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Pure and Simple Living: How to Enjoy More of What Matters Most

If living simply were easy, we might all be doing it. It seems that everyone wants simple, but few achieve it.

In fact, if you search ‘how to simplify my life’, Google will offer up 1.6 million results. A search for ‘how to simplify life and be happy’ yields even more results.

You want simple. I want simple. A simpler existence may well make our lives more enjoyable and meaningful, with less stress and anxiety to occupy and distract our minds, and limit our results.

So how is it then that so few of us manage to truly simplify and keep things simple? Shouldn’t simplicity come naturally, and complexity require effort? Why is the opposite true?

Have you ever sought to simplify your life, only to slip right back into your cluttered and complicated ways? Hands way up over here. We’ve done exactly that.

So why does that happen? Is it possible that our approach has been all wrong; that trying to simplify our lives by removing complexity doesn’t actually work?

Okay, that’s enough questions for now. It’s high time to discover some answers.

Now, by no means do we claim to be experts. We admit that we are now, and forever ‘in process’, but we’re also committed to sharing our experiences and progress. We sincerely hope that they will serve to inspire and empower you to thrive through pure and simple living.

Let’s get started.

Buckminster Fuller once said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete." 
- BUCKMINSTER FULLER

Raymond Holliwell, in his book, Working With The Law said it this way, “Some think that we must deal with two forces; that is, to attract the good we must do away with the bad, but this is not true. For example; if we are cold, we do not work with cold and heat alike in order to get warm. We build a fire, and as we gather around that fire we enjoy the heat that is extended from it and become warm.”

So what do these two insights have to do with the process of simplifying your life? In our experience, it's this. A focus on emptying your life of clutter does not naturally lead you to a simple, meaningful existence. Rather, it tends to leave a void that can quickly get filled with other equally unhelpful objects or practices, if you're not careful.

Several years ago we read a great deal about minimalism, but found that it actually created a maximum amount of mental conflict. It led to questions like, "How much decluttering is enough?", or, "Can a minimalist own more than 100 objects and still be considered a minimalist?" Granted, some people thrive through minimalism, but as a philosophy it wasn't a fit for us.

Instead of deciding on what had to be eliminated from our lives, we determined what we wanted more of. We began to focus on 'more of what matters' - an abundance mindset, as opposed to one of scarcity.

​"Some think that we must deal with two forces; that is, to attract the good we must do away with the bad, but this is not true. For example; if we are cold, we do not work with cold and heat alike in order to get warm. We build a fire, and as we gather around that fire we enjoy the heat that is extended from it and become warm."
- RAYMOND HOLIWELL

In this article we're going to review the 3 key steps that we took to begin this simplification process. They are depicted in the graphic below. Three steps that have served us well, and set us up for a life and lifestyle that we now thoroughly enjoy; thriving rather than surviving, purposeful, not passive.

Pure and Simple Living Graphic

Thankfully, these steps are not difficult to understand. They do, however, require some serious reflection and contemplation, so be prepared to commit some time and creative energy to the following.

Define Your Values

This first step may appear to be easy, but be cautious here. Often our professed values are actually inherited, rather than intentional. They may trace back to our parents, influential leaders in our lives, or, they may even have developed reactively, in response to a difficult experience in our past.

A simple test to determine whether your professed values truly are your actual values, is to compare them to your consistent actions and results. For instance, if you claim health as one of your top values, but you eat poorly, fail to exercise, and often feel ill, then obviously there's a disconnect.

Tony Robbins ​refers to this type of disconnect as our lives not matching up to the blueprint that we've created for ourselves. In other words, our results don't align with our objectives. This always leads to confusion and frustration.

Thankfully, our past does not determine our present or our future. We have the capacity to intentionally create the life that we choose to live by choosing our values, and then committing to live them.

When I completed this exercise to determine my own values, I used a great resource by blogger, Steve Pavlina. It's a fairly comprehensive list of values that I found to be incredibly helpful. Hopefully you will as well.

Steve includes some helpful recommendations at the beginning of his list. Simply print it, and then review all of the values listed, checking off those that resonate with you.

Once you've completed that, compile your list of chosen values (the easy part), and then rank them (the more challenging part). In my experience, people generally end up with 5-8 core values. These will become (or, perhaps, continue to be) your guiding values; your decision makers.

Maximize What Matters Most

Once you have determined your values, the next step is to use them as a filter to determine what gets into your life, and what just falls away. This will be reflected in your calendar (how you spend your time), and, ultimately, your results.

By intentionally filling your calendar first with your top values, some perfectly good activities will no longer make the grade. This is a necessary part of the process, even if it may be a bit unnerving initially. 

On the plus side, you will find it so much easier to make decisions - to say yes to the best opportunities, and no to those that don't make the grade. There is no need to stress over decisions when you are confident in your chosen values. In this way life begins to become much simpler.

Always Add Value

Once your core values have been determined and prioritized, it's time to develop and exercise your gifts and abilities to add as much value to the world as possible. In this way you will be contributing in alignment with your true nature and identity. Once again, this will serve to reduce stress as you operate routinely in your element.

If you struggle to identify your gifts and abilities, begin by asking those who know you best for input. Even if you're quite confident that you know your own skill set, receiving confirmation from one or more trusted sources can be very encouraging.

Conclusion - To Your Pure and Simple Life

Contrary to the way that many of us live, life isn't something that happens to us. We are not victims of our busy schedules or chaotic lives. You are not a victim of your busy schedule or chaotic life. 

Lisa and I have, and continue to take steps to live intentionally - to live in alignment with our core values. Within the past year we moved to a smaller city, built a new home with a bed and breakfast guest suite, and are in the process of winding down two businesses that don't permit us to be in control of our calendars.

Each change has raised eyebrows, but brought us into greater alignment with our core values, and served to simplify our lives. Though we continue along in this process, we are happier and more fulfilled now than we have been at any other point in our lives. 

Again, we share all of this with the hope that it will serve to encourage you in your pursuit of all that matters most. 

Whether you're just beginning to believe that a simpler, more fulfilling existence is possible, or you're practically a monk on a mountaintop, please share your thoughts and discoveries in the comments below. 

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