Simple Living: Overcoming Negative Inertia
Simple living is all about your priorities. It's about knowing yourself well enough to know what you value, why you value it, and what is less important. It's about making room for what is important by letting go of what isn't. And it's about using your time and space well, focusing your energy on the priorities and truly letting go of the rest.
This sounds easy enough, and yet so many of us struggle with finding this balance. If you've ever found yourself wasting time when you know there's something you could be doing that means a lot to you, you've been in this boat. I know I find myself there all the time.
When we find ourselves in a place like this, expending time and energy in efforts that don't matter to us, we can react in a couple of different ways. Two seem common, though. First, we can give up. If we're never going to have time to do what's really important, why bother thinking about it at all? Secondly, we can try to overcome our negative inertia by sheer force of will, pushing against what we have in an effort to get what we want.
What we rarely do is examine why we ended up in this situation in the first place. Yet, when you come to think of it, this might actually be the most useful reaction we could have. It's one thing to push your way out of a bad place, but quite another to figure out how to stay out of that place in the future. And staying away from those places usually involves knowing how we got there.
So how do we get there? How do we end up in that place where so much of our energy is headed in a direction we don't want to go? There are several common answers to that question.
We let the urgent rule.
That old saying is true: the urgent is a tyrant. Things pop up in life that need to be taken care of now, Now, NOW and we, being the good mothers and fathers and employees and citizens that we are, nod, smile, and take care of it. But we do this at the expense of our own priorities.
We let others dictate our priorities.
Your priorities are just that: YOUR priorities. Unfortunately, there's nothing saying that your priorities will mirror or even come close to the priorities of your friends, family, coworkers, and other around you. This creates conflict and, when you're in the minority, it's often easier to second guess yourself than to stand strong.
We're afraid to fail.
Some things worth doing are worth doing poorly. And the joy is in the journey, not the arrival. We don't hear those things very often, but they're true. Our culture lies when it tells us that every endeavor has to be an overwhelming success or else there's no point in pursuing it. But we listen to the lie, and so end up putting our efforts toward the things we know will succeed and leaving in the dust anything that might be more risky.
So what can we do?
Whether you're like me and you see a little of yourself in each of these elements, or you tend to major in one of them over the others, the hurdle towards a simple life focused on your priorities can seem like it's just too big for you to ever jump.
The good news is that seeing your hurdles not only in your mind's eye but recognizing them in the moment as they come up and realizing that you are, once again, not living the way you would choose to live, is the first step towards overcoming them. It's also, arguably, the most important.
So start to notice. Open your eyes to why you do what you do, why you spend what you spend, why you want what you want. You may be surprised at what you find. While it might not be pleasant, it's the first step toward living a simple life focused on your priorities.