A couple week's ago I started this series looking at some of the major upsides to this time of major downturn. We explored how the Universal UPS truck has been trying to deliver, not one, but three packages with gifts inside — the gifts of:
* An opportunity to re-evaluate our lives
* An opportunity to simplify our lives, and
* An opportunity to know our true Self
Today we'll look at:
LIVING ON PURPOSE: PART 2: What are the Upsides of This Major Downturn?
The Opportunity to Simplify Our Lives
"If I turn off the TV and there's silence, then what?" That idea is so anxiety provoking that usually we don't turn off the TV. The choice is more naked about where is it that I will orient my attention. Where will I point my mind in a sense and what will I do with my will? How will I exercise my will?
"The spiritual writers tell us that if you will stay with that, stay in that quiet, in fact, enter it more deeply, and you move beyond feeling
anxious and be in the silence and the emptiness of that moment then grace and God be willing, you will know God a little more. You will also know yourself a little more." ~ Mark Burch, author of Simplicity: Notes, Stories, and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth
I believe simplifying our lives is an integral ingredient to living true to our purpose, and is often a vital step in identifying our true reason for being alive. But as Mark's quote points out, it's often not an easy step. Our culture pulls for a busy, hectic, do…do…do…way of life. It can be scary to "turn off the TV" or to take a weekend off and really take it off for quiet reflection.
And it's well worth making the effort.
Not an End Unto Itself
Simplicity is really more of a side-effect or a precondition of being interested in working towards a more values-based life. As Burch writes in his book, "Simplicity:"
"The lives of people who embrace simple living display a passion for some deeper purpose from which power, possessions and the clutter of busy living represent distractions."
So, simplifying your life is often a precondition to reaching within yourself to find that deeper sense of purpose and meaning, and then continuing to live simply becomes a natural outcome of continuing to live true to your purpose.
And the turbulent times we're in may be the perfect nudge many people have needed to start simplifying their lives. But how?
How Do You Eat an Elephant?
You probably know the answer to the riddle — You eat an elephant one bit at a time, and then you take another bite, and another, etc.
The same is true for simplifying your life. You take one bite, then another and another. Maybe, the first 'bite' is to sit down with your family and explore what a simpler life could be like. Of course, you may hear some resistance, because simplifying means changing. And I don't know anything that can be more fear evoking for people than change, which is why it's important to take small bites at first.
Recently, even before the 'economic tsunami' hit our shores, Ann and I decided to take on a simplicity project. We've done this a few times before in our 20 years of being together, and have always found it to be fun and a valuable experience. We started by looking at the various products and services that we've been using through the years to determine which ones were really serving us and which ones we could let go of or find a more economical source.
It's a process that we continue. Some of the results have been:
* Reducing our Netflix membership. (While we love movies, we've found other ways to enjoy them and weren't really utilizing our membership even though we were getting charged each month.
* Getting rid of our gas-guzzling van and purchasing a Prius
* Stopping one of the two audio recording services that we'd been using for Life On Purpose,
* Replacing our old inefficient furnace with a energy efficient heat pump and back up gas furnace. (We were helped in this endeavor by the Universal UPS truck in the form of our house being flooded and the old furnace being drowned.)
* With our phone service, we tried Vonage first and then discovering Magic Jack (www.MagicJack.com). It works through the computer, making it possible to make all local and long distance calls in the USA and Canada for fr.ee. The cost for a whole first year — under $50.
The list goes on but I won't. The point is all of this started with the intention to further simplify our life. And the simpler we live the more time and space we have to enjoy our expressing our life purpose.
The Obstacles to Simplifying
In today's world, it's not always easy to simplify. In fact, there are powerful forces pulling in the other direction. Here are a few obstacles you're likely to confront:
* The fear of change, especially from other family members who may hear your plea to simplify as coming from a place of scarcity or lack.
* The 'looking good syndrome' — the feeling that it's important to keep up appearances and to keep up with the Joneses. If this comes up for you, remember this quote from Bo Lozoff of the Human Kindness Foundation:
"American life especially has been about "keeping up with the Joneses," but
it is time we noticed that the Joneses are not happy. One of their kids is
on drugs, the parents are in divorce court, Mr. Jones is on
anti-depressants, and Mrs. Jones is taking anti-anxiety medication. This is
no joke; this is the reality."
Of course, this mentality is strongly supported and encouraged by our culture of consumerism created by Madison Avenue and sustained by the media…but we don't have to buy into it.
Even Oprah has climbed on the bandwagon with a recent show on the thriftiest families in America. The main point she kept making was that being thrifty is not about feeling deprived. It's about freeing ourselves from the bondage of a consumeristic lifestyle that may be running rampant and sucking the enjoyment out of our lives.
What do you think? I'd love to hear the pros and cons to simplifying, as well as creative ways you've found to simplify your own life. Leave your comments on the Living & Working On Purpose Blog right here.