Simplicity – Pruning for what really matters

“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!


Cultivating simplicity:
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 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.”



Honesty (Part 3) – Conflict, Courage and the Price of Silence.

“It is not easy to keep silent when silence is a lie.”
― Victor Hugo

Conflict management has been one of the biggest struggles of my life.

Until a few years ago, I just didn’t know how to address conflict. There were several recurring patterns that I needed to break and for the longest time, I did not have the tools, skills or even vocabulary to address them.

So, scenarios repeated over and over again and I kept missing the lessons.

I would get close to someone. Then, inevitably get blindsided by insensitive comments, underminings,  exclusion, betrayals and outright shamings from supposed close friend(s).

Being a recovering friendly loner, solitude is my sanctuary when faced with conflict.

My solution was to withdraw or keep people at arms’ length. For some reason, I never felt safe or grounded enough in relationships to confront loved ones.

I would keep silent,  thinking I was being too sensitive. I would spend a lot of time processing my feelings, ruminate some more…

I was constantly looking for lessons, trying to figure out what I could do differently or how to respond with grace and kindness, wondering if I was just making it all up…

I would take it and take it…

During my time “processing”, something is actually happening to the relationship in question. It deteriorates. As I spend time figuring out what is going on, I am actually withdrawing without realizing it. By the time I get back to civilization, there is a huge gulf in the relationship. At that time, I usually have to confront or let go of the relationship.

… until I couldn’t take it anymore.

Shut down.

It’s as if an invisible line, even unbeknownst to me, would be crossed, and my guard would slam shut… No access. Not even to me.

At which point, the person in question, is blindsided and shocked. And then you realize the person has been oblivious to the whole thing.

For many years, this pattern repeated over and over again

Groundhog’s day.

Then, I began cultivating Wholeheartedness and also recommitted to my spirituality. Since I decided to live my ideals and embrace wholeheartedness, a major mental and emotional shift has happened in me. I began to see myself and my relationships differently. It was time to grow into the woman I wanted to become.

For the first time in my life, I no longer simmer in silence when I need to address something. I still take the time to think, even pray through the concerns. But I do address them now. I still make mistakes but I am committed to the practice.

New skills, baby steps, many falls… But I show up again and again.

Resentment is eating poison expecting someone else to die. I believe that when we don’t address conflict, even when we don’t feel angry, a film of resentment covers our eyes. And everything this person does is seen through that filter.

Think about it.

When someone annoys you, everything they do is seen through that filter of annoyance. In your head you are thinking of all the things they are doing ‘on purpose to annoy you’ when that person has no idea about the impact they are having on you.

I have learned that people are mostly oblivious. No one is thinking about you like you think they are. Everyone is thinking about themselves and stuck in their heads, just like you. So, it is up to you to be honest about your grievances… say ” hey, this hurt me, or ” “No, I don’t want that”.

“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.” – Dr. Seuss

People-pleasing is an epidemic. No one wants to be disliked. But this means that “white lies” are tossed around so often, we can no longer tell who is really being honest.

Being honest does not mean being brutal. Compassion has to be in the room. Like I said, most times, people are oblivious to what they have done.

I understand that most times silence is preferred because we don’t want to ruffle feathers, we don’t want to hurt anyone. But silence is hurtful. You hurt yourself by holding the conflict inside.

Resentment is poison – even when unacknowledged. You are robbed of personal power when you hold things in.

That is not to say that it will be all flowers and butterflies when you confront someone who has hurt you. You risk triggering someone’s insecurities when you confront them.

I have experienced outbursts and full blown arguments that arose from a simple loving confrontation.


Festering sores can kill.  Don’t let them kill your relationships.

Like an infected wound or a ruptured appendix, you still need to open things up, clean them out and allow the healing to commence.

Shame breeds in silence. The last thing you need when you have been hurt  is to stay silent.
Life can be hard. It takes a lot of courage to tell the truth. But you can rest easy knowing that you have  expressed yourself honestly with grace and dignity.

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson
Being yourself with someone is sacred. Keep that space sacred and uncontaminated by resentment. Your heart will thank you for it.

Share your story only with those who have earned the right to hear it. You  deserve wholehearted friends. You deserve love and respect. But it starts with you.

By all means, if the relationship is chronically toxic, let it go.

But if the relationship is worth saving, let wholeheartedness and courage be your guides as you practice honesty.

You deserve it.

