Take a look at the following list and place a mental check mark next to the things that you are currently experiencing.
I don’t know about you, but as I make my way through that list I can feel a knot forming deep in my belly as my respiration speeds up! Just thinking about it can be enough to create a sense of dread or overwhelm.
It’s possible that you’ve got it all figured out and you already live a life of simplicity without exhaustion, overload and overwhelm. More than likely, however, you ARE (or someone you know well is) experiencing some or most of these things ‘to the max.’
All the conveniences of our life seem to have made our lives busier and more demanding than ever before! Things go at such a rapid pace and the expectations we have of ourselves have risen to an unprecedented level.
Many of the things that keep us so busy are very good things. It’s just that we’ve reached our limits. In many cases, we have overloaded our lives to the point where we are depleted, exhausted, short-fused and not as effective as we could be.
Have you ever been driving down the highway behind a pickup truck loaded down with furniture, appliances, bicycles and everything else imaginable on the way to a new residence? The back of the pickup is nearly dragging on the ground…..overloaded. The owner of the truck, in an attempt to save time, be more efficient, save trips back and forth, get it all done….has loaded the truck down beyond what the manufacturer designed it to withstand. The truck could potentially suffer damage and be in need of repair if this type of overload goes on for very long.
When we start to live like we somehow do not have limits, we eventually find ourselves stuck in some very painful consequences: heart attacks, destroyed immunity, dreading work, relationships in ruins, depression, burn out….the list goes on!
What’s the solution?
I’m not going to pretend to have the answer to these problems in one short blog post, but I will offer one exercise that can get you on the path towards off-loading some of the piled up demands you’ve placed on yourself!
Set aside a quiet evening – by yourself, or with your spouse – with the commitment that it’s time to make some changes to your overloaded, stressed out, maxed out life. Get out a notepad or a blank piece of paper and imagine that everything in your life is written down on that piece of paper (or actually brainstorm/write it down!):
beliefs about what’s required or expected of you
what you’ve always thought about involvement in school or church or other volunteer organizations
your hopes and dreams
your plans for vacation
plans for retirement
plans for marriage (if you’re single)
plans for having kids (if you don’t have them yet)
Once you’ve basically represented your entire life there on the paper, rip it to shreds, toss it in the fireplace or the garbage and breathe a huge sigh of relief! It’s time to start with a clean slate!
Now…prayerfully ask God to guide you as you redesign your life into a simpler one. Less stuff. Less activity. Fewer demands. Fewer expectations. Hone in on those most important things – the things that you will be remembering when you are living your final days and hours on earth. Give yourself freedom, time, rest and balance between the work you do and the life you want to live with those that matter most to you.
Practicing the art of saying “no” is essential to creating a simpler life. I’ve created a helpful tip sheet for developing the practice of saying a graceful, confident ‘no’. You can get it for free by going here. As you go through the process of wiping the slate clean and redesigning your life with your most important things, you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to say no!
This is a picture of a small wooden sign I purchased years ago in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from an Amish gentleman. I keep it front and center in our kitchen as a visual reminder.
I don’t have the simple life completely mastered yet! For me it’s an ongoing process like the tide coming in and going out. Some weeks and months I’m living with the “simplify” perspective and then the “tide goes out” and I drift into a life that has too many demands and expectations (usually because of my own thinking, mindset and choices).
I’ve learned to recognize the tell-tale warning signs, however. Now that I have more than a handful of decades of life behind me, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick skull that I must always be alert to the symptoms of overload in my life and turn back to the things that help me get back on track.
I think we all need reminders and encouragement. Sometimes we just need a trusted friend to give us the “OK” to remove some of the demanding stuff we’ve put on our plate and seek a life of balance and simplicity!
So, friend….go enjoy a life of profoundly amazing, God-designed, simplicity remembering that because He has no limits, it’s OK to remember that YOU do. You can trust Him…you don’t have to do it all on your own.