SLR 061: 6 Steps to a Simpler Life

Simple Life RebootMany of us come to a point in our lives when we sense that something is wrong.

We work harder and harder, and yet, never quite seem to achieve our desired lifestyle. Is the goalpost moving? Or, is some other dynamic at work?

For those of us seeking to edit the non-essentials from our lives so as to devote ourselves to the things that matter most, the journey to a simpler lifestyle can seem rather amorphous, if not foofoo, at times.  Such is tragic as there are few more worthy objectives in life.

1. Begin with the End in Mind

We often engage in activities without an end goal in mind. Such activities are fine and healthy, but will be, at best, recreational diversions or hobbies. In contrast, if we intend for our actions to facilitate lifestyle changes, we need intentionality.

The touchstone of intentionality is Stephen Covey’s principle, “begin with the end in mind“.  To employ this principle, we need to be able to describe the desired end state.

2. Carefully Define the Objective

The mistake most of us make is to launch into an endeavor without a clear picture of the goal. Such is much like trying to put together a complex jigsaw puzzle with only some of the pieces and no box top to guide us.

If the objective is a simpler, priority-driven life, one must carefully and comprehensively develop a personal definition of what such lifestyle entails. For example, for Dave and me, such a lifestyle includes:

  • Balanced work and family time;
  • Financial and physical resources to care for others;
  • Creative space; and
  • Adventure!

3. Consider Creative or Unconventional Approaches

When the objective is clearly defined, moving towards it becomes much easier. However, creativity and flexibility are still required. Achieving a simpler life is not simple, easy or quick.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s latest book, Think Like a Freak, encourages the exploration of unconventional approaches to achieve the desired objective. “To think like a freak”, Dubner says, “is to observe, define, deconstruct and re-contextualize the elements of a problem.”

In the context of a simpler life, creative approaches come in all flavors and include tiny house living, minimalism and entrepreneurship.

4. Deconstruct the Elements Needed

The ancient Zen adage “When the student is ready, the teacher appears“, provides guidance on the next step. One can and should commit to a worthy goal even before knowing exactly how he or she will accomplish it.

Obstacles such as existing debt and the perceived need to project social status may seem like insurmountable barriers to a simpler lifestyle. However, if one is truly committed, one can find a way.

Necessary elements will likely include financial planning, redefining social status, and patience.  Seeking community with others simplifying their lives by connecting online and at meet-ups may be helpful. Reducing living space and number of possessions may also be of assistance.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

5. Reduce Distractions and Impediments

In order to achieve anything of significance, most of us will need to reduce distractions so as to focus on the essential.  Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck and jeans each day so that he did not spend time on clothing choice. Savvy dieters remove unhealthy food choices from their homes.  Authors write from a blank screen.

Be boring and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.

Gustave Flaubert

Each person’s distractions are unique to the person.  However, in the simple living context, reduction of common distractions include  limiting digital use and new purchases, and creating a quiet space.  Elements that impede progress without providing a greater corresponding benefit also need to be examined and edited as appropriate.

6. Maintain Sense of Purpose

Perhaps the most important element of the process is to never lose sight of why we seek a simpler life.  Is it to be there for our loved ones?   Is it to develop and share our creative gifts?  Is it to live a healthier and more fulfilling life?

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.

– Joshua Marine

Without meaning, the entire 6 step  framework for achieving the objective fails.  However, if we maintain our sense of purpose for seeking a simpler, priority-driven life, challenges can be overcome and lives can be changed.

Enjoy the journey!


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2 thoughts on “SLR 061: 6 Steps to a Simpler Life

  1. I’m going to have to check out, “Think Like a Freak!” Great post; thank you for encouraging me to think about why I’m pursuing a simpler life.