In our world of ever increasing complexity, simplicity has gained tremendous appeal. Who doesn’t want to live with calm focus and clarity? Who doesn’t want to experience more peace and joy?
Simplifying is an exercise in courage and resolve. We take a stand against excess, and consciously choose the road less travelled of letting go of possessions, activities, or even relationships.
And we do it because the rewards of simplicity are worth the drastic change.
But what happens when we simplify and don’t reap the expected benefits of our unconventional choices?
We feel excited and light for a little while. But then … meh. No big deal. And things go back to where they were.
Why is simplicity not helping me gain more focus, or feel less stressed and overwhelmed?
This is the question I asked myself after months of struggling with writing. The changes I made earlier in the year were meant to reduce complexity, save me time, and inspire me to write more. But that didn’t happen. Actually I wrote much less this year compared to prior years (the not so good type of less).
I thought by simplifying my choices, I’d be more motivated. I’d finally focus on writing instead of wasting my time and energy thwarting hacking attempts, cleaning up the site, and worrying about updates. What was the point of changing platforms and learning simpler ways if they were not going to help me write and publish new content?
In my case, and many other life situations, simplicity isn’t enough. And this is what I’m sharing with you in this article.
If you’re interested in simplifying your life and want to do it realistically, or if you’ve simplified an area and don’t seem to feel any better about it, read on. I’ll share my personal experience on how to make simplicity work for us.
Let’s now start at the beginning.
Why we choose to simplify in the first place
There is a reason behind every thing we do, including simplicity.
Like everything in life, simplifying is driven by our basic need to reduce pain and amplify pleasure. It is a way for us to experience less pain from clutter and complexity and more happiness and peace.
When I moved from a popular but increasingly complex content management platform I saved myself a whole lot of grief. And that gave me peace—until I started worrying about writing.
So before you make a simpler choice, think of how it will benefit you (less pain and more pleasure).
After you decide what you’ll gain, consider the following challenges and misconceptions.
Top reasons simplifying is not enough
We can virtually simplify any area of our lives to the bare minimum. And we may experience the usual mix of relief and fear as we let go. But what is going to happen once the initial reaction subsides?
Here are a few views that may diminish the value of simplicity.
Simplicity mistaken for a goal
Simplicity is a process, a way of life, or a means to an end. It’s not a destination. We can’t feel fulfilled because we are simplifying, unless the simplicity helps us live more authentically, and brings us closer to our true desires.
While simplifying can be an effective aid in reducing resistance, it’s not enough on its own, if we’re not driven by our values and goals.
What comes after simplicity should be the real goal. And if you’re not clear about that, simplicity won’t be of much help.
In my situation, I simplified the process of publishing content and maintaining the site. But the main objective was to write consistently—a completely different thing.
The simple platform gave me more time. But without a clear goal as to how, and when, I want to write, the time and energy saved were not used wisely, which brings me to my next point.
Simplifying without a system
You can reduce your credit cards, consolidate your debt, and do a million other things to simplify your financial life. But if you don’t have a system in place to check your bills (whether they’re 5 or 50), to pay your bills on time, or to review your income and expenses, and saving goals, you’ll eventually end up in the same place.
And that’s what happened to me with writing. I didn’t have a specific routine of sitting down and writing on a regular basis. I just did it when I felt like it. And that is not a viable way to do something consistently.
Simplifying your financial affairs, or in my case my publishing platform, will give us time. But it won’t tell us what to do afterwards. This is where a system becomes necessary to appreciate the rewards of simplicity.
Simplicity as a resource
When we simplify we need to be realistic about the savings we’re making. We may have more money in our bank accounts because we’re spending less. But we still need to generate enough income for necessities and perhaps have a little extra disposable income for simple optional spending.
Put another way, we need to generate income to be able to decide how to simplify our spending and consumption habits.
The same applies to time. We need to be good at managing this finite resource. We all have the same 24 hours a day. If we don’t know how to use our time well, simplicity by itself will not give us more time.
We’ll use the time saved by simplicity as unwisely as the many other hours we squander. Simplifying is not going to solve our habitual perception of not having enough time.
My personal experience echoes this point. I assumed that by reducing the administrative side of a website I’d have more time to write. I didn’t because I never felt I had enough time in the first place. And somehow the saved time got consumed in other things that may have been less or more important than writing.
Simplifying will not generate more time or money for us. It will reduce our use of both. Unless we learn how to use our resources well, we won’t feel any different.
I don’t want to discourage you from wanting a simpler life. My intention is to highlight the challenges so we can deal with them.
In order to make choices that work for us we need to:
- Have a clear purpose or goal in mind.
- Have a system, or routine, in place for the simpler choice to work.
- Know (or be willing to learn) how to use time and/or money effectively.
Once we know what challenges we may face, we can simplify with awareness and realistic exceptions. And then we’ll reap the benefits of living a rich and authentic life without all the noise and clutter.