Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 3:37 PM EDT
We've done the binge thing for awhile; now it's time to do the purge thing. Most of us have a tremendous amount of excess. Too many expenses, too much stuff, too many commitments and responsibilities. Do you dream of calm over chaos? Do you wish you could hit a button and be transformed to the tranquility of another era? You can create an oasis of peace for yourself and your family, but you're going to have to relearn what it means to simplify as I bust the top three myths about the subject over the next month.
Myth #1 - Simplifying means having and doing less.
Wrong! Simplifying is not necessarily about less. It can be about more. More time. More enjoyment. More joy. More fulfillment. More of what enriches you.
If you do or have a lot of things that don't bring you joy or support your long-term plan, then doing or having less of that kind of stuff makes sense. But you can't eliminate everything. If you throw out, reduce, cut back, and cancel as much as you can, you'll be left with a void. The purpose of simplifying -- at least as I see it -- is to chuck what's not important and add what is.
To understand what should be removed and what should be added, try thinking of activities and things as either assets or liabilities.
An asset is something that is valuable or that may be worth something. Obvious examples are stocks, bonds, buildings, raw land, gold, etc., but I want you to think of an asset a little more broadly. An asset is anything that:
- Increases in value
- Provides something valuable such as money, joy, security, happiness, etc.
- Strengthens and empowers you
- Moves you closer to your goals
- Provides positive stress and healthful excitement
- Relaxes and calms
- Increases health and vitality
Liabilities are obligations, debts, and things that cost more money than they produce or are worth, but again, let's think more broadly. A liability is anything that:
- Takes from you
- Decreases in value
- Eliminates or reduces something valuable such as money, joy, security, happiness, etc.
- Weakens you
- Moves you farther from your goals
- Provides negative stress
- Creates anxiety or agitates
- Decreases health and vitality
Bottom line? Assets give. Liabilities take.
So how does this help you simplify? Create an inventory of everything in your life -- from your friendships, projects, and commitments to your expenses, belongings, and goals. Since this is quite a task, make it easier by starting with just one area. For example, non-work commitments.
List all of your commitments, responsibilities, obligations, or whatever you call them. Take out your calendar and look back a few months and forward a few months to jog your memory. Make a big list. For example, your list may include a homeowner's association meeting, mowing the lawn, paying bills, volunteering, being a greeter at church, driving the kids to school, planning a birthday party for a friend, etc.
Now, categorize each of these commitments as either an asset (A) or a liability (L). Does the activity or responsibility give or does it take? Does it get you closer to your goals or farther away? Does it create healthful excitement, or does it just stress you out?
The next step is determining if you can eliminate any of the Ls. You'll never be able to eliminate all your liabilities, but your goal should be to get rid of as many as possible. The power of this exercise is becoming conscious of what gives and what takes, and then making some informed decisions about what A activities you can add and what L activities you can reduce or eliminate.
Again, simplifying is not about doing or having less. You can be running around from one project and commitment to another all day every day and be 100 percent content as long as you have filled your life with assets.
Stay tuned for two more simplifying myths over the next month. If you can't wait, skip on over to Leo Babauta's blog, ZenHabits.com -- you won't find a better site on doing more with less.
(Rocks image by Thairms, CC 2.0)
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