So, you want to simplify your life. Lots of people say this. The problem is, if you don’t have a method for doing this, it tends to not get done. So here are six simple questions that will help you simply your life. Just ask yourself these questions when you want to bring something new into your life or when you need to make space. Your answers can help you see what you need to remove from your life and what is good to allow inside.
Does this fit with my values?
This is the key to everything. You can’t have a happy life if you go against your values. Period. I believe this is the reason so many people are unhappy. They do what they think they should rather than choosing based on who they are. It takes a lot of energy to sustain something that is not in harmony with who you are. It takes very little energy to be who you are. The easiest way to simplify your life is to let your life be a reflection of your values.
If your top priority is your job, surrender to your job. No judgment. Everyone is different. Do what you need to do to be happy. If your number one value is yourself, give time and attention to self development. It is what it is. Be your highest and best self and get rid of the rest. Living within your values is a great way to simplify your life.
Do I need this?
We have become accustomed to having gadgets created for convenience and comfort, but there was a time when those things didn’t exist. Think cell phones, air conditioning, Netflix, and microwaves. Do you really need to know the instant someone emails you? Do you really need a pair of shoes for every outfit?
The more you need, the more high maintenance you become. Life becomes complicated and hard to manage. If you want to live easy, you have to carry a lighter load.
This doesn’t just extend to stuff. It includes intangibles like outsider approval, living a certain lifestyle, titles, or having a certain person’s love. When you love and trust yourself, you find that the things we use to create our masks no longer become important. When you get there, your needs are fewer.
Do I have time for this?
We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day. These are precious moments! We trade our time for resources and experiences. You know that friend who keeps you on the phone for an hour gossiping, complaining, or talking about nothing? Is that how you want to spend your life? Wouldn’t you rather give that to someone who lifts you up?
What about your experiences? That obligatory holiday trip may have lost its charm. If so, let it go. We don’t have to hold on to traditions that no longer have meaning. Or what about that call for help from that co-dependent friend? You know, if you let her fend for herself, she just may learn how to take care of her own needs. It’s a win/win.
Some try to stretch their life by doing more and sleeping less. They say that they don’t need sleep. This is a fallacy. Sleep deprivation robs you of your health – the most precious thing you have! It’s not worth it to trade your health for stuff.
A meaningful life is made up of meaningful moments. When you spend your life engage in meaningless activity, you throw it away. If you need more time become a better planner so that life is more streamlined. Or simplify your life and cut out the things in your life that are not life affirming.
Does this work with my goals?
Life has a way of laughing at our goals and giving us something else sometimes, but that’s no reason not to have them. Goals give your actions boundaries. If you want to manifest them, you’ve got to engage in behaviors that support those goals.
So if your goal is to have a secure retirement, you can’t party every weekend. When your goal is to be fit while maintaining your budget, hiring a personal trainer may not be the way to go. Try a different strategy. If you say your family is your top priority, working sixty hours a week isn’t the best way to keep those relationships close. You can’t engage with them if you aren’t present.
Can I afford this?
Goods and services cost money. Acquiring money takes time. So everything comes down to what are you willing to trade for your life? If you make $10 an hour and an iPhone costs $800, you’re trading two weeks of full time work for that phone. Is that worth it? If you have twenty pair of pants in your closet, do you want to spend one more hour at work to get another pair? Can you afford time away from your garden to work more? What about time away from your relationship to get that promotion?
When you think in terms of “what am I trading for this,” you may find it easier to see the value of things. When you look at it that way, it’s easier to say no to things that suck the life from you and say yes to the things that rejuvenate you.
Does this bring me joy?
If you’ve come this far thinking, wow, a simple life is a dull life, I’m here to say, “No way!” You’ve got to have fun too. The goal is to have a manageable, balanced, joyous life. It’s about living within our time, budget, values, and energy while still having fun and being a healthy expression of ourselves. So there has got to be room for fun. If a whimsical little trinket brings you joy, get it. But you probably don’t need a collection of them. If a night out with the girls makes you happy, do it. Just not every night. A girl’s got to sleep.
When using these questions to help you get rid of what doesn’t work and keep what does, you may not get them all to line up as a perfect “keep it” or “dump it.” When I am unsure, the values question is always the default. You really can’t go against your values and be happy.
If something works with your values, but doesn’t line up somewhere else, see if you can tweak it a bit to make it a better fit. For example, let’s say that you want to be a dancer. Everything is a go except you really can’t afford it and you don’t really need it. Let’s look at how we can clarify this to see if it’s a go or no go.
Wanting to be a dancer isn’t about learning how to dance usually. So what will being a dancer do for you? If you say that it will give you an outlet for your creative expression, do you need that? Yes? Okay, are you willing to give up time to work more to pay for it? Yes? There is your answer.
Things are not always clear cut. You may have to poke around to get the data you need to feel good about your responses. Just make sure that you are using your wise mind, not your emotion mind, when asking yourself these questions. The emotion mind can talk you into anything! That is not the way to simplify your life!