Practicing Honesty

1. In what ways have you allowed silence to rob you of relationships?

2. How has resentment poisoned your life?

3. Think of a current relationship.  What would practicing honesty look like for you?

4. What consequences of honesty have you been afraid of?

5. To whom can you turn for support in cultivating honesty?

6. What patterns do you need to break today?

7. What difficult conversations have you been postponing?

Love and respect yourself. Start by expressing yourself honestly.  Leave your comments below. See you next time!

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for 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.”



Honesty (Part 2) – Choosing Honor over Brutality

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.” ― Robert Louis Stevenson

Honesty is one of my favorite ideals.

When I was younger, I often got in trouble for my earnestness. Sometimes, I didn’t have to say a word. My face usually said it all.

The quote “Honesty is the best policy” by the beloved Benjamin Franklin has become a license for some to say whatever they want, whenever and however they feel like it. In the past, before choosing to a wholehearted life, I have been known to say “I’m just being honest” and “I just tell it like it is.

We declare that we are “plainspoken” or “brutally honest” with gusto and bravado as half-hearted attempts to express authenticity while hoping to be taken seriously.

We overshare on social media, ranting and raving, each trying to outdo the other with so-called truth-telling. Flashing our badges of honor with good intentions but…

It doesn’t quite work out, does it?

The thing is, life can be complicated. Conflict can be quite tricky with the ones you love. There is more at stake with those closest to you. The ones closest to you have the greatest capacity to hurt you, wound you deeply, betray you…

Is it any wonder that we cringe and brace ourselves for the worst when we hear someone start with”To be brutally honest…” Intuitively, we know, we are about to get hit.

Brutal honesty does not work.

Honesty is derived from the word “honor” and means truthfulness, sincerity, frankness. Honor – “respect, high esteem.” Brutality – “savage, physical cruelty”(M-W Dictionary)

I think we focus so much on the “truth” part, which is quite necessary, we forget the “honor” part.

Brutal truth without the honor, without allowing someone their dignity as you tell the truth is cruel and insensitive.This isn’t about saying what you think the person wants to hear. It is telling the truth with grace, respect, sensitivity and honor.

Brutality is violent, shaming and toxic. Most of the brutal honesty is a mask for vulnerability. You don’t want to be perceived as weak. You don’t want to get hurt. The emotions might be too raw so the brutality takes the edge off.

Sometimes, we maul the ones we love with our brutal honesty.

When a conversation results in shame, you can expect one of 3 “shame shields” if the recipient has not done work on shame resilience (Brene Brown). The person will either lash out (moving against), withdraw (moving away) or people-please (move toward). When you see this happen, you will know something is amiss.

No, you are not responsible for the person’s response. You are responsible for how you deliver the message. There are many ways to communicate an idea. How you choose to do so is up to you.

This has been a tough challenge for me. I dislike conflict. I worry about hurting others with the truth. In my pre-wholehearted life, I would do everything to avoid conflict. I admit that because I had a history of ruminating over my emotions, thinking them through, trying to decipher what went wrong, cull inherent lessons or mull how to deal with an issue.

I could go a long time without addressing an issue and then suddenly it would become too much. Then I would address it and my response would seem to have come out of nowhere.

So I swung in the opposite direction. I began trying to tell it like it is… New skills, awkward handling of new tools… Blasting out truth bombs here and there, leaving a trail of tears in my wake. I have since learned that truth-telling is a skill. And as with everything else, practice makes perfect.

I have spent the past few years learning how to address conflict in a healthy way. I sometimes make mistakes but this is an area in my life I am determined to master. I spent too many years simmering in resentment rather than addressing conflict.

Yes, I did swing too far to the other side. But I am determined. I am learning to do so with love. Choosing to honor the person I am addressing. Choosing love and respect over disdain and contempt. I am choosing courage over fear.

Choosing to try again and again.

How about you?

Everyone deserves to be treated with honor and dignity.

Same goes for you. You deserve to be treated with love and respect. Next week, we will talk about what happens when you are on the receiving end of someone’s brutal honesty.

However, I truly believe that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have.

As wholehearted warriors, it is up to us to break the dysfunctional cycles. It is up to us to choose the high road. Wholeheartedness entails speaking your truth, with courage, vulnerability and purpose.

It means apologizing when necessary.

It means being intentional with your words. Choosing courage. Choosing vulnerability. Really showing up and allowing your true emotions to be seen. Risking sensitivity. Choosing authenticity.

