“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” – Leo Babauta
It is easy to say yes to everything. We want to be busy, to feel important, we hustle for significance.
Busyness and exhaustion are worn as badges of honor to show how important we are.
“How are you?” ” Oh, I’m busy. I am so busy!”
There’s a cute VeggieTales song that perfectly depicts this.
“I’m busy, busy, dreadfully busy
You’ve no idea what I have to do.
Busy, busy, shockingly busy
Much, much too busy for you”
Yes, I have been guilty of this.
I go through seasons of pruning. I must admit most of them have been unintentional. God, the Eternal Gardener, has a habit of plucking away people and activities from my life. For example, In the past 20 months, I have said goodbye to 37 families who have relocated from Baltimore, where I live. Yes, for a while there, it felt like a mass exodus. Nearly everyone I counted on or held closely moved away. But I see now that I needed that to grow in some aspects of my life.
I am learning that in order to thrive, really grow, you have to prune your life.
For those of you with a Christian perspective, one of my favorite verses in the bible describes this concept.
In my backyard, there is a maple tree. It is supposed to be pruned regularly. But since it isn’t ours and we don’t know anything about the complicated pruning the tree requires, we haven’t touched it.
As a result, the tree is stunted. Its trunk is mangled, its branches spread out, low to the ground. The weeds underneath anchor the branches to the ground. The tree looks like a bush, a full misshapen bush with scraggly looking branches. Not pretty at all.
A few houses down from us, is the same species of tree. Tall, straight trunk with straight vibrant branches reaching to the sky, like a surrender. It is beautiful. A small tree but elegant and dignified in its smallness. The branches are full of lush leaves.
Pruning is for the health of the tree. Pruning makes the tree more fruitful.
I doubt that pruning feels pleasant. No one, plant nor animal, enjoys being cut. Pruning is not fun, by any means.
When you prune your life, you are more productive. Without the worries and distractions (the weeds, extra branches and leaves) siphoning away energy and time, you can focus on what really matters to you… your core ideals and priorities.
Simplicity is really making room for the things that matter to you. Clutter, whether emotional, physical, mental or even spiritual, is draining. By saying no to the things that don’t really matter, you free up energy and time for the things that do. Family, positive friendships, hobbies, your calling, service, exercise, self-care.
If you don’t say yes to your life, and really seriously prune, you will be like my backyard tree – stunted, unfruitful or minimally fruitful, dissatisfied, with mangled relationships, depressed. There are serious implications for an unpruned life.
It is really tempting to say yes to yet another project. But pay attention to how you feel as you are saying yes. Is this a project that really feeds your soul? Do you have a sense of peace about it?
Or are you people-pleasing and too afraid to say no?
I am not a gardener… but I am very fascinated by the principles of gardening. You will reap what you sow. You need patience. Trust the process. Prune. Weed the garden.
If you are going to have a garden of thriving ideals (this is what I named my business!), you will have to simplify.
Weed out the habits and activities that stunt your growth. Water and nurture the ideals that keep you oriented or aligned with your true North.
And even prune those ideals, make sure you focus on the ones that really belong to you, not the ones that have been imposed on you by others. For example, joy is a core ideal for me. And for a while in medical school, I was made to feel less intelligent because smart people were supposed to be cynical and jaded not joyful and bubbly. I was criticized by some for always being happy, so I stopped smiling for a long time.
Keep it simple.
This really is a profound saying and I really want to get better at this. The fear of missing out (FOMO), keeps us running ragged from one thing to another. We are not our best selves. We bring our tired selves, uncreative and burned out, to activity after activity… Barely having enough energy for the ones we love.
I am sick of it. How about you?
I want to embrace simplicity. Really embrace the fact that it’s okay if I don’t attend every event, see every facebook post, volunteer for every activity, go on every lunch date.
The world will not suddenly stop rotating if you say no. The sun will still come up, someone else will say yes.
Let us save our yeses for what truly matter to us.
Then we will be able to thrive. We will truly be able to live our ideals. And we all know what happens when we live our ideals!
That’s right! We change the world!
1. Take some time to assess how you spend your time. What really matters to you? Write them down. You are going to make time for them.
2. Make a list of all the things you have said yes to and regret doing so. It is ok to say no. Can you say no? Make a list of things you want to stop doing.
3. Resist the urge to add more things to your schedule. Look at your activities again. Is there something else you can cut out? Do you need a media fast?
4. Who sucks your time? Can you place boundaries around your time? Schedule appointments and activities.
5. What activities are non-productive or non-essential to you? What can you cut out right now?
6. Be prepared for the backlash. Some are used to having all access to you, whenever they want. How will you respond? Write a script for your response.
7. To whom can you reach out for accountability? Look around you and see who has a good grasp on simplicity.
Dare to say yes to what truly matters to you. This will be challenging but the rewards will be even greater. You deserve it! Share with your friends if this resonates. See you next time!
Yvonne Whitelaw writes for Yvonnewhitelaw.com where she blogs about her quest to grow into her ideals in her “Live Your Ideals Project”. By sharing her lessons along the way (every Monday and Thursday), she hopes to serve and inspire a tribe of wholehearted warriors like you, to “live your ideals, live your calling and change the world.”