“As you simplify your life, the laws of the Universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” – Henry David Thoreau
Last week, I had the privilege to catch up with an old friend after 13 long years. In the 2 hours we spent together, we tried making up for lost time by sharing everything we could fit together in that limited space of time. But what struck me was the gratifying feeling I got when she amusingly inquired if nothing tumultuous had ever transpired in my life all these years. She told me how the way I talked to her and kept my composure resisting the urge to even look at my phone in those two hours (whilst she was frantically Snapchatting every small detail) radiated a sense of refreshing calm.
Being the introspective person that I’m, it gave me something to ponder and look back on how I might have simplified my life in an otherwise difficult past year on a personal level. For those of you looking for a simpler 2017, I would like to share a few of the changes I incorporated that may benefit you as you look to make 2017 a simple, enjoyable, and fulfilling year:
- Midway through the year when I realized I needed better clarity, I identified 5 most important aspects of my life. They include health (mind and body), relationships (with others and myself), passions, growth, and contribution. Becoming conscious of these foundations has allowed me to put my efforts into things that really matter to me, rather than living on autopilot mode. This is where mindfulness has helped me immensely- to become a lot more present in day-to-day moments that have true significance in my life.
- I quit when I knew it was time to quit. We often hear clichés like ‘Winners don’t quit’ or ‘we should never give up’ urging us to keep going. But there are times however, when we just know it – that we’ve made a decision we aren’t happy with and start thinking about the what ifs. I started the year with a job I wasn’t really happy with. Although I feel fortunate to have received the offer in the first place, I knew my heart didn’t belong there. I cut short my 1-year contract and parted ways 6 months into the job. I could have carried on despite everything within me telling me to quit simply because everything outside of me was telling me not to. It wasn’t that I was quitting, just that I was (in hindsight) on the brink of beginning something much more meaningful to me. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I made this year.
- It was a difficult year with a lot of debt hovering above my head. This year, I made some really tough decisions to get rid of them and promised myself that I will never get myself into any form of debt. Ever.
- I started practicing the art of saying NO. This was something I struggled a lot to begin with-the feeling of letting the requester down was incredibly tough. But having read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, my life changed- and for the better. Now, I’m really selective about what I say yes to. This art applies not just to returning favors, but also to fascinating distractions like saying no to lucrative opportunities like writing 2 books in 2016. Why? The simple reason is that the proposed books although amazing in their own rights, did not align with my values and intensions.
- This was the year I turned into a minimalist. If you’re wondering what that means, check out our podcast episode on minimalism. The perks? It has given me more time, space, energy, and freedom to do more of what truly matters to me. And since I don’t really believe in buying excess stuff to bring me happiness or in elevating my social status, I don’t have to stress out about earning more. This has given me the freedom to follow my passions like podcasting and writing.
- I did away with most social media apps on my phone (Facebook, Messenger, SnapChat) with the exception of Instagram; which shows that I haven’t mastered everything yet. Breaking away from the twitch of having to juggle between the same three apps all day helped me convert my screen time into something more meaningful when spent the same with my family, taking a nice walk in the park, or introspecting within.
- A part of turning into a minimalist was also majorly about de-cluttering not just physical stuffs but also mental clutters. I purged my drawers after almost 10 years. I gave away all extra clothes I thought I needed but never wore. I started cutting out on junk food. I apologized to people I had wrong earlier. I forgave people who weren’t even sorry- all for my own sake. The rewards? I feel lighter, less burdened, less tired.
- I practiced the art of slowing down. The general tendency is to think that doing so will allow others to go past us. Moving ahead is important but then it is also equally important to take a nap, or to stop by to smell the flower. I know I’m growing and contributing in my own ways. I don’t feel the need to constantly compare myself with what someone else maybe doing or achieving. I will be happy for them. My path is different and I’m finding it for myself.
- I started practicing the four agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. First, becoming impeccable with my words. Second, never taking anything personally. Third, asking and never assuming. And fourth, always giving my best. Although I’m far from having perfected these seemingly simple yet hard to execute guidelines, I can already sense that I have become better at it now than I initially started out. The rewards have been immensely gratifying.
- I started creating boundaries. Although I’m deeply passionate about my work, I also realized that there’s a thin line between being passionate and burning out. Resisting the urge to check emails after certain hours, taking time to say yes, defying the impulse to switch contexts when in the middle of something important, etc. are some healthy boundaries I’ve set for myself in a bid to achieve more balance.
So my old friend if you are reading this essay, I have to tell you that 2016 was a year that was tough in the beginning, messy in the middle, but a lot better as we come to the end. Although I’m still a long way away from mastering the art of simplicity, looking back, I feel I could attain better simplicity and clarity purely by becoming conscious of what truly matters and then focusing on the essentials while eliminating the rest.
How will you make your 2017 simpler, happier, and fulfilling?
Related: 25 Lessons from 25 Years