7 Rebuilding Lessons I Learned from a Crash

crash siteHave you attempted to change your life before?

Is change easier if it’s voluntary, or if there is no choice in the matter?

In the summer of my senior year in college, I discovered the answer.  An oncoming car crested a hill in my lane. It struck my small car head-on with such force that we spun backwards down the hill.

The impact slammed my face into the steering wheel, opening a gash from eye to lip which partially severed and displaced my nose. The trauma left me disfigured with memory and speech problems, and recurring seizures, over the next few years.

Against medical advice, I returned to school. Initially, I rejected any suggestion that I might have limitations. As a consequence, I exhausted myself trying to do things in the regular way. Rather than adapting, I prolonged my suffering.

To be honest, I did not travel the long road to recovery well. Sheer stubbornness propelled me through law school. Yet, perhaps in spite of myself, I discovered tools which, along with my faith, sustain me to this day.

I share this in the hope that the insight gleaned from this experience might be of assistance to someone struggling to reshape his or her life.  It is as follows:

1.  Do not wait for a “crash” to make needed changes. Voluntary reboot is preferable to involuntary rebuild.

2.  Set aside pride and stubbornness. Ask for help. Healing and change are hard.

3.  Regardless of your circumstances, decide to be thankful. Find ways to “pass it on”.

4.  Assess your circumstances as objectively as possible. Then, make the most of your resources and opportunities.  Let go of what has been “lost”, and begin to realize that which has been gained.

5.  Refuse to compare yourself to others or to a previous or idealized conception of yourself.

6.  Embrace creativity.  Amazing things can be accomplished in unconventional ways.

7.  Keep your focus on your priorities, and never ever give up.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

How Do We “Flip the Switch” to Make the Change?

IMG_1003Have you experienced this?  One day you are relatively satisfied with a situation. Then,  something happens and you cannot make needed changes fast enough.

How can something be “okay” one moment, and then abruptly “not okay” the next?

For most of us, there is usually a triggering event which causes us to become acutely aware of a shortcoming.  After making the decision to change, our motivation shifts into high gear as we reach for what we now consider to be a necessity.

But what “flips our switch”?  What creates this internal discord and urgency? And perhaps more importantly, how do we keep that switch flipped on?

Recently that switch flipped for me with respect to my weight and fitness. In years past I had completed Ironman triathlons, but more recently,  I had drifted into a sedentary lifestyle.  At some imperceptible point,  I finally recognized my fitness level was unacceptable.

The decision to make a change was nothing less than thrilling.

Then, almost immediately, the high of making the decision to change gave way to the realization of the sustained commitment, time and effort, that would be required.  If only I could have bottled that initial excitement and clarity of purpose for repeated application over the months and years to come!

So, in an effort to stay the course, I devised an experiment of sorts. As part of Simple Life Reboot, I decided to videotape what I hope will be a transformational process. At points of discouragement, I will review the tape to remind myself of the progress I have made.  I may, if I become brave enough, post video of this journey.

Please join me on this journey.  Also, please share what measures you have found helpful over the years in keeping your motivational switch flipped on.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

How You Can Become Backslide-Proof

I have found few things in life as discouraging as backsliding on an important goal.

Whether our objective is professional, financial, physical, or otherwise, a lack of perspective can tragically turn a minor lapse into outright collapse, making resumption of progress difficult.

The pattern is all too familiar.  For instance, we commit to running.  We start strong, but ultimately we miss a day, and then another, and then another.  We try to convince ourselves that we have a good reason for stopping, but in our hearts, we label the effort a failure, and cease trying altogether.

The Solution

One mistake does not equal failure. We must remember that achieving an important objective does not involve straight line progress. It is also not an all-or-nothing proposition.  It is an ongoing journey with challenges and zigzags along the way.

Direction of travel, not perfect execution, determines the destination.

What does this mean?  It means that we do not have to be perfect in order to achieve our goals. We may make the journey longer and more difficult with lapses,  but we should not abandon worthy objectives. After a lapse, we simply  recommit and keep going. It is what we  do most of the time that counts. If we regularly move in the proper direction, we will get there.

