Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Simplify: What Matter's Most

Although it is usually easier said than done, simplifying our lives can be a real stress-buster.  And who doesn’t need to bust a little stress?  Perhaps I’ve watched too many episodes of The Waltons, but it appears that in past times, life was a lot simpler.  Not necessarily easier, but simpler.  I sometimes wonder how it could have been that way, considering more manual labor was required for daily duties due to a lack of our modern tools and conveniences.  You’d think the stress level would have been higher and that the work would never end.  Yet they’d often still have time for simple recreation at the end of the day.  I’ve heard my own parents and grandparents tell about this very thing, calling those days gone by “the good ole days.”

So, if people who have lived in both eras verify that we have left behind the simpler life and replaced it with a more hectic existence, then why do we continue in it?  Well, it would appear that we don’t have much choice.  After all, we don’t live in John Boy’s world.  We work for busy people, we worship with busy people, and we live with busy people. Still, there are ways that we can simplify our lives and maybe even resurrect some of the elements of the “good ole days” without living on an island.

•    Commit to family mealtime.  You already know it’s a good idea. So make at least one meal in your day be a family meal, no matter what.  You may not be popular at first because habits are hard to break.  But stick to it.  You can be as simple or creative as you like, but make a couple of steadfast rules.  First, no television.  Second, no phones.  Contrary to popular belief, the world will not cease to turn if you exercise the power button on these gadgets.  What will happen, though, is an increase of ability to focus on one topic at a time.  The dinner table is one place that multi-tasking is not necessary and should not even be welcome. So take advantage of this chance to simplify.

•    Don’t be afraid of silence.   Our daily lives are full of so much static that it is almost awkward to sit in silence, even with those we are closest to.  Recognize that silence is not a sign of distance.  Silence is simply a lack of noise.  And that’s a good thing!  Try doing your tasks around the house without having to have the TV or radio on “for noise.”  Where did we ever get the crazy idea that we need “noise” in the background in order to get our work done?  Or music in order to do homework?  By now, our brains are actually conditioned to this practice, and like other addictions, it does seem that we need it.  But that habit can be changed and silence can become golden once again.

•    Try non-electronic recreation.  Play some games that actually involve conversation and interaction.  My family claims to not enjoy table games, but I find that whenever I persuade them to play with me, they end up enjoying it.  You might even be so bold as to take a technology fast for a while when it comes to recreation.  Once again, the withdrawal symptoms may rear their ugly heads.  But that is validation that the need to simplify is evident.  The more withdrawal, the more the need to simplify.

•    Get organized.  Okay, this is definitely easier said than done, especially for some personality types.  Still, everyone can improve.  I find that making a list of what I need to get accomplished in a certain amount of time is very helpful to me.  One might expect that making a “to do” list might actually be causing more stress by having to try to get everything accomplished.  But I find that it has the opposite effect.  It keeps me on task and focused, which ends up giving me time to spare.  With that time, I can then do something relaxing or uplifting.

Once you have a mindset of how to simplify your life, you will come up with your own ideas.  Perhaps you even have some relationships that need to be simplified.  Pray about it and ask God for guidance in leading you to a productive, but simpler existence.


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