I am a little late to be posting advice for the new year. But, to be fair, I have been working on this piece since before January 1st. It seems writing about the topic in question is not as simple as I envisioned.
I read several places that people were choosing a theme for their year. I didn’t so much select my theme, but rather it picked me, as I kept seeing reminders everywhere that I must – SIMPLIFY!
After the somewhat crazy 2016 I experienced (as did many others), I know I, and I expect you too, really just need to get back to basics. That is where simplifying is so exciting. It requires very little – just stripping down to the core so that you can focus on the things that truly matter. Here are the tips I am using to simplify my 2017.
#1 Value Your Time
When I first learned about the concept of “opportunity cost” in economics class, it made my heart sink. Ani DiFranco put my thoughts into words when she sang, “I wonder if everything I do, I do, instead, of something I want to do more. The question fills my head.” [Joyful Girl] I have repeatedly found myself giving my time and energies to people and projects that don’t; A. excite or encourage me, and B. value my efforts and talents.
In economic terms, my daily investments have been a bust and I have been paying for it with my health. We only get 24 hours in a day, and when you deal with any kind of chronic illness, those hours are often significantly less. Stress or anything that makes us unhappy further erodes that time. While I really want to be of service to the world, I know that in order to be at my best I have to be very careful how I spend my time and precious energy. There are people who will bleed you dry with requests and demands, and they will never even recognize that they are doing it. Asking a very basic question, “Does it make me happy?” is one of simplest ways to maximize your efforts and your life
#2 Shut Out the Media
When I moved to my current townhouse I decided that I was finally going to cut the cord by not getting cable. I was actually much too busy to watch TV and the expense simply didn’t make sense. The impact of not having cable television has been far more beneficial than the financial savings alone. I no longer have news reporters draining me with all the awful things that are happening in the world, and I don’t have reality TV with rampant narcissists celebrating the worst aspects of humanity. Of course in my work as a social media and website manager I have to maintain a connection with the Internet, but that is a much more easily moderated and productive use of my time. I still know what is going on in the world, but in a bit more gentle manner balanced by cat videos and dancing grandmas. Oh, and I still do get to watch some quality TV like “This is Us” via the NBC app (which I highly recommend).
#3 Stop Comparing
There is nothing worse than thinking someone else has things better than you do. It hurts both of you. I recently read an article about people who had benefited from the Affordable Care Act, yet they decided to vote for Trump and effectively against that health care provision. The reason? They felt that “other people” were getting less costly care than they were. So, they opted to sacrifice the much-needed health benefits they were getting simply because they thought someone else was getting more. And, yes, since premiums were subsidized based on income, people who had less income did in fact pay less for care. That didn’t mean they got more – and now we are poised in a situation where we could all lose the health care we need! Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
We make our lives a whole lot more complicated when we worry about what everyone else has and does. Consider this – people are rarely (if ever) honest about the challenges they face, and chances are pretty good that you have it far better than you think.
In my own experience, when I was at my sickest with severe anxiety and chronic digestive issues, people actually told me they envied me for being so thin. I would have given anything to NOT be so thin. It certainly helped me to realize that you can’t ever really know what someone else is going through, so you are better off simply focusing on your own life.
#4 Be Grateful
One of the best ways to avoid comparing your life or competing with others is to be grateful for the life you have. Gratitude is the great equalizer. We all have something to be grateful for. Counting the blessings that you already have is one of the easiest ways to strip away negativity and fear, reminding you that you have enough and you are enough. [If you need help, see 10 Guaranteed Sources of Gratitude]
After I moved into my own place, I had a lot more time to focus solely on me, and that gift was overwhelming. Every night since then as my head hits the pillow I give thanks to the Universe/God/Spirit for everything that I have and for all that I am. That simple act brings me a great deal of joy and reminds me to refocus on the good no matter how challenging my day has been.
#5 Meditate / Pray / Be Still
Meditation and prayer have been exceptional tools in helping me find greater peace, enabling me to slow down, and encouraging me to see the beauty in just being. These very simple activities are the most powerful I have found in helping me to disconnect from the outer world, so that I could reconnect with my inner one. There in that space of stillness I am able to remember who I am, and I am able to love and honor myself, and everyone around me, more fully.
There is no wrong way to meditate or pray, and that lack of pressure does wonders for helping me to relax. If you want to learn how to meditate, there are lots of resources online and on the Meditation page.
#6 Reconnect – In Person
After moving to Western Connecticut for a job opportunity that I thought was my soul’s calling, I lost touch with many of the people that I love. I work fairly consistently at texting and emailing – and those tools are an amazing gifts for staying connected. However, there is nothing like a hug or a face-to-face conversation with the people who are part of my tribe. For 2017, I am focusing on reconnecting with people in a more real way. One of the most basic and pure joys in life is simply spending time with people who mutually love and support you.
#7 Honor Your True Self
Your authentic self should be the driver around everything you do – the work you select, the people you spend time with, the hobbies you pursue. This feels like a no-brainer, but personally, I have complicated my life a whole heck of a lot by not honoring my true nature, and by attempting to be what other people wanted me to be. It has been the most painful and unhealthy way in which I treat myself, and I am vowing for 2017 and beyond to finally put an end to it for good.
This last tip is so big that it deserves its own post. I guess some things just can’t be oversimplified. So, please watch for my follow-up post (coming soon), “Honor Who You Are” for a continuation on the ways to put this tip into action.
I am really hopeful for 2017. I fully believe that collectively we have the capacity, the knowledge, and the heart to turn our country around and return to a more simple way of life where neighbors love neighbors and the concept of greatness is not measured by tax dollars or budgets, but rather by what is in our hearts and minds.
Happy 2017! What do you want to focus on this year? Please share below…