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” ― Albert Einstein

Honesty is still the best policy. How you practice it is up to you.  How will you cultivate honesty today?


Practicing Honesty:
1. On what part of the spectrum are you? Brutal honesty or Dancing around the truth? Or telling the truth with grace.
2. In what ways have you been brutal to others?
3. Can you forgive yourself?
4. Is there anyone to whom you need to apologize?
5. How can you practice wholehearted honesty today?
6. Is the brutal honesty masking your vulnerability? What would happen if you really expressed how you felt?
7. In what ways do you need to break the cycle?

Think about it. Leave your answers in the comments below! See you next week!


Yvonne Whitelaw writes for 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.”


Empathy (Part 3): Seventeen – A Song for the Suicidal

Still thinking about Robin Williams, I am posting this song I wrote in 2004. Hope it brings comfort and hope to someone. Love, Yvonne

Seventeen                    by  Yvonne Whitelaw 3/11/2004

 Verse 1

He said he didn’t want to walk away

but he did…

Never saw the meaning in his being

Empty within,

Overcome by his sin…



Why did he have to go away

So suddenly?

Why did he have to go away?

Only 17.

Took his future

Took his life in his hands.

Took his future, took his life.


Verse 2

She said her laughter died

the day the letter came.

Her life would never be the same

So filled with shame,

Overcome by the pain.



 Why did she have to go away

So suddenly?

Why did she have to go away?

Only 17.

Took her future

Took her life in her hands.

Took her future, took her life.




You have every reason to live!

You have every reason to live!


Verse 3

In every life

lies a truth waiting to be seen.

In our passions and in our dreams

In our destiny

Lies our meaning…



 You don’t have to go away

So suddenly…

You don’t have to go away

So suddenly!

Don’t take your future

Don’t take your life in your  hands.

Change your future,  Don’t take your life.



You have every reason to live!

You have every reason to live!!

You have every reason to live!!!


Yvonne Whitelaw writes for 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.”


Honesty (Part 1) – R.I.P Robin Williams

“Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.   Be honest and frank anyway.” – Kent M. Keith

I just learned about Robin Williams.

I am heart-shocked. This is the only way  I can describe how I am feeling.

Only yesterday, I watched Night at the Museum with my family. Robin Williams is a favorite and I have seen nearly all of his movies. I love his whipper-snappy, quick-witted slapstick comedy. He was also an incredibly adept dramatic actor. A huge talent that will be sorely missed. I just can’t imagine what his family is going through right now.


How devastatingly disorienting depression can be – a fog so thick that one sees death as the only way out.

I was in the middle of writing another blog post about honesty but I just couldn’t stop thinking about Robin Williams.

And how easily this could have been any one of us. We need one another. Desperately.


I have been thinking about isolation and loneliness. Disconnection is so easy nowadays. We are all connected digitally but suffering from increasing measures of isolation and loneliness.


“I miss you.” “Wanna come over”. “Let’s hang out.” “I am lonely.” “I need a hug.”


Vulnerability takes courage. Reaching out is something I really need to work on.

And Robin Williams has just reminded me of this in a sobering way. Rest In Peace Robin Williams.


Practicing Honesty:

1. What do you desperately need right now? Honestly.

2. Who do you need to reach out to and honestly share your needs and concerns?

3. Who needs your attention or help?

4. What can you offer? Presence, listening ears, a kind word, helpful action?

5. If you suffer from depression, please know that you are not alone.  Please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

6. In what ways can you practice self-care today? Rest? Solitude? Reflection? Nourishment? Play?

7. What small step of honesty do you need to take right now? Do it.


Take care of yourselves, friends. Connect with your loved ones.  Tell them how you really feel. See you next week.

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for 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.”



Character (Part 2) – Perseverance, Trials and Rising after Life’s Tumbles.

“If you are going through hell, keep going. ” – Winston Churchill


You did it. You made the decision to go after your dreams. You cut your losses and went for it. All in.

And then you failed.

“Hmm, it must be a fluke”, you think.  “I will try harder.”  ” I’ll make more sacrifices.”

So, you try again. All in. Harder and faster than ever.

And again,  you fall flat on your face. With the world watching.

Now what do you do?

Crawl into a corner, hide in shame? Or dust yourself off and try again?

It recently hit me that I had been hiding in shame for a few years. I had no idea.

Having always been the pioneer, the role model, the shining example for my generation in my family, I was spoiled by success. Then, failure hit me “like a wrecking ball” again and again. And after a while I just hid, unable to bear the thought of another public whipping.