How does this work?  We make decisions each day.  With each decision, we move closer to or further away from our goal.  It’s that simple.  There is no reason to fear  ‘failure’.  God’s compassion grants us the ability to make daily course corrections.

Let’s move towards our goals in confidence, enjoying the challenges and growth along the way!

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If you enjoyed this post, please read ‘The 4 Zones of Intention” and other posts of interest in our archives.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

Master the Enemy of Focus

Katie's East Coast 2008 054What makes it so difficult for us to remain focused with most of our resources firmly committed to our priorities?

Are we not disciplined enough? Are we doomed to always succumb to the distractions around us?

Or could there be other reasons we lose focus?

Consider the following:

Packed Calendar

In any given month there are many worthy events,  gatherings and entertainment options to consider.  Not wanting to miss out on anything, we pack our schedules.  But what we do not realize is that overcommitment itself causes us to miss out.

By jamming in every possible event, we turn what could have been something enjoyable into something frantic, denying ourselves and our loved ones the joy that comes from not only anticipating a special event, but the contemplative time that is necessary after the fact to savor the sweetness of the experience. When one event rushes into another, it tends to become indistinguishable. We become harried, numb and oblivious to that which could have been shared, experienced or accomplished had we left some white space on our calendar.

Packed Space

We want to be prepared.  We stock up. We lug overloaded bags and stuff our spaces with items to have on hand “just in case”.  But what is lost by this approach?

We must come to grips with the fact that we make a choice when spend time and money on these items.  When resources are applied to items that are neither necessary or cherished, and could be easily acquired if needed, we are diverting resources from our priorities.

The  Underlying Cause

What causes us to over-pack our schedules and our spaces and thus lose focus?

Fear?

Do we fear that if we reduce our commitments, we will miss out on professional and/or social opportunities?  Are we afraid that if we focus our resources on too few objectives,  that we will be “failures” if the objective fails?  Are we afraid that if we let go of something, and later learn it is needed, that we will not be able to replace the item?

The Solution

To remain focused on priorities, we must practice courage and humility.

Courage – when we put our proverbial eggs in only a few baskets and risk loss.  Humility – when we acknowledge we cannot do or have it all.

Please join us in committing to seek the courage and humility to  1) focus on a few precious priorities in our lives; and 2) dedicate our time, talents and treasures to such priorities.

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For further resources on this topic please see our previous posts  “How to … Achieve Your Goal” and “4 Zones of Influence” and Leo Babauta’s post  “buckshot vs. rifle approaches”  at mnmlist.com.

 

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

 

Deep Living in a Shallow World

Hawaii 2009 527Do you find yourself increasingly distracted by life’s daily obligations that leave you too little time, thought or energy, to feel renewed, refreshed, or inspired?

That’s what vacations are for, right?  But many times our vacations can leave us more tired and frazzled than daily life.

We can spend a lot of money getting to that special destination, and there is an investment of time being away from work.  The ego can also be involved – did we select the best faraway paradise to smooth the wrinkles of life?  Having so much capital on the line, it becomes natural to feel we cannot waste a minute of time, or miss out on seeing everything possible during our vacation.

But this same frantic attitude that has followed us from our daily life, might be why we needed the vacation to begin with.  How can we hope to escape our own shallow living by taking a shallow vacation?  We return home more tired and disappointed than ever.

Some possible solutions.

Deep Living Exercises

By taking measures to renew ourselves daily, we do not necessarily have to wait for that future vacation to alleviate what ails us.

Try any of these daily exercises, or all of them, to add layers of contentment and meaning to your life.

1)  Spend some time deep in thought every day.  By devoting sustained attention to a project or idea that means something to you, your intellectual compass gets reset back to true north.  Choose a time when you are alone, free from distractions, and immerse your mind in something substantive.  If you never know where you currently stand, it is hard to know where you are going.

