If I ask you what it means to live a simple life, I’ll probably get all kinds of responses. For some, it may mean living in the nature with less material things. For others, it can be simplifying daily routines. Obviously, there is no right or wrong way of living a simple life, but I think we all share a common goal – to live a happy life.
But if I flip the question and ask you how to live a happy life, it will be very unlikely that you will respond as living a simple life. So, here in this posting, my job is to convince you that living a simple life maybe the key to living a happy life and it’s actually quite simple to live a simple life!
Have you ever heard of an idiom “constant dropping wears away a stone”? Generally, it is used to mean that persistence can lead to great achievement. However, I believe it means something more — to me, it also means that something so tiny such as a drop of water can have a powerful impact, in fact, so powerful it can penetrate a stone, which initially seems impossible.
Living a simple life is just like that. Small simple changes you make in everyday life may seem so minimal at the time, but can lead to big changes in your life in the long run. Especially, if you are going through some kind of struggle, it may seem impossible to reach the happy state at first. In fact, we often look for drastic changes to happen and believe only then our lives will turn around. I would argue otherwise. I agree that changes are required in order to overcome a struggle and live a happier life. However, I believe small changes, if practiced daily and consistently, can lead to surprising results.
So, here are five small changes you can make today to start living simple!
#1 ENJOY WHAT YOU DO AND EVERY MOMENT OF IT
I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve heard of this – to enjoy the moment! But here’s the thing, how many of you are really practicing this? I’m talking about every moment. We tend to be overachievers and we love to multi-task. Don’t get me wrong, multi-tasking is a great skill to have, but don’t you remember a time you focused on too many things at once, and ended up not enjoying any of it?
We also tend to look for enjoyment outside of our daily lives – hence, we use the term “escape” vacation. But, the truth of the matter is, enjoyment isn’t so far away and lot closer than you think. In fact, the simplest way to find enjoyment is by stop escaping and start noticing!
So, how do you enjoy every moment of your life, you may ask? – It’s really simple: focus on one thing at a time and find something to smile about at that moment.
You may argue, how do you find something to smile about when you are just having a bad day? How do you enjoy that? Sure, we all have bad days. The keyword here is to notice. Notice what’s good in any given situation and trust me, if you try hard enough you can almost always find something good.
When you are holding a flash light, you will only see the item that you are flashing the light on. Other items are dark and you probably won’t even notice that the other items were there. The point is, you just need to practice how to turn the direction of the flash light — from bad side to the good side.
So, start small. Perhaps, start out by just enjoying one moment a day. Before you know it, you will start appreciate and enjoy what’s around you a lot more!
#2 BE INSPIRED BY ANYTHING
Where do you look for to find inspiration? Most commonly, people find inspiration from stories of highly successful people — by reading their NY times best seller books, watching their TEDTalks, or listening to their Podcasts.
I’m totally with you on that. No doubt that’s one of the best ways to be inspired. But, let’s expand our horizons a bit.
Inspiration is no different than finding enjoyment. Yes, you can always go find it, but inspiration is everywhere in our daily lives too. Any thing, people, or place, that creates mental stimulation that pushes you to do or feel something, you, in fact, have been inspired!
Here are some of the things that inspires me: quotes on coffee cups, small messages inside the fortune cookies, conversations with my 6 year-old, notebook covers, Facebook comments, and TV shows.
Now, you may ask what does inspiration has anything to do with living a simple and happy life? Well, actually everything! Living a simple life is not an ordinary life — it requires creativity and lots of it and in order to be creative, you need to be inspired. So, look around and find your inspiration! 🙂
#3 DON’T OVERCOMPLICATE YOUR THOUGHTS
We are so good at this – consciously or unconsciously, we tend to overcomplicate our thoughts.
You may ask what does it mean to overcomplicate thoughts? Well, I would say we all have two kinds of thoughts: the initial thought (e.g. I’m hungry) and the additional thoughts that are related to the initial thought (e.g. the thoughts that are related to hunger, such as what should I eat?).
If I were to compare it to a tree anatomy, the initial thought is like a branch while the additional thoughts are like twigs. So, basically, if you have too many twigs that will cause the branch to break, then you are overcomplicating your thoughts — In other words, you are thinking too much.
Here’s an example:
Thought: My boyfriend is not answering my phone.
Complicated Thought: Why is he not answering? Is it because of the conversation we had this evening? Does he not love me anymore?
You get the idea. Thoughts about how others will judge me, thoughts about whether I’m loved, and thoughts about what will happen in the future, all overcomplicate our thoughts. Too many thoughts like these over-clutter our brains, which leads to stress and we all know with too much stress, we can never live a simple and happier life.
So, start pruning! — cut-off those unnecessary thoughts so we can live a fruitful life and continue growing!
#4 GET RID OF “ONLY IF”S
I used to be this way: Only if I had lots of money, I would be able to buy all the stuff I want and be happier. Only if I got a better job, I’ll make more money and be happier. Only if I had less work, I’ll spend more time with my kids and be happier.
But did you know “Only If” never ends? I don’t think I need to prove this to you. How many of you experienced wanting something so bad, and once you got it, you want something else? Perhaps, something better? The bottom line is, “Only If” always lead to another “Only If” and this only clouds your mind.
Generally, when you use an “Only If” statement, your thoughts will be something like this: Only if A happens, B ought to happen. This is your presumption, like a hypothesis. So then, what happens if B doesn’t happen? In a science experiment, you just come up with another hypothesis. This is exactly what we are doing. You believe if A happens B will definitely happen, but when it doesn’t, you feel disappointed and come up with another “Only If” statement — this is why it never ends.
So, starting today, get rid of the “Only If”s. Instead, acknowledge the fact that A (e.g. material stuff) is not the answer to get B (e.g. happiness). The real key is to find good in any situation because if you can’t find happiness within and around you today, I guarantee you no “Only If” statements will get you there.
#5 DECLUTTER YOUR SURROUNDINGS
This is the obvious. To live more simple life, you have to get rid of the clutter and there’s no other way around it. The most important is to de-clutter your mind (and this posting is all about that); however, as equally as important is to de-clutter your surroundings and here’s the reason why — If your surrounding is cluttered, most likely you are sucked into this life cycle:
You work too much –> You purchase stuff to relieve stress –> Stuff gets accumulated in your house –> You don’t have enough space –> Your space gets cluttered and run out of storage space –> You don’t have time or energy to clean –> You are tired and stressed so purchase more stuff
And the cycle continues – you get the point. But, what happens if you start to declutter? From my experience, decluttering helps you to notice. Notice on the things you weren’t aware of before. For example, you notice you own way too many stuff that you didn’t even know you owned and used. You notice that you have much more space in your house than you thought. You notice how clean surrounding can give you serenity and calmness. And finally, you notice you don’t need all this stuff to be happy.
Once you start cleaning you’ll get hooked and you’ll create a new life cycle:
You get rid of unnecessary stuff –> Creates more space in your house –> You feel good! —> More easier to clean —> Less stress —> Happier and simple life
So, start decluttering! This is something that you really need to do in order to truly experience how great it feels.
Life doesn’t have to be complicated and don’t forget living a simple life can be achieved by making small changes. By practicing daily, let’s penetrate the stone and find true happiness. Just to simplify, here’s the recap:
Now, it’s your turn! What does living a simple life means to you? Do you resonate with any of the points above? Do you have anything to add? Please share your thoughts! I would love to hear it from you.