“Perseverance – continued effort in doing something or to achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition or delay in achieving success”  (Wiki, Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

I am learning about perseverance.

Perseverance  is the prerequisite for character, the key to  spiritual maturity.

The other day, I came across a verse on perseverance and nearly did a spit take. I had read it many times but it was the first time I really got it.

“…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” – Romans 5:3b-4

We all go through trials – extremely difficult times. Some self-inflicted, but many others not. Things get really hard and it would make sense to give up. One can only take so much of a beating before one has to hand in the towel. Some situations are so rough, no one would judge you for giving up.

You don’t need perseverance to go through suffering… suffering produces the perseverance. Think about it for a second. Suffering produces perseverance.

So don’t beat yourself up for the trials you experience. Yes, some might be from our mistakes. But more often than not, trials spontaneously happen, difficult times strike without warning. The last thing you should be doing is beating yourself up.

In no way am I saying that suffering is a good thing. It is not. And to be frank, it sucks.


It produces perseverance. I think of it like manure. Manure stinks. It is no fun to have around. It stinks, draws flies, etc. But it brings nutrients to the soil.

Suffering, trials, difficulties, produce perseverance.

Perseverance produces character.

Oswald Chambers says that “the strength is in the strain.”

Think of it this way. How would you know how strong you are? By knowing how much resistance you can withstand.

Consider weightlifting. You wouldn’t know how strong you were until you tried to lift weights.  So, I might say I am really strong and then go to lift a 200 lb bar. You would know the truth very quickly. Cars get tested. No one knows if the car is what is advertised unless there have been crash tests.

Perseverance, that ability to stay with something through the difficult circumstances, produces character.

So how do you become mature? By going through trials. I call it becoming spiritually buff. Sometimes, it feels a spiritual boot camp. Crisis after crisis, chaos and mishaps bombard you. Your life feels like a war zone. You don’t know if you are going or coming. There are just no words.

What do you do? I love the saying ” if you are going through hell, keep walking.”

You have to keep walking. Call someone you trust. Sometimes you reach out for help and there’s no one there. But you are never truly alone. I don’t know what your belief system is, and I am not going to tell you what to believe. But here is what I know for me. Everytime I have prayed for help, reached up for divine assistance, I have received it. It might not be in the way I expected but I have gotten help.

God is near.

All you have to do is ask. And keep walking.

Yes, you might be thirsty, get a drink. You might be tired. Get some rest. Take a break, sharpen the saw, then get back to chopping wood.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”― Maya Angelou

The world is filled with stories of people who triumphed because they did not give up.

Churchill. Edison. Lincoln. Mandela. Mother Theresa. Gandhi. Maya Angelou.

Your life has purpose. And because you are alive, you have a story to tell. You have work to do. And you have to keep on moving.

Cry if you need to. No judgment here. I will cry with you.  But keep walking. Sooner or later, you will get to the other side, with battle scars yes, but also, an incredible story to tell and the renewed hope that life is worth living.

So, “Keep calm, and carry on”.

Practicing Perseverance
1. What trials, obstacles, difficulties or challenging are you currently facing?
2. How do you see them? Never-ending? Hopeless? Opportunities for growth and maturity?
3. Pick a current situation. What would practicing perseverance look like for you?What small step can you take now?
4. Prayer can give you access to the strength to persevere. What words of prayer can you whisper now?
5. Can you think of anyone who has earned the right to hear your story? How can you reach out to them?
6. Sometimes trials can get really intense and one can get worn out from the battle. What time can you carve out for rest, solitude and self-care?
7. Can you think of a time when you overcame? How did that victory feel? Write down that experience and draw on it for hope in your present situation.

Marie Forleo says, “The world needs that special gift that only you have.” Dare to rise up again and again after each failure. In life,  crash tests are inevitable. You are alive for a reason. Hang in there, hope is near.  See you next time!

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for 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.”

Consistency (Part 3) – Risk Showing up… Even Imperfectly.

This is me showing up, fighting against the odds, standing up and letting my voice be heard.

Even if all I have to say is “Present”.

How about you? Where do you need to show up, even if it means being imperfect? What do you need to say? What if silence will suffice?

Don’t let perfectionism rob you of the good you can do today. Do the very best you can do and leave the rest for another day.

Have a great day!

Yvonne Whitelaw writes for 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.”