, Skype, FaceTime, GoToMeeting, etc.

5)  TRACK RESULTS

Recognize that significant progress may not be evident to you.   Seek out opportunities to measure progress.  Examples include “before and after” photos, journaling, and habit/objective tracker apps.   Reflecting upon the progress made can be a great encouragement.

BONUS … and,  as a bonus tactic for crushing a slump... contact us and we’ll cheer you on!   Your goal is worth it!  You can do it!  So,  keep going!

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

SLR 073: The Exquisite Beauty of Living Simply

Simple Life Reboot“It sure seems like you’re working pretty hard just to ‘simplify‘ your life”,  a somewhat skeptical friend observed.

He was, of course, right … though I did not want to admit it.

Fortunately, we both had other pressing commitments, otherwise I would have had to acknowledge that taking steps to simplify our life continues to be anything but a smooth or simple process.

BUT – IT IS WORTH IT

In moments of doubt, it helps to reflect upon why a commitment to the essentials is worth the effort. The “why” can be summed up in one word,  “beauty”.  We are simplifying in order to live a beautiful life.

 

WHAT DOES A LIFE OF BEAUTY LOOK LIKE?

Leo Babauta sums it up this way:

“The point of simple living, for me, has got to be:

A soft place to land

A wide margin for error

Room to breathe

Lots of places to find baseline happiness in each and every day.”

Simple Life Reboot

 

CONTENTMENT

It is slowing down and making the time to luxuriate in the smile of a loved one.   A shared moment.  A hearty, belly laugh.

It is contentment, gratitude and peace.

It is commitment to something greater than ourselves.

 

 

Simple Life Reboot

 

MAXIMIZE SHARING OF GIFTS

It is the clearing out of the useless things in our lives so as to focus on our priorities – our God, our loved ones, our potential.

It is personal weeding and pruning, so as to make room for the development and sharing of our unique gifts for the benefit of others.

It is the maximizing of our potential.   As stated by the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

In character, in manner, in style, in all the things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.

 

….  and that is a very beautiful life indeed.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

SLR 070: 3 Things to Stop Spending Time On

Simple Life RebootMoney is not the prime asset in life. Time is.”  Unknown

Far too often we fail to appreciate the preciousness of time. Unlike other resources,  it is irreplaceable.  Nonetheless,   we tend to operate in default mode, either rushing about or coasting along,  giving very little thought to how spending time doing “X” may well preclude us from ever doing “Y”.

It’s not about time, it’s about choices. How are  you spending your choices?”  Beverly Adamo

In order to make the most of our limited time,  we need to stop and ask ourselves, “What ‘time-wasters’ can I eliminate, or at least reduce, so as to have more time and energy for that which matters most?”    It’s a harder decision than we might realize or be willing to make.  For instance,  I keep pretending that I can do it all in the desperate hope that I won’t have to cut one of my indulgences … but the clock ticks on.

I needed help identifying major time wasting offenses. So,  I turned to the sages.  I found the following quotes,  in no particular order, to be helpful and encouraging:

 

1.  STOP SPENDING TIME DWELLING ON MISTAKES MADE

“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” – Stephen McCranie

“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” –  John Wooden

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – Confucius

 

2.  STOP SPENDING TIME WORRYING

“If plan ‘A’  fails – remember you have 25 letters left.” – Chris Guillebeau

“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown

“Worry is a misuse of imagination.” –  Dan Zadra

“Identify your problems but give your power and energy to solutions.” – Tony Robbins

“Anxiety is a daily statement to God saying, ‘I don’t think you have my best interest in mind.'” – Tim Keller

 

3.  STOP SPENDING TIME COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS OR TRYING TO BE THEM

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.”  – Marcus Aurelius

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

“Remember, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“Wishing you were someone else, kind of defeats God’s purpose of creating you.” – Unknown

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” – Steve Jobs

… and if you have been spending time on the above, remember,

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Altshuler

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

SLR 069: Removing Roadblocks to Compassion

Simple Life RebootI wanted to edit it out.  In our 67th episode, Interview with Mom, we asked if she had learned anything from observing our Simple Life Reboot journey.  I hoped to hear how inspired she was, or perhaps how we were making a difference.   Instead, she paused, and said:

“Well, I’ve learned that you’re much more compassionate than I realized.”

What?!!  I’m compassionate!!  In fact, I’m super compassionate!!  I wanted to shout and hop up and down and defend my tender, caring, empathetic nature…. but, the interview was being recorded… so, after  a few awkward chuckles, the conversation simply continued.

Later, after much fussing and pondering, I realized the insightfulness of Mom’s answer. People assess our character based on our actions, not our intentions.  My desire to be compassionate had become obscured.  Hoping I wasn’t the only one with this problem, I did some research.

Princeton Seminary Study (Darley & Batson)

One of the more fascinating studies exploring the impact of situational stress on behavior occurred in 1973.  In this study, researchers recruited 67 students from Princeton Theological Seminary.  Students were told the study pertained to religious education and vocations.

