Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Simple Life Can Be Yours

Ah, the simple life. It sounds so alluring. The idea of living in a house with no clutter, having a schedule that allows for rewarding work, ample leisure time, and restful sleep is like a fantasy. A life with little or no money worries is also like a far off dream.

But living a simple and rich life doesn't have to be just a dream. These things are possible. And there's just one thing you must do to attain it.

Live with intention.

What does this mean? It means living your life on purpose by defining what you want, knowing where you are going, and simply living out that dream day by day.

Contrast this with just going through the motions day-in and day-out. Do you say yes to most requests of your time without regard to whether they mesh with the life you want to live? How about living in the catch-22 consumer-horror of working to pay for all the possessions you buy but not having the time to use them because you are working to pay for them? If this sounds familiar, know that you are not alone.

How do you break out of this cycle and begin to live the life you really want? It's simple, not necessarily easy, but it can be done. Here's how.
Decide. Commit to a change in your life. Get out some paper and a pen and get ready to begin the process of changing your life. You have so much more power to change your life than you realize. It's time to get excited. If part of you is saying "Oh, no thanks, that will be too much work," just tell that part of you that you don't have to take any action if you don't want to. But once you get going, the excitement that possibilities bring will most likely have you taking some action today!

Define. Write down what is important to you. Think about these areas of your life and how you want to spend your time:

Home & Possessions

Keep in mind that you don't have to change everything in your life overnight. So don't get overwhelmed by this exercise. Instead get excited about heading out on a life-long journey of your choosing. This exercise will illuminate your personalized path. If you'd like a free values & goals worksheet with instructions, click here. Otherwise just write down the things that are important to you in each of these areas. Only work on the the ones that matter to you.

Narrow Your Focus. In life we need to make choices. The people who said you can have it all were wrong. But, that's actually good news. You wouldn't want it all. That's modern society's current predicament. Having it all makes us frenzied. So instead, choose what is most important to you. Do this by narrowing down your list and prioritizing the things you keep on your list. If it is too hard to cut things, put them on a "maybe/someday" list.

Special Note on Possessions, Services and Habits.

Take time to determine what kinds of possessions and services are most important to you. Do you have to own them? Can you borrow or buy them used? What can you cut out in order to free up time and money that previously went towards paying for them?

When you find yourself in a shopping situation ask yourself, "Do I really need this or do I just want it? Could I borrow it or get it used or free and be just as happy? Wasn't I already fine before I knew it existed?" Then as often as you can walk away and promise yourself you'll think about it.

Beware of items that promise to "save you time." Often you already have a method that currently works. An example is a food processor. Is it faster to chop up an onion with a good knife or to throw the onion in the processor and then have to take it all apart and wash and store the big thing? Only you can determine that, but that kind of discriminating thinking can keep you from buying things you don't really need.

What habits take up a lot of your time that you could cut back on? For instance, could clothes, towels and sheets be laundered a little less frequently? Another example is mindless TV watching. Cutting back on this could free up time for writing, resting, or strengthening relationships.

Make it Actionable. Starting with your top priorities, write down the action steps you can take today and over time to achieve them. Work on one thing at a time, unless there are things that are easy to change, then go for it. But, in general, you will have more success if you take it slow and steady. An example of turning a priority into an action might be that if you want to cut down on the amount of things that you buy , then your could be a new rule to limit your shopping. If you love shopping for the activity of walking around, the rule could be to not bring your credit card when you go window shopping.

Re-evaluate Periodically. At least once a year check in with your list. Write down your major changes or progress, adjust items on your list, and re-set your course for going forward. New Year's is a great time of year to do this. You may also want to review your list more often for staying focused when all the world is constantly trying to pull you back into the consumer cycle.
Remember that simple living is defined by you, not by anyone else. You don't have to choose a monk's lifestyle to be living simply. You just need to choose what is right for you. What really makes you happy? How can you cut things from your life that keep you from enjoying that happiness? How can you have more time doing the things you like and being with the people you love? If you ask the right questions, you'll get the right answers! Good luck!

What are your simple living tips and success stories? Please share in the comments! We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

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