Unlocking a Better Life with SimplificationSep 18, 2023
Do you overcomplicate things?
Yes, yes, you do. 🙂
Well, you’re not alone. We ALL do it.
November of 2022, I hit a brick wall. I was so burned out I was ready to “burn it all down.” I shut down, retreated, and turned on auto-pilot for anything I could.
This intense wake-up call sent me back into the transformative process of simplification, and the resulting clarity, self-trust and peace are astounding. That’s what I want to share with you today. The process of Simplification.
What is simplification?
For years, I worked on all the things - my clothes, my time, my tchotchkes. It’s much easier to simplify all our “stuff.” You look around your house, your office or your yard and say, “when did THIS happen?” You can actually see how out of hand things are.
But in personal growth, we focus on the non-physical - habits, beliefs, business practices, strategies - stuff that’s much harder to see. Things that we’re told will help us. We just pile one more thing on top of the last, and pretty soon, we’re under water.
I’m on the tail end of a several year process of simplifying just about every area of my life, and that brick wall I hit nearly a year ago, was the final straw. You see, even when you think you’re doing the work, there’s always more to do.
So I’d like to share how I’ve navigated this “life simplification,” because it looks a little different than what I’ve seen out there so far.
Whether it is in my faith - where my process truly started - or in my closet, my food, or my holiday plans - my goal in simplifying anything, is to move from being in reaction mode, to being in proaction mode. From being on my heels to being on my toes. We can talk about all the details and strategies, but for me, it’s a journey.
SIMPLIFICATION is a journey from REACTION to PROACTION.
THE PROCESS - How we do it
Depending on who you talk to, the simplification process usually includes some deconstruction, decluttering and cleaning out, which is what you’ll find when you go internet scrolling for advice or tips on “simplifying your life.”
I’ve been in an on-again-off-again relationship with Decluttering and Cleaning Out for two decades, but the real work began a few years ago when I came to a crossroads in my faith, and tip-toe’d into the process of Deconstruction.
Put simply, it’s "breaking down" or analyzing something to discover its true significance.
I love watching shows like Top Chef, where they “deconstruct” a favorite comfort food dish. They pull out the main ingredients, and then present them in a new way. Shepherd’s pie might end up looking like a lamb chop with roasted potatoes and pea puree.
Doing that in your faith, your business, the way you relate to or fit into your community is a bit more consequential, but the elemental process is the same. It requires you to challenge common assumptions like whether or not you know the answer or the outcome. This allows you to start asking “what if,” and even challenging the belief that things are just more complicated as you age.
Deconstruction allows you to strip whatever you’re focusing on, down to the basic elements, to simplify what you’re dealing with. Doing that gives you access to the most important pieces, and you can then decide what to do with or about them.
This one is fairly straightforward - it’s getting rid of excess.
This is what I did for years in my house and my closet - but I never really thought about how it could truly benefit my life in other areas. For instance, my brain gets cluttered, and I can’t think. When I get too busy, I can’t give solid attention to any one task.
We’re conditioned to think that being busy equals being productive. We wear it like a badge of honor - “hey, how are you? Me? Gosh, I’m busy!”
But what are you busy with?
Every so often, I have to do a good brain dump to clean out all the stuff that’s getting in the way of my ability to think clearly. It declutters my brain. This really came to a head in my business when I realized that as an entrepreneur, my calendar was way too cluttered. I had to start saying “NO” to things that really wouldn’t make a difference in my business, moved client meetings around, and set certain days aside for doing creative work, and now my brain doesn’t freak out when I look at my calendar.
Decluttering my time - just by blocking off sections of my calendar and grouping things together - has reduced my stress and helped me be better prepared for work with my clients.
Once you strip down to the basics, and get rid of all the excess, it’s time to clean out all the nooks and crannies.
If this one scares you - whether it’s spider webs in the furniture in your screened porch, or all your unexamined beliefs and conditioning - you’re in good company. Most of us don’t want to look too deep for fear of what we’ll find. Doing this kind of work challenges those deep seated ideas that what we’ll find is that we’re good enough or that what’s buried deep inside is bad, and should just stay locked up down there.
But just like cleaning out my screened porch gives me a beautiful and relaxing space I can use for relaxation nearly six months out of the year, cleaning out all the ideas and beliefs that no longer resonate or serve us provides a fresh space for new and innovative ideas to flourish.
So if Simplification is a journey from Reaction Mode to Proaction Mode, what does that look like?
Reaction Mode: Last fall, I was under extreme stress centered around a situation at our church, and I’d hit a bit of a rut in my business. I wasn’t sleeping, I was angry and detached. My anxiety level was hovering at “high” almost daily. I was eating poorly, yet over exercising, getting no real benefit. I was unhappy with what I looked like, all of it. I felt like everything I said and did virtually oozed this energy.
Here’s how I reacted: First, I just quit anything that I could. I stopped recording solo podcast episodes - I didn’t want my negative energy to pollute my message. I began blocking off my calendar, and saying “no” to anything I could. Retreated into my own “turtle shell” just to survive the holidays.
I felt - and pretty much was - so far away from ME - that’s what Reaction Mode looks like.
But getting to Proaction Mode is not an immediate switch, but once you make the turn, all it takes is time and intention. For me, it means walking through the deconstruction, decluttering and cleaning out processes.