Students each completed a personality questionnaire.  Then, researchers instructed the students to travel to another location on campus to deliver a brief talk on the parable of the Good Samaritan. As the students were leaving,  each was given a map and one of the following three instructions:

  1. “Oh, you’re late. They were expecting you a few minutes ago. We’d better get moving…”
  2. “The assistant is ready for you, so please go right over.”
  3. “…It’ll be a few minutes before they’re ready for you, but you might as well head on over…”

Each student would then travel to the designated location and encounter an actor in the entryway of the building in which the student was to present.  No one else would be present.  The actor would not engage the student but would be doubled over as if in severe pain, eyes closed and coughing.  Researchers studied the extent to which the students sought to assist the actor.

As you might expect,  assistance decreased with increased time pressure. However,  what might surprise you is that there was little difference between the medium and high time pressured scenarios.  What might surprise you even more is how having additional time was consistently reliable in prompting assistance even in students scoring the lowest on compassion indicators in the personality test.

Impact on the Exercise of Compassion

We must ask ourselves what impact time, financial and congested space pressures have upon us and our children.  If mature individuals training to be clergy, reflecting upon rendering service to others,  allow situational time pressure to trump such service,  we must recognize our collective weakness in this area.

We must also recognize the burden carried by those called upon to provide compassionate care such as nurses, clergy, counselors and care providers.  As situational pressures increase, such individuals’ struggles with burnout and compassion-fatigue also increase.  Those upon whom we most rely to be compassionate,  are struggling to do so.

So, What Can We Do?

We need to respect that circumstances can compromise noble intent.  We need to re-commit to the basic safeguards which allow for rejuvenation such as community, reflection, rest and exercise.  However, for the safeguards to exist, we need to incorporate that breathing room known as margin into our lives.  Without it, there can be no sustained practice of compassion.

Please seek out and support those providing compassionate care to others.  If you are so inclined, please join me in praying for such individuals.  And, as a special shout-out, I would like to commend my friend, Melissa AuClair, who is doing groundbreaking work to serve such individuals at Unstuck Nurse.

Let’s restore the habits and practices which foster compassion today.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

SLR 067: An Interview with Mom

Simple Life RebootFar too often the journey to simplicity focuses on our own needs and desires. In an effort to share another perspective, Dave and I sat down for a candid talk with my mother, Carolyn.

Mom has had a front row seat on this roller coaster ride to greater margin.  Though not a “fan” of reducing possessions, she stood by us as we let go of 85% of our belongings. She not only opened her home,  she cheered us through some rough patches.

In this podcast,  Carolyn shares how our journey has affected our family.  She is our hero … and we wanted you to hear her words of wisdom.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

http://youtu.be/_-mhjSpybJc
Play

 

Simple Life Reboot

Armosa Studios / WDS 2014

Sometimes the unexpected will test and grow you (and perhaps your audience as well).  This video is a cell phone recording of a “rap” I performed at the 2014 World Domination Summit. Please read about the experience in SLR 065 “What Are You Afraid Of?

SLR 065: What Are You Afraid Of?

Simple Life Reboot

Armosa Studios / WDS 2014

There was no forewarning.  One moment I was happily standing with two other summit attendees.  The next,  I was struggling to maintain my composure, holding back an overwhelming urge to cry, scream, and vomit.

It all started innocently enough.  Dave and I were attending the World Domination Summit.  As big Amazing Race fans,  we were thrilled to learn that WDS had an activity known as the Unconventional Race.  In between extraordinary speakers and meet-ups,  we raced around Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.,  solving puzzles and visiting unusual venues.  It was a blast!

Fear As Self-Limiting

A recurring theme at the summit was overcoming self-limiting behavior.  A number of speakers urged us to imagine what we could accomplish if we were not afraid.  I was intrigued.   The more I thought about it,  the more I realized that my fear of losing status in the eyes of others continued to impede my  progress towards a simpler, priority driven life.

Perhaps overlooking the obvious,  I made no connection between “facing self-limiting fears”  and participating in the Unconventional Race.  The race was simply a fun companion activity.

Not So Much Fun Any More

It all changed shortly before the awards ceremony.  It was then that we learned that the 3 finalists would be performing a rap in the tradition of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.   As a reserved, middle-aged attorney with no musical skills or swagger,  I could not think of anything more mortifying.

What Are You Afraid Of?

If I had had any doubt as to what I was afraid of,  being asked to perform a rap in front of 2,500+ people brought it all into perfect focus.

I was terrified of being a “joke”,  someone who is “less than”, someone to be pitied or looked down upon.  I not only wanted to achieve,  I wanted others to recognize my achievements and respect me all the more.

How could I step onto stage and make a fool of myself?

This I Know

I would like to tell you that I knocked it out of the park, overcame my fears and had a life-changing  experience – but such was not the case.  What I can tell you is this….to have refused to perform would have served no purpose other than protecting my ego.

I made it through the experience by telling myself that performing the rap would be my way of honoring the volunteers who had made WDS possible.  Besides,  this rationale sounded much nobler than the simple fact that I could not think of any graceful or face-saving way of refusing to perform.

As it turned out, some of the audience might have enjoyed my performance, some might have been amused by the musical train wreck,  and some might have thought less of me.  In any event, I survived.

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Thank you for letting me share this experience with you.  Please join me in this challenge: Let’s do our level best to honor others and our priorities… even if it reduces us in the eyes of others.

(… and if you would like to view a cell phone recording of my “rap”, please see it by clicking here. )

 

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com