“It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
— Bruce Lee.
I have been a proponent of keeping things simple for a long time. Living the simple life always sounded good to my ears. A life free of distraction, focused on what mattered most. Quality over quantity.
It wasn’t until around 5 years ago that I really started to take it more seriously as an area of study. I wanted to explore and identify what living simpler could really look like for me personally. This exploration has led to many positive changes over the past few years. Discarding some of the superfluous. Making more time for what is truly important instead.
However, confession time. Along the way, I have also been so busy bathing in the ideas of simplicity, minimalism, 80/20 and lifestyle design that I have been in danger of losing sight of why I sought out a simpler life in the first place.
This crept up on me.
Most of the writing I do at my blog and in my books is based under the broad umbrella of simplicity and living simpler. On top of this, I also read the work of others in the field that I greatly admire. I’ve personally felt the positive changes that stripping away the excess can make to one’s life and I do believe in the power of simple and uncomplicated.
Most of my professional life and day job as a consultant to businesses is also spent reminding clients to keep things simple. To focus on the essential. To keep coming back to fundamentals while not being blinded by shiny and new distractions. To cut through the noise where possible.
This all means I think about simplicity and keeping things simple a lot. Herein can lie a bigger problem. When you focus on something intently it can become all you see. It dwarfs everything else.
That’s a tightrope I had been blissfully unaware I was walking. I was focusing a little too much on the “it” rather than the “why.”
Stuck in the Theory
As my own study of simplicity expanded, as my ideas of what it was or could be shifted, I just kept sticking my head into the rabbit’s hole. Paradoxically it started to become a distraction in of itself.
A little more research led to lots of research. Reading several stand out works by authors in the field led to discovering the work of others.
The constant theorizing and researching felt useful somehow but was actually a detour from where I wanted to go. Too much time thinking about a thing doesn’t always get it done.
I explained this away to myself as me refining my own approach down to something perfect. A destination of sorts. The irony was that something that was initially meant to make life less full of distraction was becoming a distraction itself.
However, simplicity, much like minimalism and 80/20 is a tool and not necessarily the answer in itself. It’s not an end point. We chase a simpler and/or more minimalist life for our own reasons.
Because our lives have become too complicated and overwhelming perhaps.
Or because we want to intentionally declutter and make room for things that are important to us. Or we want to make more room in our closet or garage by having a good clear out. Or perhaps we just want to free up time at work with a simpler approach to email, meetings and To Do lists so we feel less overwhelm.
Our Own Fit
We need to find our own brand of simpler that fits the life we are happy living. That’s not necessarily always the version that we think we’ll be happy with when we start. Living simpler is a journey after all.
What works for me will not necessarily be a good fit for you.
Simplicity, minimalism, 80/20 Living — they’re all powerful approaches that can aid us in life. They can all add much value. However, they can all mean vastly different things to each of us. We need to treat them accordingly.
Used wisely they can help us but maybe they are not the end destination in themselves. They are tools that should be kept in our toolbox for better living.
Live simple certainly, but live simple on your own terms. Remove distractions, get to the core of what matters. Keep chipping away until you get to your own version of what’s best for you. Then put those tools back in the toolbox for another day.