Why Not . . . Simplify? 4 Reasons It’s Not As Easy As It Sounds, But Absolutely Worth It

Apr 04, 2018

“Simplicity doesn’t mean easy.” — Alton Brown

The beautiful truth of curating a life of simplicity and taking it one step further to a life of simply luxurious living is that it takes conscious effort. Ironically, creating a life of simplicity is not something that can occur with the snap of your fingers.

I was drawn to Alton Brown’s quote shared above, and while he was critiquing a plate of exquisite food that included only five ingredients, but was cooked and combined in such a recipe to elevate the flavor as well as the presentation, the truth of his food observation crossed over into living a life of simplicity as well.

In 2010, one of the first three-part series I wrote on the blog focused solely on Simplifying Your Life. Sharing more than 15 ways to go about creating a life of simplicity, I encourage you to check out the series because today I’d like to share why indeed, simplifying one’s life is not easy.

MY LATEST VIDEOS

But . . .

It is worth, arguably absolutely worth, our efforts to do so.

Before I dive into why it is difficult to simplify, we need to understand the contrary: Complexity is simple. Again, this is a truth about life that we often forget. To avoid conflict, confrontation, disappointment and others’ ire, the simplest thing to do is to say “okay”, “sure” or “yes”. But in so doing, we complicate our lives so much so that we suffociate the beautiful masterpiece that it can become.

To begin, I’d like to answer today’s post’s title question, why not simplify? Answer: Because it is hard. Why is it difficult? That is what I want to look at today.

1. It requires a clarifying of one’s priorities

If we do not know what we are striving toward, what legacy we wish to leave once we are gone or worse, are not thinking for ourselves, but instead letting the world around us dictate and determine how our lives should unfold, simplifying will be extremely difficult. In fact, I would argue, impossible. As well, part of the journey to discover what our priorities are takes time, often struggle, but on the other side of the struggle are beautiful lessons that open us up to who and what we wish to become. Once we know our direction, once we know what is vitally important in order to live well, then, and only then, does the decision-making become easier and finally we can move past the difficult part of simplifiying our lives.

2. Letting go must take place

Warning: I am going to break some readers’ hearts, and for others, I will validate what you knew if you read Robert Frost’s 1915 with a critical lens. Originally published in 1915 in The Atlantic, Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” is not the elevated lauding of taking the uncommon or lesser known journey through life. Context, as I remind my students, is always important. Also important, exigence: What is the incident or inspiration for the creation of the work? What is the writer responding to? What is the inciting incident? Frost and his dear friend Edward Thomas (also a poet, who Frost would later describe as a brother), take a walk in the woods. And while they were wandering through the woods Thomas expresses regret about the two of them literally not having taken a different path as he assumed with a sigh might have offered the “best opportunities”, but as Frost points out, they will never be able to know one way or the other. Inspired by this country walk and thinking Thomas to be “quaintly romantic”, Frost poked fun at his friend’s angst over something never to be known, and thus the poem.

Upon close analysis as David Orr shares in The Paris Review (2015), there is no statement of truth that the road less traveled is the better path, in fact, “he has already admitted that the two paths ‘equally lay / In leaves’ and ‘the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.'”  Sadly, Edward Thomas too misinterpreted his friend’s poem as well, as shortly thereafter its publication, he enlisted in the military, fought and then died in WWI in Pas-de-Calais, France, in 1917. It was the loss of his dear friend that brought forth their close bond and Frost sharing that Thomas was “the only brother I ever had”.

The reason I share this, first of all, is to caution against jumping on bandwagons, and instead read and examine critically; and secondly, to today’s point, to understand that it will take courage to let go of what will not be your path. If indeed as Frost says, they actually are more equal than they are different, no matter which path we choose, it is because we are the constant. We are the traveler. In other words, we make the journey what it will become, but we must choose and accept that our chosen path is our chosen path. Our choice. It is not a competition to determine whether your path is better than my path.

Oprah has shared the following advice as she adhered to it in her own life regarding Harpo and her talk show of 25 years with regards to competition with other talk shows on the air at the time: Stay in your lane. Don’t look behind, do not worry about what they are doing. Simply do what you do and do it well.

But once you choose, revel, savor and strive with confidence, whether at times with small steps and other times with significant steps, toward and to create the path that is yours and only you will make. So long as make it your journey, you will travel well.

