Simplifying Your Existence ... In Search of the Good Life
I hear many people distress about their need to simplify their
lives and "move to the mountains." Their desire is to eliminate
all of the things that cause them stress and move into a less
hectic, and more gentle, lifestyle. They want the dream of
solitude and calm with easy living. However, simplifying your
life does not necessarily mean selling everything and moving to
a mountain cabin. I've done it, and it's not that easy. It's
expensive, alienating, and difficult. Human beings are not meant
to live alone; however, sometimes it seems as if that is the
only way to survive.
When I speak with such individuals, I first ask them what it is
that they find hectic and stressful. In most cases, it is not
their way of life that is causing the problem, but it is how
they manage the many facets of their life. "Moving to the
mountains" is merely running away from the problems that are
making life difficult. The most haunting aspect of running is
that the problems will follow you regardless of how far "back in
the woods" you decide to move. The many facets or our lives can
been seen as either stressful or as a learning experience and it
is important, and beneficial, to resolve and manage them instead
of running from them.
--- Why is it so hard? ---
On one extreme, there are people that say that life is
beautiful, but they are bitter and unfulfilled. On the other,
there are those that despise life as horrid and painful, yet
they are content to remain in their situation.
If indeed life were an absolute, everyone would see it the same
way. However, life is a series of events that occur on a given
timeline. We all mask and filter these events, or realities,
because of our experiences. Sometimes we're blinded by these
filters and cannot move; however, it is how you are able to
adjust your view and manage your life that makes the difference.
You can either let life run you, or you can run it. It's just
that simple. You have the power to determine the events and the
opportunity to decide when these events occur. But, to do this,
you have to not only figure out what is in your life, but also
where you want your life to go. This is the first step in
simplifying your life.
--- But, if I just dump it all, it all goes away. ---
Yes, if you simplify by eliminating everything in your life
then, indeed, all of "those" problems will disappear. However,
you will end up with ... nothing ... and an entirely new set of
problems to handle. But, in the process, what is it that you are
getting rid of? Your furniture? A car? Some tools? Your family?
No, you are getting rid of "stuff." Stuff consists of things in
your life that, at one time or another, meant something to you
or represented something. For some reason, now they don't.
Look around at your stuff and determine what it meant to you and
why. Then, figure out what changed over your life such that the
stuff no longer means anything to you. As you consider the
changes, think about whether these changes were for the good or
the bad. Did you outgrow these things for the better or for the
As you ponder, realize that the stuff is not causing the
problems, but it is your view of your "life" and what "it" means
to you. These things are merely representations of something
that once was, but no longer is, and now you feel the tug of
what these items represent. This "tug" usually happens when you
have no current direction in your life and are searching for
something more, or better, within yourself.
--- But, there's just so much coming at me. ---
Overwhelming sensations are expected in today's world; however,
you have the ability to control everything that comes at you.
The only thing that prevents your control is your ability to
comprehend the various levels of control you can exert on any
given facet of your life.
You have to examine every facet of your life, not just the ones
that appear to be causing problems. You might find that the ones
that appear to be causing the greatest problems are not problems
at all, but are instead irritated by other gnawing aspects of
Write down the single, overwhelming, feeling that you have ---
confused, lost, angry, misdirected, intimidated, etc. Then,
write down every element of your life that affects you directly
and indirectly --- work, marriage, neighbor, expectations,
disappointments, successes, past, future, desires, hobbies,
kids, friends, etc. For each of those items, write down how you
feel about each one listed --- angry, alienated, confused,
Go through your list several times then sleep on it for a few
days. You are slowly defining the things that are creating the
overall feeling you originally noted. Let it all settle in so
that you can think clearer the next time that you examine the
list. Then, as you go through the feelings you defined for each
item in your life, determine if there is a common thread that is
causing that feeling.
In most situations I've seen, there is one underlying issue that
provokes a problem in everything you do. It is not necessarily
the various issues, but it is something that you have within
yourself that is blocking you or causing several external
Perhaps, your problems at work are causing you to distance
yourself from your wife. Then, this appears as a problem at
home, which then affects you at work. Then, you let them all go
for so long that it seems nearly impossible to resolve. The
problems, however, can be resolved by defining the issues and
determining the underlying problem, or desire.
--- Resolving the Unresolvable ---
Once you figure out the various issues in your life and find
that there is one common theme, or thread, to all of the issues,
you now have to do two things: make a plan to resolve the core
problem, and make a plan for your life.
Understand that many times, common threaded problems occur
because you have no place else to go in your life. With that,
you amplify small problems, create new problems simply because
you have nothing better to do, or get caught up in small
problems that expand into other areas of your life. Without a
direction and a path to travel, you have no choice but to stay
and deal with the problem instead of resolving and moving on to
Everyone needs a direction and everyone must have some type of
destination ... you need a place to go and be. This sounds like
I'm heading back to the idea of running away to the mountains.
Actually, you are running to the mountains, but not physically.
You are creating a destination that you want to run toward ---
satisfying a desire. As you head toward that vision, you are
accomplishing goals, learning, becoming stronger, and resolving
issues as you "move" through life.
--- Mission, Vision, and Goals ---
In previous e-books and articles, I mentioned the need to create
an action plan based on your Vision, Mission, and Goals. I
called it a "Business Plan for Life." Your action plan contains
the researched and planned steps that you take to clarify your
life, resolve your current issues to clear your path, and move
toward a specific Vision that you see as "Your Life."
It is important to understand your Vision. But, you have to be
clear when defining your Vision. Clarity comes from
understanding your current situations and being able to clear
these situations such that your life is more balanced. By
clearing, I don't mean eliminating everything from your life. I
mean eliminating the kinks that certain situations cause in the
fabric of your life. This means coming to terms with certain
issues and getting rid of other things that are no longer of any
use to you (e.g., past fears, current petty problems that seem
Once your Vision is set, you have to define your Mission. Your
Mission defines the mechanism that you will use to reach your
Vision. It is your overall idea, the theme, of your action plan.
When defining your Mission, picture your Vision as a bright
light with a clear path right up to the center. This path is
With your Mission defined, you must define the Goals to be
accomplished to successfully traverse your Mission. These Goals
are the steps involved to incrementally approach and reach your
Vision based on the mechanism defined in your Mission. Each step
is a "baby step" or a "bite sized" piece of the entire journey.
By defining your Goals, you are able to take an overwhelming
journey and break it into manageable and measurable pieces that
slowly build to help you reach your ultimate Vision.
Finally, your action plan contains the actual pieces of the
puzzle that identify the physical actions you must take for each
Goal. This action plan is your prioritized map that defines what
you will do every day to accomplish a Goal. This map allows you
to measure your progress and better understand where you are in
your journey. Additionally, by examining the Goals as you go,
you can make adjustments to your plan to make sure that your
Mission is on track and your Vision is clear.
--- What's next? ---
Simplifying your life does not have to involve a complete
elimination of your worldly existence. Nor does it have to be
the escape to some remote region of the planet. When you feel
that desire to "run to the mountains" or get rid of everything
in your life, that's a sign that you need to change something in
your life and get moving. It is your inner self that is telling
you to wake up and go.
Simplifying your life means that you want to make things easier
in all aspects. It can be as simple as eliminating things that
are complicated and replacing them with things that have meaning
to your direction. I call it "Managing your Life" instead of
simplifying because you are not minimizing your life to its bare
essentials, but you are taking an already full life and removing
the kinks to make the path smoother.
A simple life does not have to contain nothing. A simple life
can be full and contain numerous tangents and paths, but it is
void of issues that unnecessarily complicate the things that
mean the most to you.