In the two previous posts, I discussed what it means to simplify your life, and why people choose simplicity in their lives. Now it\’s time to begin the simplifying process by working on some activities that are designed to help get you thinking about your life in new ways.
This post is about reflecting on your priorities and goals. Take the week to really think over these three activities and come back to them as necessary if you feel you have forgotten something. Remember, you don’t have to do them all at once.
1) Reflect on your values. Firsts things first. Relax. Sit down, turn off all outside distractions and put on some of your favorite calming music. Get yourself a nice drink, something to write with and begin to think. Brainstorm all the things that are very important to you; your family, your friends, your favorite hobby, getting that promotion next year, connecting to your faith—whatever it is that makes YOU happy. All the things that YOU value the most. Write it all down. It may seem silly (that’s what I thought when I first did it!), and you may even think—I already know what’s important to me; but you may also just begin to surprise yourself seeing it all spread out on paper in front of you. We will use the brainstorming exercise to later help you compare your current use of time with the time spent on things you actually value, so hang onto it. Feel free to continually add to it as you think of new things. There is no right or wrong way to do this brainstorming. Some people will want to make numbered lists, others scattered pages of notes and drawings, and even those who will make beautiful collages or artwork of their value items so that they can put it somewhere to visually remind themselves of what’s important to them on a daily basis. Some people find it useful to prioritize those things they value in some way, on a scale of what’s most important to what’s least important. Others may find it useful to separate the list into different categories, such as people, places, ideals and things. It’s completely up to you.
2) Reflect on your favorite time. Now that you have brainstormed ideas on the things you value, it’s time to think about your time. When was the last time you remembered feeling truly happy and fulfilled? What were you doing at the time? Who were you with? Where were you?
Imagine you had no responsibilities at all and were free to use your time however you wanted to. Assuming money wasn’t an issue, where would you go; who would you spend your time with and what would you do with that time? What would your perfect day entail if you were free to do whatever you wanted? What activities would you do in that perfect day? If money and time was not an object, how would you spend your days? Would you read, meditate, bake cookies, go parasailing, sunbathe, travel, spend time playing with your kids? Again, write it all down and come back and add to it as you think of new things.
3) Reflect on the future. Now it’s time to think about where you see your future. Where do you see yourself in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and beyond? Where do you want to be living; who do you want to spend your time with; what do you want to be doing with your time? Think generally and realistically, keeping in mind the things from your two previous lists. The point of this exercise is not to set in stone some sort of life plan, but rather think of who you want to be and reflect on how your life can begin to move towards your priorities.
Take at least 10 minutes this week to relax and just enjoy being alive, in the way that is best for you. Put the stress aside for just these 10 minutes. Turn off your tv, cellphone, blackberry, internet and all other possible distractions. Meditate. Take a bubble bath. Read a good book. Go for a walk. Talk to an old friend. Do something enjoyable from the top your priorities list and just reflect on how good it feels to be free to do things you enjoy, even if only for that 10 minutes. You may find it useful to continue this exercise during the entire process, and increase the number of minutes or days you do it each week.