3. Inner strength to say “no” is necessary 

Similarly, when you let go, you are also saying “no”. Throughout the journey to simplifying your life, you will need to say “no” often. Eventually this muscle will strengthen, but initially, it will be difficult especially if the people hearing it are not used to or expecting it. Stay strong. So long as your priorities and direction are clear, doing so will become easier as you begin to see the benefits.

4. It demands a thick skin, and a big, vulnerable heart

People will grumble, some will even be aggressive in their frustration of what you are doing, With clarity and self-awareness you will know and remain confident that what you are doing is right for you – thus the thick skin. When we come to recognize that most of the time these attacks are a reflection of the speaker and not of us, then we can more easily refrain from taking them personally.

On the flip side, in order to live well, we must be ourselves and let the world see us. And in order for the world to see us, we must be vulnerable. Vulnerability, as I have shared before, is a powerful piece to an amazing life when we couple it with bravery. And being brave is not easy, thus simplifying our life is not easy, but absolutely worth it.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~Mastering the Complexity of Simplicity

~Stop Looking for Love and Start Learning How to Love

~The “How” of Tailored Simplicity

 

Image: TSLL’s Instagram, Portland, Oregon, March 2018



12 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Simplify? 4 Reasons It’s Not As Easy As It Sounds, But Absolutely Worth It

  1. Shannon, your website and contributions are amazing! I have been devouring your writing and podcasts since I discovered them about 3mos ago. And, of course, I have been meaning to jot you a note of thanks many times over the last 3mos and have always skipped doing it, rushing off to some other task. This week has been tough for me as I am coming to the realization that a neurological diagnosis I received last year seems to be leading to some memory issues. Not a huge deal, except that it is forcing me to look at the way I am living my life. I personally believe the symptoms are caused by two things, 1. living life in a way that is “too complicated” and 2. the abnormal electrical activity in my brain. And maybe 2 is completely caused by 1. This is really just my hunch, I’ll work to prove it out, in combination with some medical intervention, but the reason I am telling you all this… your article could not have come at a better time!

    All of your points here reinforce why I have had so much trouble letting go of all my “shoulds” in my life. Put another way, all the roles and expectations of my behavior in each of them. I am a mother, wife, engineer, friend, soul searcher, housekeeper, daughter, sister, community contributor, etc, etc, etc. I want to do so many things in all of these areas and I have come to expect that this flurry of activity will make my life full and meaningful. My recent ruminations and YOUR ARTICLE have helped me to see that I am actually ruining all of the opportunities by trying to fulfill too many self-imposed expectations.

    I plan on reading this article over and over until it really sinks in and helps me to change my outlook and behavior. I don’t have to do things because they are expected. I need to listen to my authentic self and design my own life. And I assure you, it will be much simpler in action and mental effort than the one I have lived until this point.

    Thank you girl for the assist! To prove my new-found commitment, I am going to send this note to a writer and teacher without obsessing over my grammer and punctuation. I hope you can read it for the content 😉

    One last thing, I want to say hello to the other TSLL readers. Thanks for being there so Shannon can continue to share her gifts with the world. I appreciate all of you, too! And of course, I like reading your comments and hearing your feedback on her work as well. They are always so positive!

    1. On this topic of reexamining one’s life: An interesing book that I read, thanks to Shannon’s recommendation, is “Soulful Simplicity” by Courtney Carver which is a non-fiction account of how a diagnosis of MS led the author to change her habits and life for the better.

  2. Great post, Shannon! Love this and know this to be true. If I stay in my lane and not get distracted with shiny objects, I am more productive and have more peace inside myself.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience Teresa. You are correct, with a little self-discipline we are able to stay in our lane, celebrate others’ journeys and continue to progress on our own.

  3. Great post Shannon and so so true. Way to many times we tend to equalize what is simple with what is easy. And when you think about it all choices in life are truly simple.

  4. Wise words Shannon and so relevant now when staying in our lane means jumping lots of hurdles to get the simplicity we need. There’s so much out there to distract. If we believe in ourselves we’ll get there.😊

  5. I loved what you had to say about Robert Frost and his friendship with Edward Thomas and his subsequent writing of The Road Not Taken. This entire post is well done, but that part especially spoke to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *