Simplify your life.
1. Ask instead of assuming
A friend of mine told me last week that she almost made a terrible mistake in her relationship because she assumed that her boyfriend was cheating on her.
It turned out that he was not.
We make our life so complicated and difficult with our own hands. By assuming rather than asking questions. We think we know everything there is to know because we said so (it is our assumption that is making us knowledgeable on all things).
Instead of assuming whatever you’re assuming, try asking. Make your life easier by clear communications, not by assumptions.
2. Break down your tasks
Look, I know you have lots and lots of tasks to do and finish before the deadline. So do I.
But looking at all those giant tasks you have to do before you have nothing on your plate will make you paralyze — with fear(that you won’t be able to finish on time), and your attention being stolen(while you are looking at the big picture, you cannot do a simple task).
I tell you this because I care about you: unless you break down tasks into smaller ones, you cannot accomplish the big task.
Your job in making your life simpler is making sure that you have divided your task (big or small) into smaller ones.
You’ve probably heard of the saying:
“Rome was not built in one day.”
Well, so are all tasks. Including yours.
Wasn’t it Buddha who said?
“A jug fills drop by drop.”
3. Do one task at a time
Similar, but you have to take action on the small task that is right in front of you.
You’re not responsible for achieving your goal in one day, but you’re responsible for doing the task you have set out for yourself for the day.
Take responsibility for that one task and expect that your life will definitely be simpler.
Don’t give any excuses to not do that task. No excuses. No missteps. No exceptions.
That way, you will not take the burden of today to your tomorrow’s.
Do you know how you’ll know at the end of the day that you’ve done your best for the day?
Here is how:
“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling.” Shanti
4. Plan ahead
I once thought that I was living successfully when I passed the whole day being pulled into different directions. I thought that was what I was supposed to do.
A friend asked me for coffee. And I made time for that friend, even though our appointment was unplanned.
I received many emails throughout the day. And I responded to each one of them.
Someone from my office gave me an additional task for the day. And I made time to do the task somehow.
I spent countless time on my phone chatting with every person who chats with me or talking with every person who calls on my phone.
Really this is the hardest thing we do to ourselves. Because I tell you, we make our lives harder by not planning our day ahead. By being pulled into different directions willingly.
Simplify. Simplify. Simplify.
Plan ahead how your day is going to be. To every little detail.
5. Write down your thoughts
You make mistakes when you think you’ll remember that thought that you thought of in the morning while you’re making breakfast. I make mistakes when I think that I will remember that crucial idea that I thought when I was having lunch with my boss.
Let us not rely on our memory.
Develop the habit of taking notes throughout the day.
This has two advantages:
i) Your life will be simpler because you will not ask yourself repeatedly ‘What was I missing?’ or ‘What was that thing I needed to remember?”
ii) Your brain will better serve you by doing more important things like finding solutions to a problem rather than trying to remember what you are trying to remember.
6. Do what you want to do
And never stop doing what you really want to do.
Many of our lives, we consider life as this thing that we cannot win.
The reason we feel that way is because we are doing something we do not like.
We are in a relationship we can barely tolerate.
We are working in a job we hate.
We hang out with people who do not have our best interests.
We are in a college studying a subject matter that we are not really interested in.
We have formed our own family because everybody else has done it.
We are building our own business because our friends have built their own.
As a result of following the crowd, our life has become really, really hard.
And this is our own doing.
I have stopped living my life from someone else’s perspective. This is my life. The only life I am going to have. I have stopped doing things I do not want. I no longer have friends (frenemies) that keep on wasting each other’s time. I am doing a job that I like very much. I am writing (I love it very much).
7. Ask: Will “this” matter after a year?
Just yesterday, my friend at work spent the whole day worrying about her hair. Because she has arrived late in the morning, her hair was not its usual perfection.
She spent the whole day worrying about it saying: ‘My hair is not perfect today, my hair is not perfect today.’
This is a perfect example of making life harder than it needs to be.
My God, We spend so much time over things that do not matter in the current scenario and will not matter in the future scenario.
We make ourselves go crazy over insignificant things.
At the end of the day, it does not matter whether you had perfect hair or worn a perfect dress or what your boss thinks about your makeup or how much you have eaten for lunch.
What matters is how you perceive those things.
Next time you’re obsessing over something or some conversation or anything, ask yourself:
“Will this thing (whatever you are obsessing about) matter after a year or even 6 or 3 months from now on?”
8. Do not worry about things you have no control of
I know we tend to be in control of things. But, there is a harsh truth.
There are some things that we just have no control of.
