Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time fantasising about selling everything we own and moving the whole family to a bush shack in Yallingup.
Whenever my mind starts wandering in this direction, I know what it’s actually craving.
A simpler life.
And it appears I’m not the only one because this little manifesto I wrote many years ago? I keep seeing it pop up on Facebook and Pinterest. People seem quite captivated by it which is nice … and telling.
I think we can safely blame overly scheduled days and generally hectic lives for this. We can’t help but think that getting rid of all the *things* is the secret to living that simpler life.
But really, when I sit down and think about it, life right now (yes, right now!) is actually simpler than we think.
As my husband is fond of saying: life is simple, it’s humans who make it complicated.
Here are ten ways we make things complicated:
1. We think everyone should like us
Logically, we know this isn’t possible. But we can still try right?
Like this one person who’s always been a bit snarky to me in real life.
For whatever reason (ok, it’s because I was sure I could convert her!), I started following this person on Twitter. Then one day I found myself telling my husband the story of her responding to something pretty innocuous I’d said (on Twitter) in her typically snarky way. And I had to give myself the proverbial slap. Why, when I have so many lovely people in my life who are my friends and who do like me, was I wasting time and energy on this person?
Bang. I unfollowed her immediately and haven’t given her another thought (till now!)
2. We think something is hard so we never start
Every week, an email will drop into my inbox containing a job that requires a bit of thinking before I can tackle it. So I leave that job there in my inbox till the opportunity arrives where I can do that thinking.
Of course the opportunity never arrives so the job gets left. And left. And left.
Two weeks later it’s still there and in my head, the ‘hardness’ of that job has now taken on mythical proportions. Yet, without fail, every time its deadline looms and I HAVE to tackle said job, it’s never as hard as I think. Not ever. The hardest part always turns out to be starting the damn job.
3. We think there is a point to worrying
I’m a professional worrier.
For example, if I’m walking down the road and there’s a car coming towards me, I’m formulating an escape plan in case it suddenly careens out of control with me in its path. If I’m riding down a hill on my bike, I’m looking for the softest place to land should my brakes suddenly decide to fail. If I’m at a train station, I’m looking for where I will run to should a train suddenly de-rail in the station.
Here’s the thing about all the stuff we worry about. It pretty much never happens.
And when it DOES happen, having worried about it doesn’t actually make that thing easier to cope with. So there really IS no point.
4. We think our loved ones should be able to read minds
I do this to my husband on a fairly frequent basis. I feel since we’ve been together for 19 years (more than half our lives), I shouldn’t need to tell him everything (or err, anything.) He should know that if I leave all the dishes in the sink and flounce off to bed that means:
‘I expect you to tidy up downstairs in exactly the way I would do it because if I wake up in the morning and see any kind of mess at all I am going to lose my mind. And no, I’m not angry at anyone. I’m just really frigging tired of constantly tidying up after this family. Good night.’
It’s a really basic life skill that if we want something, we should just ask for it. Too often we think the people who love us should ‘just know’.
5. We think our kids need more from us than they actually do
In the same way we think people should be able to read our minds, we think we should be able to read our kids’ minds and anticipate their every need before they even know they need it. We also think our kids need our constant undivided attention. And when we ask them, they confirm this. I’ve never met a kid who wouldn’t like more attention from their parents.
But our kids actually NEED less from us than we think. Yes, they need our undivided attention sometimes, but not every minute of the day.
We need to let our kids do stuff and think for themselves. And once they get used to thinking and doing stuff for themselves, life certainly gets simpler!
6. We think if everyone likes something, then we should too
All girls love shopping right? So I should too. All boys love sport so if you’re a boy, you should love sport too right? Everyone’s into Lorde right now so best you be loving her music too.
It’s so hard to swim against the flow. It feels uncool to not love all the things our peers are into. So we go along with doing things, watching things, reading things that we truly have no interest in, just to be part of the crowd.
This is why I wish everyone took note of this Gretchen Rubin Secret of Adulthood:What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you–and vice versa.
Sounds like common sense right?
Watch your own behaviour over the next couple of days and see what you do just because everyone else is. And see what you might be forcing other people to do, for the same reason.
7. We think lots of choice is a good thing
Choice IS good. But too much choice causes lots of angst because we have a limited capacity for decision making each day. And each decision we make over the course of a day affects our finite sources of willpower – willpower that is needed to be disciplined in certain areas of our lives.
This means one of the easiest things we can do to simplify our lives is to reduce the number of choices we make. It’s why I have the same routine every morning. It’s why Steve Jobs wore the same outfit every day. It’s why some people eat the same thing for breakfast every day.
Reducing our mental load is a quick and easy way to simplify life.
8. We think apologising is giving in
I’ve always considered myself to be a good apologiser. But in certain situations I can dig my heels in.
‘It’s the principle of the matter’ I will declare. Or ‘I don’t want that person to think they’re right when they’re not!’
Ultimately, apologising isn’t about giving in. Apologising is saying ‘I value our relationship more than I value being right’.
9. We think friends are forever
As sad as it is to admit, friends are not always forever.
Some are. I adore the friends I have where our relationship transcends that thing we initially had in common (school, sport, uni, kids whatever) and where no matter how long it’s been since we saw each other, we just click like it was yesterday.
But we do tend to spend a lot of time and energy trying to maintain friendships where we’ve grown out of them or they’ve grown out of us.
Life is a lot simpler when we just accept that people will come and go, and that’s ok.
10. We think too much
I pretty much never stop thinking. And while a lot of my thinking is useful (like what I share on this blog for example!) a lot of it is not. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at not obsessing over every word I’ve said in every conversation I’ve ever have with anyone.
But I still have a fair amount of work to do in that regard 🙂
What’s one way your life is actually simpler than you think?