Simplicity is a drastically overused word. It is terribly misunderstood, therefore rarely lived. For most of us, our Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) wins out over the lure toward a simpler life. The inevitable result of FOMO is overload and exhaustion. Yet, we continue to go with the flow of those around us who are adding more into their schedules, driving our kids to countless activities, purchasing the latest shiny object, and working more hours to try to pay for it all.
The difficulty with simplicity is that intentionally choosing less can’t help but feel like missing out. Choosing less for the sake of less misses the mark also. What we really need is less of the unnecessary, unimportant, distracting and more of the vital, important, life-giving.
Simplicity worth embracing must be coupled with discerning what is important, what is worth keeping. Imagine a bedroom without a bed. Or a kitchen without a refrigerator. Those rooms would have less, but would not be better. The key to simplicity is to focus first on priority. Yes, we do need to operate with less, but only if operating with less frees us to give priority focus to what is important. Gaining clarity on what is most important and then giving our first attention to that priority enables us to let go of striving after endless unimportant goals.
The clearest example of this comes out of my darkest hours. When my daughter, Perrin, was diagnosed with cancer, life became really simple while at the same time becoming overwhelmingly complex. At the very moment she was diagnosed, I knew I had only one priority – to do everything I could to help her and to help my family. Everything else not only became less important, but it also became unimportant. Anything and everything that served that one priority of taking care of Perrin and my family rose to first place. Everything else fell to the remaining gaps. Life was excruciatingly hard, but it was simple. I kept lots of space in my life because that is what I needed in order to give appropriate priority to my family. What I found was surprising. The important things outside of my one priority of taking care of my family still found a way of getting done. I still worked. I still served. I even helped begin a Mentoring ministry at our church. But endless, small extra activities were cast aside. What was left to the wayside didn’t matter. Priority eliminated waste.
Simplicity worth pursuing begins by identifying the few vital priorities that bring joy and meaning to your life. Those priorities become our enthusiastic “Yes,” and all the other excess things become the expendable “No.”
Our world is moving faster and faster. More information, more clutter, more enticing opportunities are flying at us than ever before. And it won’t slow down anytime in the near future. Unless we embrace simplicity, which begins with identifying priority, we will drown in the overabundance of our culture.
Start by deciding what really matters to you. Then, take a look at your calendar, your spending, and your commitments, and see how well they align with your values. Perhaps you will see and feel the call to embrace simplicity.