Like the feelings of another person. Like what tomorrow’s weather will be. Like who the president of your country is going to be in the next election. Like when you die. Like the gender of your child is going to be. Like who your child is going to love. Like what your significant other is going to think of you 5 years from now. Like what your colleague thinks of your new dress.
We make life harder on thinking such thoughts that we have no control of.
Thinking such thoughts is like pushing through a wall. We think we are doing something, but we are actually not. We are just standing there.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” Confucius
9. Give away things you do not need
Have you spent so much time in the morning looking for a particular dress to wear in your closet?
Because I had so many clothes that I do not even need in my closet, I had a hard time every morning looking for dresses to wear.
Rather than making my life simpler by getting rid of the clothes I don’t need, I made it harder by accumulating more clothes.
It was on one particular day that I decided enough was enough. On that morning, I was looking for a particular shade of lipstick (because I had so many to choose from) and I could not choose one, because all of them looked good on me.
While I was looking at myself in the mirror, I realized that I was spending so much time in the mornings just looking for a lipstick that will go along with what I was wearing.
I felt disgusted. I decided then and there that I was going to give away many things that I don’t need like the many shades of my lipsticks.
I now have only 2 shades of lipsticks in my possessions.
The things you accumulate could be clothes, bags (believe me I had so many bags that I did not know what to do with), books, shoes, cellphones, laptops, and even Television.
I no longer have things I do not need. I have given away many of my clothes and I keep on giving my books and any other things that I do not need.
That is how you simplify your life.
Give away things you do not need.
10. Make your priorities clear
You cannot be good at everything. You cannot even be good at something unless of course you’ve made that thing your priority and given your whole to it.
I was coaching a trainee this weekend. When we were having tea, I asked her what her plans are for this year.
She told me:
“I want to take many courses on self-improvement this year, I want to be a trainer like you, I want to be the best.”
I told her that she has to choose and make some things her priority.
I don’t know what your priorities are. Only you can know that. Only you can find that. But you must find them out.
And then, you must sacrifice other things for your priorities to take precedence over anything else.
That is what I mean by making your priorities clear.
If you’re not clear on what they are, then your life will be so hard that you’ll always pass through every day like trying to walk through a fog — every day.
11. Stop looking for perfection
There is no such thing as being “perfect”.
By chasing “perfection”, you’re chasing away simplicity.
If you’re waiting for your environment to be “perfect” so that you can start doing your thing, you’re fooling yourself.
If you’re waiting for yourself to be “perfect” so that you will achieve all your dreams, I will tell you what day that is going to be.
If you’re waiting for a “perfect” partner, you’re waiting for someone who does not exist on the planet.
Stop making your life harder by looking for things that are perfect or perfect relationships or “perfection” in yourself.
Do the best you can, with what you have. That is all you can do.
And really, if you do that, you have done everything that you’re supposed to do.
12. Stop trying to please everyone
People have their own minds. They think and feel according to their own perspective.
And you make your life harder by asking the impossible, the unnecessary.
Why do you keep on pleasing “everyone”?
By “everyone”, I mean your mother, your partner, your boss, your friend, your in-laws, your business partner.
I do not know you — only you do. But I can assure you that by trying to please “everyone”, you’re losing the most important part of the equation. That is you.
No one and nothing is more important than you.
The day you realize this fact and start applying it is the day you have made a correct decision regarding the control you have on your own life.
13. De-clutter your workplace
I mention our workplace because we spend so much time at work. If we make so many things at work easier, then the other parts of our lives will be simplified as well.
Let me give you a simple example:
When I am writing this answer to you, the only things that are on my desk are the laptop that I am writing on and water in a glass. That’s it. Nothing else is on my desk. Not papers that are related to my work. Not my phone. Not even books. Not papers.
I have de-cluttered my desk.
When you have “everything” on your desk or in your office, you are creating chaos in your mind. You are making your life harder.
That’s not a strategic way of living. That’s not a simple way of living. That’s not a healthy way of living. That’s not an effective way of living.
14. Exercise being present
Have you looked at the sunset recently? Have you listened when your partner was talking to you this morning? Have you stopped doing whatever you are doing and looked at the sky? Have you looked at the flowers in your garden recently? Have you just gazed at your friend’s eye when he/she is speaking to you?
When was the last time you have tasted what you are eating without thinking of anything else at that moment?
When was the last time you were conscious of your own breathing?
When was the last time you were just by yourself and enjoyed your own company?
Confucius said it best:
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
I tell you if you could just concentrate on the present moment your life could be so much better and simpler.