This is a guest post by reader Lodewijk van den Broek who writes a very interesting blog called How to be an Original. He’s from the Netherlands who is passionate about what it is that makes people achieve greatness, while maintaining their authenticity. What I love about this post is that it takes a refreshing perspective on a topic I often cover. It’s also part of the weekly Simplicity Day on Zen Habits.
In the last year my life changed from a relaxed life that I was used to into a complex demanding life with a lot of commitments and unknowns; it’s demanding and regularly wakes me from my sleep at night. And know what? I love it! It was even a conscious choice to complicate my life in this way. I knew the consequences beforehand, yet I chose to go forward on the chosen path. What did I do? I became a father…
When Leo gave me the opportunity to write a guest post for Zen Habits on the topic of simplicity, I re-read a lot of his posts on this matter. While reading his vast amount of good advice on simplicity, I was reflecting on my life and discovered that I had made all kinds of choices in the last couple of years that complicated my life, rather than simplified it. And a lot of those choices are conscious choices, that I don’t regret making. So how’s that for credentials for writing about simplifying your life? I suck at it — I do the opposite!
The stuff that I added to my life is in line with my core values (Authenticity, Love, Freedom, and Fun), and gives me a lot of fulfillment. I’m also giving a lot of attention to my new activities, as they give meaning and a lot of energy. However they do take up a lot of time, and that’s where simplifying comes in. I had to take out unnecessary stuff out of my schedule to be able to devote more time to them. Simplifying began to serve a purpose, and I started to:
- stop bad habits that hadn’t really hindered me before
- change habits that consumed a disproportionate amount of time
- trade-in hedonistic short-term habits for authentic fulfilling habits
In my opinion simplifying is not a goal; it is a means to an end. Simplifying as a goal would lead to an empty life. It would take out all, except for the bare necessities. The only people I know of who do this are Buddhist monks. And yet also for them simplifying is a means to an end, as they are seeking enlightenment through meditation. Simplifying takes away the unnecessary distractions.
Finding the stuff that matters to you is important! It makes it worthwhile to invest in changing your habits. Having children is a good example (and Leo is a master at this one), but every activity that you take up that will fulfill an authentic inner need is good. Without it the newly created space in your schedule and mind will fill up with other activities and habits that will at best give short-term joy or pleasure.
Simplify your life and you will have more time to spend on the stuff that matters, stuff that gives a long lasting authentic fulfillment of your core values. The best way to make sure that simplifying is going to serve a purpose is to add more of the stuff that matters to your life!