Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Simplify Your Life to Live

“Why are you ALWAYS in such a rush?”  These words stopped me in my tracks and made me ask myself the same question. My seven year old nephew said this to me on Friday when I breezed back into town after being gone for a week and only stopped by momentarily to give him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  He had other plans. He wanted me to sit and play with him and his super hero action figures. So instead of rushing out of the door to run errands, keep appointments, and squeeze in everything that I could before leaving town again on Sunday…I sat down with him and just played.

It was interesting that he said this to me because the previous week I facilitated a training where I asked the participants to talk about their goals and two of them said that their goal was to simplify their life.  This stood out to me because usually people have complex personal or professional goals that include losing weight, starting a business, obtaining a degree or writing a book.  I realized that for me, simplifying my life might have been just as challenging as any of those other goals.
Sometimes, when we are good at something, it is our natural tendency to feel like that is what we are supposed to be doing and we pour all of our energy into it.  I’ve learned the hard way that just because you excel at something, it doesn’t mean that you are supposed to be doing that thing. 

There was a point in my life, where I gave time to everything that I was good at…acting, dancing, modeling, community work and youth work.  I figured that since all of the things that I was engaged in were positive, then there was no problem with me doing them all. What I came to realize was that stress comes in all forms, not just from negative things or when things are not going your way.  You can just as easily become stressed out from doing a whole lot of positive things. 

There have been several instances where I took something that I loved, and gave it so much of myself, that I ended up turning myself off to it altogether. I’ll give you an example.  I love to dance.  Instead of just dancing like no one was watching because it brings me joy, I ended up dancing professionally, and then teaching dance.  My joy became work, and I ended up retiring from it.  Being a dance teacher was great, but that’s not what I really wanted. I simply wanted o dance.  Even though I may have exposed my students to new and wonderful experiences, I ruined it for myself.

I realized that this is a pattern for me.  I take something that I love, and end up taking a road that I may not have been meant to take.  The problem with this is that when we overdo anything, we end up burning ourselves out. It’s just like food, if you cook it too long, or at too high of a temperature, it burns.

Essentially, it’s all about finding a balance. It’s great to give your all to what you believe in, but don’t spread yourself too thin.  I’ve always had a desire in my heart to change the world, so I tend to try to do fifty million different things to accomplish that goal.  Eventually I find myself tired and overwhelmed.  If I’m feeling that way, what good am I to the people that I hope to encourage?

My point?  Keep it simple.  At the end of the day, that’s all that matters anyway…the simple things.  If you find yourself feeling stressed and overwhelmed more than you find yourself at peace, it may be time to scale back your life.  Someone said, “Maybe you need to clear some things off of your plate.” My response was, “Maybe I need to get a smaller plate!”. 
This week I challenge you to identify one to three things that you can eliminate from your schedule that will help to simplify your life, thus reducing your stress and anxiety.  It may also be a matter of adding something to your schedule, like budgeting your money to make things flow more smoothly for you in the long run, or beginning a workout, such as cardio kickboxing, that will help you to reduce stress.

Once you’ve done this, simply sit back and savor the simple things that truly matter. Play with your children before you look up one day and realize that they are all grown up. Watch the sun rise or set. Color in a coloring book. Watch a silly movie. Read a good book. Talk to a friend on the phone about nothing of importance. Or do what seems to be the most challenging thing of all for most of us busy over achievers…simply sit down.  These are the things that make life worth living. Simplify your life and begin to live.