“Simple Living and Great Thinking”. My grandmother always said this to me and she was the very embodiment of it. Up until now, I’ve only considered her words from a material stand point. I deciphered it to mean “want less”, “don’t be materialistic” and “be simple”. I never really stopped to figure out how those words translated into actions. To be completely honest, I disliked that phrase and would roll my eyes every time my grandmother said it.
Today, as a mother trying to keep up with the demands of life and parenthood, there’s a little voice in my head that is constantly telling me to “simplify”, bringing me back to my grandmother’s words. Like most people, I try to meet life’s demands through hard work, perseverance, negotiation, compromise, patience, and by trying to be organized and strong. But life is seemingly unrelenting and these tools simply don’t seem enough to combat the curve-balls that life throws at me.
I hadn’t realized the profundity of the phrase “Simple Living and Great Thinking” until it seemed like it was the only option that would enable me to manage all the mental and physical clutter that was taking over my life.
Having decided to adopt the maxim into the folds of my everyday life, I was soon faced with another conundrum. What does living simply exactly entail? Does it mean that I stop wanting things and strip my life of all luxuries? After much thinking and introspection, it hit me!! Simplicity transcends all material things: it is an attitude. It is a way of life. It most certainly does not mean abstinence. It stands for moderation.
So how does one go about simplifying one’s life? How am I going to teach my children to embrace this theory? If I merely went around telling them “Simple Living and Great Thinking”, I’m going to get the same eye rolls that my grandmother got from me.
So here are the Rules of Simplicity I would like to impart to my children. This is how I’d like to lead by example.
#1 Right or wrong is just a matter of perspective
If I had to choose just one Simplicity Rule to follow and teach my kids, it would be this. This alone can de-clutter and simplify our lives to a great extent. Why do we carry such great emotional burden from the important relationships in our lives? It’s simple. We judge. We judge because we have rigid standards and morals that we expect everyone we know (significant or not) to embrace. But who decides what is right or wrong? Isn’t that every individual’s prerogative? What is right for me can most certainly seem ludicrous to you. That said, we don’t live by ourselves so it is essential that the key stakeholders in our lives are on board with these values and vice versa. At the end of the day that’s all that matters. Just choose the stakeholders wisely. We are not answerable to anyone else but our key stakeholders.
#2 Health is Wealth
Good health, both mental and physical, forms the back bone of a simple life. We can de-clutter and simplify as much as we want to but if our health is poor, chaos and discontentment are not too far away. Eating healthy and exercising our mind and body should be a priority.
#3 Want not Waste not
This could be a topic by itself. We live in times of excesses – the Binge Age. Be it food or entertainment, we are bombarded with options that are easily accessible and affordable, leaving us with little room to stop and assess if there’s even a need.
Where does one draw the line and moderate? We don’t have to moderate everything. Choose 5 things that are of high importance. Do not compromise there. For everything else, procrastinate. Depending on the nature of the need, procrastinate for an hour, a day, a week, a month, maybe, even a year. Chances are, we may not want it anymore or we’ll realize that life’s perfectly fine without that need being fulfilled.
#4 Honesty is the best policy
Remember the proverb “a stitch in time saves nine”? Similarly, a truth in time has the potential to save nine lies. There is never just one lie. A few more lies invariably follow to cover for the first one. Nine lies may not seem like a lot of baggage but over a period of time, it could add up and turn into a massive emotional baggage. Just being honest to oneself is a huge step in simplifying one’s life. Truth may be a bitter pill to swallow but sugar coating it is certainly detrimental to point #2.
#5 Swallow the frog
A good friend of mine introduced me to this concept. Apparently, Mark Twain said “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day”. It just means finish the worst task on your to-do list first and getting through the rest of the tasks will be a breeze. This is a valuable lesson for a procrastinator like me. If I would spend half the time and energy that I spend managing my long to-do list actually performing those tasks, I’d be so much more efficient. I’m constantly worrying and thinking about all the things that I need to accomplish. A sure shot way to de-stress and de-clutter is to stop thinking and simply “Swallow the frog”. Here’s an article from Forbes.
High Thinking also calls for moderation. While simplicity applies to the day-to-day happenings of life, high thinking applies to moderation in our attitude towards life. It is knowing that nothing in life is permanent. The highs and lows of life are but ephemeral. High thinking is the ability to punctuate the highs with humility and the lows with strength and endurance. It is knowing that “This too shall pass” – be it good or bad.
These are just the top 5 that I would like to follow to simplify my life. The list is endless. There are so many other ways to approach and achieve Simplicity. No matter what the approach is, there is one principle that is quintessential to achieving simplicity and that is: Discipline. We can either suffer the pain of discipline today or the pain of regret tomorrow. The choice is ours!
Note: The author of this article is a young mother of two, a thinker and prolific writer, a yogini and best of all, a dear friend of mine. She wishes to remain anonymous at this point