Is your life more or less complicated than it was 10 years ago?
How about 20 years ago? More and more people are finding that, in
spite of technology and other modern conveniences, they have less
time, get less sleep, and are more stressed than they were a decade
ago. The reasons for this are, well, not so simple, but relate to a
number of factors.
Today's Sources of Complexity
Too Many Options
When making a purchase, whether it's food, health and beauty
products, cars, or computers, we confront an expanding array of
brands, flavors, and options. Similarly, we also have more options
in terms of careers and lifestyles, and this can make our lives
busier and more complicated. Although choice can certainly be a
good thing, it doesn't always make life simpler. Some people lose
touch with their priorities when faced with too many options and
You have an urgent question to ask your doctor and
you reach an automated phone system instead of a person. Your new
computer has a problem that no one in the office can fix and your
work is put on "hold." Your new office phone has dozens of
features, but you can't make sense of the complicated instruction
manual. It's enough to make one question whether or not technology
really makes life simpler.
Mass production, mass marketing, and buying on credit has fueled a
fervor of consumerism. People buy more than they need and end up
burdened with clutter and debt.
Exchanges of information used to take place primarily among the
people in one's immediate environment through personal contact.
Gradually, more information was exchanged through letters,
publications, telephone, radio, and television. Now we have rapid,
world wide, mass communication through the internet, email, and fax
machines, as well as diverse and increasing numbers of
publications, radio, and television stations. More organizations
tend to be created in response to increasing knowledge and
information—along with more regulations and more bureaucracy.
We went forth and multiplied. Now we wait in long lines, sit in
traffic jams, and witness phenomenons such as "road rage."
Increased Cost of Living
Today it takes more money to live at the same standard of living
as our parents did. Many women cannot afford to stay home with
their children, and two-income families have become the norm. As a
result, people are feeling strained by the lack of quality time and
energy they can bring to their families and relationships.
Many businesses have gone through phases of "merging and purging."
Most people don't expect to stay at the same job for decades, but
many are working longer and harder than ever.
Increasing choices, and job and lifestyle changes are leading
people to move more frequently. Look at your address book. How many
times in the last 5, 10, or 20 years have you crossed off the
addresses of friends and family members? How many times have they
crossed off yours?
Here today, gone tommorow—that seems to be the law of modern life.
But unless we know how to manage it, rapid change can take its toll
on physical and mental health, jobs, relationships, family life,
What Is Simplicity?
Making changes to simplify certain aspects of life can be the
antidote to living in such a complex society. But simplification is
a very individual matter—what's considered simple and
stress-relieving to one person might be burdensome and stressful to
another. For example, you may eat convenience foods because they
save you time and energy. Your friend, on the other hand, may find
convenience foods expensive and rather "inconvenient" for her
family food budget.
The most important part of the simplification process is
—taking an honest and in-depth look at yourself
and your life and then identifying things that can be changed.
Simple enough? Yes and no. That is, some changes can be relatively
easy to make. You may decide to unclutter your house by throwing
out items that you really don't need and scaling back on your
consumption. On the other hand, you may find that you need a major
overhaul to find a simpler life—a change of career or financial
goals, a geographical relocation, or a change in perception through
What makes the concept of simplicity difficult for some people
is that it implies that you must give up something. But many people
derive invaluable benefits from simplifying their lives—more time,
freedom, self-expression, and a chance to live with more clarity and
meaning. Simplification is a deeply personal endeavor and should be
approached with the following things in mind:
What is most important to you? What would you have the hardest
time living without—your health, spouse, family, friends, time,
creative projects? (This can be a tricky one. For example, you may
say that you value money, but by looking deeper within yourself,
you may find that what you really value is freedom, self-reliance,
time, friends, or self-esteem, which you think money will buy for
Who are you? What talents, skills, activities, and types of
environments bring you the most enjoyment? Are you living
authentically—speaking your truth and living according to your own
values (values that you've examined and owned) or someone
How do you manage time and pace yourself? Is your natural pace
100 miles per hour or a bit slower and more reflective? Examine
your current pace and your energy levels. If you're feeling
exhausted or burned out, you may need to slow down, or at least
change where you are focusing the majority of your energy.
What do you most want to do with your life and are you doing
that right now? How do you wish to direct your talents? Are you
What is your ideal lifestyle and environment? What would your
life look like if you could design it exactly the way you wanted?
You can't always "have it all," but think about how close you can
get to that vision now, realistically.
Ways to Simplify Your Life
The list of things you can do to simplify your life is probably
endless. Big changes will require a good deal of thought and
planning. But there are many small changes you can make to simplify
your life right now, such as:
Buy a simple car—one that has less gadgets to fix.
Do your shopping all at once, and preferably in the same
Reduce the clutter in your home and office. Throw out things
that you don't use.
Buy classic clothes that don't go out of style.
Donate your clothes that need to be dry cleaned.
Shop during off-hours.
Get a simple, low-maintenance hairstyle.
Downscale to a smaller home or less expensive car.
Find a way to turn your hobby into your primary source of
Make a conscious effort to reflect upon and appreciate the
simple things in your life—those things that you may be taking for
Simplifying your life isn't always simple, but something as easy
as getting more organized can be a big help. As some of the
complexity decreases from your life, you may find greater clarity
and peace of mind.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a