Proaction Mode: What does it look like?
It’s like a tennis player who’s on her toes, ready for that ace serve coming across the net. It looks like walking down the trail with your head up, looking and paying attention to what’s coming. It means you have foresight, and the ability to start to predict what’s coming down the pike. It means you’re able to take action before catastrophe strikes, avoiding it all together.
Here’s what Proactive looks like for me. I started with the outside, and worked in. It’s the easiest place to start.
- Calendar: I went out to November 2023, and made a note to myself of what I wanted to do for the holidays. I blocked off 1 month each quarter for creative time. I rescheduled recurring client meetings, grouping them together.
- Personal Care: I cleaned out all my old makeup - ladies, you know this is cathartic! I decided to quit coloring the roots of my hair - this is a “wait and see” project. Stay tuned… not sure how this will all go down.
Doing these things helped get my mindset turned around, so I could get to the place where I was ready to work from the inside out. I refocused on and reminded myself of my Core Values.
I began asking questions like:
- When everything else is gone, what remains?
- What are the things that are most important to me?
- What is the reason I’m in business?
Where am I today - September, 2023?
- March, June, September were “blocked off” creative months - it’s not perfect, but WOW! The productivity. The spaciousness I feel in my workflow.
- Almost a year into my new client schedule - turns out it works for them too, because I’m coaching several people in one organization, and they all get coached on the same schedule.
- I’ve completely rebranded my business, tapping into those Core Values and my newly dialed-in message.
- I have an entirely NEW podcast, building on all I’ve learned over the last three years.
SIMPLIFICATION is a journey from REACTION to PROACTION.
THE BENEFITS: Why we go on this journey
Simplification isn’t a landing place. It’s not a destination. It’s truly a journey. When you’re willing to embark, the benefits are amazing.
Seeing everything with new eyes. We tend to assume that simple means sparse, unrefined, or lacking beauty. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
Going back to my Top Chef example, the simpler the dish, the clearer and more refined it must be. There is no room for mistakes because you can see everything.
Understand Your Next Steps
Somewhere along the line, we were conditioned to believe we needed to know the entire map before we could take a journey. Yes, you need to decide on a destination. But sometimes you just can’t have that information. Sometimes you just have to take the next best step, and simplifying things gives you that clarity to see that next best step.
I’m just as guilty of this. I’m that girl who puts the address in my Maps App, and then zooms out to see the entire route to make sure I know where it’s taking me. I don’t like only having information on the next turn. But the truth is, I simply need the next turn.
Clutter brings confusion and the inability to distinguish one thing from another. Simplification builds trust in yourself to make good decisions. If we were to clean out your kitchen drawers, putting everything on the dining room table, you’d likely be overwhelmed with sorting and trying to figure out what to keep. But if I said you can keep one thing, that’s it, pick it now - you’d likely hone in on that most important item to have in your kitchen.
When you narrow down the things that are important to you, like your Core Values, suddenly everything that isn’t important fades from view. You conquer the negative talk that says you don’t have what it takes, and each decision becomes easier than the last. There’s always room for adjustments, because you’re on a journey
In my last post, I shared that recharging my battery looks like starting and completing projects that have to do with something in my environment. Could be painting, gardening or cleaning out, but the overall objective is always peace. I’m constantly looking for ways to produce a peaceful environment. I want others to enter my home and feel that peace.
The simplification process produces peace of mind, heart and spirit. That’s what I’ve done in my faith, my health and my business.
But those are just my own specific examples.
SIMPLIFICATION is a journey from REACTION to PROACTION.
UNIVERSAL APPLICATION: Where can you embark on the journey?
Any area of your life where you feel incongruence, tension, dissatisfaction.
- Faith - it’s a hot topic right now, but it’s one that’s truly worth the effort.
- Relationships - are there some that are truly not serving you, or even harming you?
- Career - imagine knowing yourself well enough to know the direction your career needs to go in order for you to truly flourish.
- Business - if you’re an entrepreneur, streamlining and aligning how you do business with your Core Values will make everything easier.
- Time - is your calendar a mess like mine was? Are you “busy” but not productive?
- Home - is your home a place where you are nurtured and nourished?
- Money - what does your relationship with money look like? I’ll bet “it’s complicated.”
Of course, Simplification will look different for you than for me. You have different areas you need to work on. Different things are important to you.
Moving from Reaction to Proaction is foundational to the first tenet of Intentional Optimism, OPTIMISTIC, which includes being prepared, giving us confidence and hope.
The most important and most powerful thing to Simplify in your life, is your understanding of who YOU ARE. What makes you tick.
This is my passion - Core Values.
When you understand your Core Values, you will move from REaction to PROaction, because you will SEE things clearly, trust yourself to make decisions, and experience peace in your heart and mind.
That simplification will “explode” and affect every other area of your life.
It’s time to unlock your future with the power of Simplification.
Do you know your Core Values?
Perhaps you like having a sounding board, a way to talk your ideas through - I'm looking for Alpha Testers on a new hybrid group coaching program that takes the digital course and does just that - adds 1:1 coaching calls into the mix. Comment or DM me on social media (@theintentionaloptimist), and I'll send you the information.
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