2)  Spend time deep in work.  Engage in a difficult problem at work.  Take on the principal challenge of the day, and find a real solution that creates value.

3)  Ask a friend about how life is going, and listen.  Do not settle for the standard answer most people give.  You can be breezy, not inappropriate or too probing, but show genuine interest in how a project is going, or how the kids are doing, the new job, or about the sail boat he is building.  Offer to help out on a project, or be a sounding board if they need to talk through an idea or problem.

4)  Look for the positive attributes in your partner.  Remind yourself daily, and let them know, how much you appreciate and love them.  When they enter the room, acknowledge them.  Treat them as if they are the most important person in the world to you, because they are.

5)  Exercise regularly and eat well.  The body needs movement and good nutrition to regain energy.  Exercise with your partner.  Train for an upcoming event.  Stay motivated by creating goals that you can attain with some effort.

6)  Spend time in prayer. The words you say will be heard.  We are not alone in life.  Acknowledge Him and give thanks for everything you have.

Remember, life is continually diluted with mundane tasks and mediocre effort.  To regain energy and find inspiration, we must devote ourselves deeply and regularly to the things that matter.  Only then will we find ourselves  renewed and in touch with the genius of our life.

Only then will we know where we stand, and who stands with us.

Deep Thinking – Deep Working – Deep Friendship – Deep Loving – Deep Faith

Do not settle for mediocrity!

 

Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

How to Tell People You Are Simplifying Your Life

Hawaii 2009 363“So, I heard you were downsizing.”

The question from a business acquaintance at a Chamber of Commerce event caught me off guard.

Gulp. I paused, desperate for a response which recast what sounded, at least to my ears, quite negative. I wanted to share the joyful, enriching and values-driven journey of simplifying my life and how it harmonized with my professional life.  Instead, I blurted out  “…kind of…” and scampered off feeling embarrassed and inadequate.

It was not my brightest moment.  I resolved to be better equipped the next time and gathered the following tips through trial and error:

1. Choose the Right Time and Location. Be thoughtful. Telling others while on a cruise, a shopping excursion or while opening Christmas presents may not be the best time to let people know you are simplifying.  Similarly, sharing a voluntary journey of simplicity and margin creation with someone who is struggling financially (and who had not asked for advice) may not be particularly considerate.

2. BRIEFLY Tell Your Story. While you may be passionate about the topic, limit yourself to just a few sentences.  Share what prompted you to simplify. For example:  “For years I have been filling my life with more and more stuff. Then I read/listened to _______ and started thinking about making changes. I resolved to let go of things and activities of lesser importance so as to make room for the precious ones in my life.” Pause.  If the listener does not ask a follow up question, leave it at that.

3. Discuss the Impact of Changes. Have an open and honest discussion with your loved ones regarding the impact your simplified life will have on them.  For instance, you might discuss your plan for editing possessions and your preference for shared experiences in lieu of physical gifts. If you move to a smaller space, reassure your loved ones of their place within the new space, and explain how you will accommodate visits and activities in new ways.  Also, reassure non-household members that this journey is unique to each individual, and that you do not wish to make them feel uncomfortable or pressured to make similar changes.

 

If this post was of interest – please see “But What Will People Think?”.

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How would you share a decision to simplify with others?   Please let us know in the comments below.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Can You Simplify at Work?

Little ShoeWould you like to simplify at work but fear you cannot do so without jeopardizing your position or prospects?  If so, you are not alone.  This can be a paralyzing dilemma, particularly when others are dependent upon your work performance and/or income.

Rather than take rash action or settle for permanent quiet desperation, consider whether implementing baby simplification steps would assist in determining     1) if improvement within existing work parameters is possible; and  2) if greater life changes are needed.

Too Important to Simplify?

The greatest obstacle to pursuing simplicity at work may be our self-concept. We may bristle at the suggestion that our important and highly skilled work could be performed as well or better if we implemented simplification techniques.

