Sometimes, when we feel like we can’t breathe, the best thing to do is get down to the bones, cut the fat. We have to untangle ourselves from all the threads of daily life that cross continents, emotional planes and digital platforms. We have to cut the nonsense.
We’ve all been there.
In our busy worlds, we’re constantly bombarded with information and options, and we’re always running somewhere. We have jobs, families, hobbies, friends, and let’s not forget – our sanity. It can feel like somebody has cut us into so many slices that not even one would constitute a satisfactory snack.
Some of us frantically try to hit all high marks at once, and some shut down completely at the pressure. Those in the first category fly high but ultimately experience burnout, and those in the second may never even give themselves the chance. We pump iron at the gym, meal prep in the mornings, and stay up late working on our projects or watching our favorite shows to drown out our racing minds. Before we know it, we’ve run ourselves into the ground.
Prioritize your energy
A trick for beginning to master our monkey minds is learning to recognize what deserves our energy and what (or who) doesn’t.
Does your job actually make you happy? Do you actually like running or do you just feel like you should like it? Does somebody in your group drain you? Do you continuously give more than you receive yet are made to feel guilty when you finally chose to stop giving?
We know it’s not as simple as taking a big eraser to these things, but visualizing what your life could be in its simplest, least stressful form is key.
If you could put yourself in a beautiful empty room of your creation with only the things that invigorate and drive you, what would that look like? You furnish that room with only what waters your soul. Picture that. Now you can begin the exit plan of everything that doesn’t make sense in that space.
Make a visual
One helpful step you can take towards minimizing your load and refocusing your reality involves getting it down on paper.
Draw a dot in the center of a piece of paper. That’s you. Now draw four circles around that dot, and inside each circle write the four most basic things you couldn’t go without, outside of your job. (Let’s assume you’re already fed, watered, clothed and sheltered.) These are things that bring you joy, stoke your creativity, feed your spirit, and keep you balanced. They might be actions, and they might be values. Here’s an example: sleep, exercise, community, learning.
Now, how can we use those words to construct the bones of our life? We start with our daily lives since this is the way we experience life most of the time.
Sleep. When we get a good night’s sleep, everything runs more smoothly. We wake up earlier, we feel rested, and we eliminate brain fog. Our body restores itself. It can be incredibly hard to shut the mind off and create a solid sleep schedule, but if this becomes one of only four or five main points we focus on, we can find the energy to create an intentional routine.
Exercise. When we make a point to get outside and go for a run or go to the gym, we pause the machine of our work-mind and direct that focus inward, towards our body. We literally work the machine we live within – keeping it oiled and the gears smooth. We push it, stretch it, and soothe it. We expand all aspects of our bodies at once – from the physical size and shape of our muscles to their endurance and functionality, like our lung capacity. We find everyday that something gets easier to do.
Community. Human beings are social creatures and we crave companionship. Even the most hermit of us ventures out once every so often to fill our human quota. We want to belong because we want to feel safe. When we connect with others, we feel (hopefully) seen and real. A focus on community as one of the four pillars of our simplified lives can mean joining a team or learning a new sport. It can also mean joining a volunteer group, a church, or anything else that brings you closer to people who share your passions.
Learning. When learning swims to the forefront of our priorities, so many other things align. Our attention shifts from the egoic representation of ourselves to what goes on inside our minds. Returning to Jiu Jitsu after years off, or learning a new language, could change our lives. When our focus shifts from trying to seem smart to instead diving in to absorb as much knowledge as we can, life explodes into more colors than we could ever imagine.
The snowball effect
The real magic happens with commitment to each of these words, when we set forth a snowball effect of success through those four channels. You pick the words. Maybe yours include art, nutrition, reading, family, or movies.
We begin to see how all of the things we want to do and care about can have an orderly approach. Our brain begins to untangle. Things make sense, they’re organized, and they’re no longer jumping out at us all at once from every angle.
A daily focus and study of movies might start as a passive activity to relax, but could bloom into a full-blown creative director’s dream. Focused attention on nutrition will lead to a happier gut and more energy to tackle everything else on our plates. Maybe reading really means “taking time out of my day to make sure I sit in one place for longer than ten minutes” and making sure we learn about all sorts of topics.
Check out everything that can evolve when you focus on simply four aspects of your goals!
Simplifying our lives does not mean we lead a simple life. It means we sharpen our approach to living, and can be more present in every aspect of our lives.
Truly, it’s hard to cut the nonsense. Try as we might to deny it, we may deep down enjoy it, be addicted to it, or simply don’t know any difference.
We have to really want that clean, simple space – to commit to a simpler and quieter journey that is more focused on fewer things – quality over quantity. We have to trust that even if it’s not instantly gratifying, it will ultimately bring us closer to living our truest selves.
More often than not, the less we do the happier we are. We don’t mean in a lazy POS way. More like, when we cut ourselves into less slices, and there’s more cake in each slice for everybody who gets one. You’re happier, the people closest to you are happier, and you have the time to pursue what you love.
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