A question was posed to me today which echoes the sentiments of so many others: We’ve found a measure of simple living through this lockdown period, but how do we retain this simplicity as life slowly begins to open back up?
For many, the idea of living at a slower pace has been merely a dream; a vision deemed unattainable for various reasons. The reality is not only that life tends to speed by, taunting us with shouts of ‘faster’ and ‘bigger’, but it has been ingrained in our society that if you are not swamped, overwhelmed and overburdened then you are likely not doing enough. If you’re not doing enough, then it stands to reason that you are failing. And so, the idea of living slowly and simply becomes a well-intentioned plan for ‘someday’, but not for today.
And so many people were left with this ‘someday’ plan in mind, until one day they were ordered to stay home. Suddenly, many found themselves with time on their hands. Time that was usually swallowed up in obligation, expectation and responsibility seemed to free up overnight. The last few weeks have naturally been a slower period for many. For the first time, some have experienced what it feels like to be unencumbered by obligation. To be freed from speed. To bask in empty space on the calendar. To be at peace.
But now that restrictions are being lifted and life is gearing back up, the thought of returning to a fast paced existence is enough to instill a sense of dread and forebode an undoing of the tranquility that reigned for the last few months. So how can we maintain this simplicity even as we return to our daily lives?
1. Take it one day at a time
As cliché as this may sound, knowing that I don’t have to have everything figured out all the time brings me much peace. Instead of endlessly planning and mapping out a list of obligations and expectations that I will no longer entertain, I can rest in the assurance that I can tackle each one presented to me at a time, and I can mindfully decide whether I will do it, delegate it or drop it altogether.
Just as saying ‘yes’ little by little quickly crowds our schedules and our calendars, saying ‘no’ little by little eventually creates space and margin. Space and margin create flexibility and freedom.
2. Accept that some decisions are fluid
What’s the point of trying to create simplicity if we go about it in a complicated and rigid manner? We may have an idea of what a slower pace looks like for us, but that doesn’t mean that we must set rules and boundaries in place at the outset and guard them at all costs. As time goes by and our situations change, we may need to adjust the very boundaries that we put in place in order to meet our ever-changing needs. Life is fluid, and so our decisions must be as well. The quicker we realize this, the less complicated our action plan becomes.
3. Aim Low
I know that this sounds like bad advice, but hear me out. We’ve always been told to aim high; to reach for the sky. Often, this means that success in any area only happens when we give our all to a cause. And whereas this holds true for so many of our endeavors and achievements, this doesn’t have to be the case when crafting a simple life.
Instead of aiming to achieve a simpler life and a slower pace overnight by making massive changes that may prove to be unsustainable in the long run, purpose to make those small, seemingly insignificant changes that you know will breathe life into your calendar and peace into your spirit. Start small. Take a baby step. And then take another. Before you know it, you would have implemented a series of small changes which, by themselves, don’t seem very impactful, but when taken as a whole yield big results in our lives and in our perspective.
4. Clear your clutter
For many, the first step towards simplifying life entails getting rid of the things around them that are no longer useful or necessary. The fresh feeling of freedom that accompanies a thorough de-cluttering is remarkable. You feel lighter and more in control of your physical space. But don’t stop there. Emotional and mental clutter are very real. The simple act of creating space in your calendar does wonders for your overall sense of well-being, even if that only looks like scheduling breaks between meetings and events so that you are not constantly rushing around.
5. Forgive yourself when you falter
I love the concept of grace. We are too hard on ourselves. When I first started to take steps toward simplifying my life and slowing my pace I reneged on my resolve many times. Not because I wanted to move faster or appear busier, but because at times it’s hard to say ‘no’. It’s hard to push back against the cultural grain. But we need to recognize that simplicity is a journey, not a landing pad. And so, when you find yourself slipping right back into the hectic pace that beckons and calls, don’t be discouraged. Don’t think that a slower pace isn’t sustainable. Choose to start again, right where you are, and make the necessary adjustments to your course.
In the last few months many of us have encountered slower living by force. But by making small changes to our calendars, our expectations and our mind set we can rest assured that we can continue this slower living by design.
About the Author: Hailing from a small island in the Caribbean, Angelina Lee is a wife, mother of three and Attorney-at-Law. After her Plan A life left her wanting more, she is exploring her Plan Be in which she tries to live more intentionally.