We may also wish to maintain a maximum hour, full throttle persona as proof of our commitment, drive and excellence. We may fear that any boundary setting will suggest to our superiors, colleagues and patrons that we “just can’t cut it”.

It is in this uncomfortable place that making even minor changes to pursue simplicity  requires thoughtful consideration and courage.

Simplicity Steps to Implement at Work

If you decide to take action to simplify at work, there are numerous helpful resources. One of my favorites is Leo Babauta’s post at http://zenhabits.net/simplify-your-workday/ which lays out basic steps which most of us can take at work with minimal risk.  These steps include starting early, batching distraction and de-cluttering our work space. Other steps could include automation or delegation of routine tasks.

Simplicity Is Unique to Each Person

Finally,  remember that simplicity is not a cookie-cutter methodology. Each individual’s circumstances, responsibilities, strengths and passions are unique. Simplicity at work can and should take a variety of forms.  In any event, most of us will be pleasantly surprised at how even very small tweaks can yield significant results.

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Please let us know what simplicity steps have been successful for you at work in our comments section below. Dave and I would enjoy hearing from you.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

 

A Simple Step You Must Take Now to Reduce Information Overload

screenshot“You can do anything, but not everything. ”  David Allen

 

The Problem

We live in an exciting time.  With easy access to the internet and quality podcasts, blogs, books, webcasts,  forums, and MOOCs, the sky is the limit for growth and service. The problem is our inability to deal with abundance. If we attempt to gather, sift and apply the available quality resources,  the end result may be numbness or withdrawal due to exhaustion.

The Solution

In order to stay in the fray, we need to implement safeguards.  The identification of mentors and information curators is the simple solution. Once curators are identified, available time can be used digesting and applying information provided by them.

Our Curators

Dave and I have great respect for curation. It is expertise in selecting, preserving and maintaining assets. The integrity and skill of the curator determines the value of the collection. Dave and I are beholden to quality content on intentional, simple, minimal, faith-based/value-driven living.  The following list, referenced in part in our earlier post,  Thought Leaders Who Have Inspired Us,  though not comprehensive of all the high quality content providers,  lists the experts who have been most influential in our journey thus far.

Principles of Margin:

Timothy Keller @timkellernyc

Dr. Henry Cloud @DrHenryCloud

Simple / Organized Living:

Simple Life Together – Dan and Vanessa Hayes

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta

The Simple White Rabbit – Christy King

Be More With Less – Courtney Carver

The Other Side of Complexity – Mike Burns

Value of Simple – Joel Zaslofsky

Slow Your Home – Brooke McAlary

Minimalism:

The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Becoming Minimalist – Joshua Becker

Getting Out the Message:

Michael Hyatt

Linked In Lady – Carol McManus

Become A Blogger – Leslie Samuel

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We welcome your suggested additions.  Please make recommendations in the comments section.  Thank you.

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com

Mr. Darcy’s 5 Points for Staying the Course

DarcyAny person making a significant life change will be familiar with that initial uncomfortable period between making sacrifice and seeing fruit.  It’s much like hiking up a mountain with an obscured summit.  As the intensity increases, we may start to wonder  1) if we’ll  reach a “better” place; and  2) if we do, will it be worth what we gave up to get there.

Dave and I are in that uncomfortable place.  We have reduced our belongings by about 80%, put our house (which we adore) on the market, and said “no” to desirable new activities.  We have announced our  intent to create margin to the world and have burned the figurative boat behind us. Yet, truth be told, we are now finding our life to be more hectic and expensive than ever.  It can be discouraging.

Fortunately, when the doubts begin to creep in,  I need only look at our dog, Mr. Darcy, to be reminded of the basics:

  1. You don’t need to know where you’re going to enjoy the walk.
  2. As long as the pack is together, it’s all good.
  3. You don’t need to own stuff to give to people.
  4. Even big changes are manageable when you have something upon which to chew.
  5. Drooling over other people’s stuff will only get you a puddle of saliva.

Who knew the furry Mr. Darcy could teach us so much?

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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.]

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Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com