Simplicity is a way of life for me. I am constantly trying to simplify my life because that’s what I want. With that in mind I came up with a set of guidelines for myself:
- Love who you can, as much as you can, for as long as you can – This one is first because I think it is that important and no, I am not touting free love here. What I mean is that if you love someone (a spouse, child, significant other, friend, etc) you should do so completely and with every ounce of your being. You should do this because you have not idea how long you will have that opportunity. I am not trying to be morbid, but life is full of unexpected turns and there should be no regrets.
- Find a job that you love and are passionate about – having a job that is fulfilling can make a tremendous difference in your life. Find something that you are passionate about, but don’t let your work completely rule your life.
- Buy less crap – It is amazing the amount of stuff we have and spend money on. I have just taken stock in what is important to me and buy what I need for that. Consumerism appears to have run rampant in the world today and I fully acknowledge that it is what makes the economy go round. However, I hate having too much crap. I also have better things to do with my time and money than to shop.
- Read – read anything and everything. Reading enriches your soul and expands your mind. I highly recommend rediscovering your local library – it’s one of those resources that truly is an amazing thing.
- Never ever stop learning – I have said it before and I’ll say it again. The day you stop learning is the day you stop living. By choosing to not learn you choose to be stagnant and you know what happens to ponds when they become stagnant? They become swamps.
- Choose to be happy – happy people are just more fun. It’s real easy to be negative and grumpy all the time. Don’t let things get you down or all worked up, instead try to understand them and prevent them from happening again.
- Be honest – I think this one is pretty straightforward.
- Be willing to make mistakes – mistakes are how we learn best. It is fine to make a mistake, just learn from it, and don’t repeat it. Do not fear making mistakes, this can cripple you.
- Pick a couple of hobbies at most – the thing that people get caught up in is that have too many things to do. Yes, it’s nice to have all the choices of what to do but if you try to do them all you are not going to be good at any of them and not enjoy it. Pick a few that you really like (one for each season if appropriate) and focus on those. Maybe its golf, gardening, skiing, hiking, biking, swimming – whatever it is just do a couple.
- Cook and eat at home – Yes this actually takes more time but I think it can be high quality time. For me growing up, cooking meals was a family affair. It is where the family would bond and share their day. This time can be therapeutic too. On top of all that, I guarantee it will cost less and probably be healthier.
- Limit your kids to just a few activities – the schedule for the average teenager (hell, even grade schooler) is almost as bad as their parents. Kids go to school, then to practice for a sport, then to Subway for dinner (see #10 above), then off to scouts or music lessons, and finally back home for homework and maybe sleep. On the weekends there are soccer games, church groups, and traveling basketball league games. These kids are destined to grow up to be stress junkies. There are many studies that show kids need unstructured time. Slow your kids down – they can still be well rounded on their college applications. Actually, if you speak with most admissions officers, they see kids with these laundry lists of activities and get turned off.
- Take leisurely vacations – Don’t get me wrong, Disney is a lot of fun, but I think a lot of people feel the need to over plan on these vacations which can add stress. Find vacations that can be leisurely where you don’t feel the need to stick to a schedule. Trips such as beach vacations, educational vacations (D.C. or any major city is good for those), or camping can be low stress, assuming you like those things.
- Don’t schedule every minute of your day – you need down time and unstructured time (so do your kids). This time allows our minds to wander and be creative.
- In general just slow down.
Now these are guidelines I have set for myself and I have not mastered them but I am working on it. I think it’s important to have a clear understanding of what you want in life and a plan for getting it. I am sure this list will be added to over the coming months/years as I grow older and my experiences change and I will adapt my life accordingly.