From Here to Simplicity

So you get caught up in your daily life’s stress. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and you have lost perspective about what’s important. How do you know this? You are gearing up to spend four or five more hours getting “things” done before your day is over.

In our culture, there is a rationalizing story that hard work is the way to success. I come from many years in Silicon Valley. Company leaders don’t feel you are pulling your weight if you aren’t putting in 55- 60 hours a week, and go home and continue reading and answering emails.

What’s the cost? Everything that’s vital to our life is the cost. As I’m burning the midnight oil working on a project, I start transferring greater and greater importance to my work. Every day, I inch my way further and further away from the people I care most about, I deny my health, or I ignore the need in my soul for quiet.

All this to feed the beast of success. Success, so I can have more stuff. More stuff, that for the most part, isn’t essential to my life, and requires gobs of non-renewable resources to build or use.

This pattern is played out every day all over this country. If that’s not bad enough, we seem to be infecting the rest of the world. As consumer spending grows here and in Europe, it fuels manufacturing in Asia. The growing population of factory workers and supporting business employees want their taste of the fruits of consumerism.

Where does this end? It ends in a mess. Right now, we are consuming more resources than the planet can replenish. The problem is there is a tipping point and the stuff we all want will rise dramatically in price until it’s only available to the elite. We hard workers will have less and less reward.

Now many feel that the solution is some government intervention, or a restructuring of large businesses. I don’t think that’s going to happen right away. Are we doomed? Not necessarily. A movement called Transition Town is emerging in more parts of the world. It’s doing some wonderful things that help bring us back into harmony with the earth and each other. This is good, yet insufficient.

What’s called for, is a real change of perspective. We are called to reframe our material needs. Move from working and living so we can have stuff to only having what we truly needs. This will mean a lot less for most of us. For those who are practicing this radical simplicity, the reports are encouraging.

They report that they feel freer. They spend significantly less time working at jobs. They are healthier, and their relationships are the richest they’ve been in years.

Even with these appealing outcomes, the change to living a simpler life appears daunting. Does it mean that I have to give all my stuff away. Nope! It means that you start getting deliberate and honest. You have anything that you require to have a safe, healthy, harmonious life. These three criteria are at the root of four questions you can ask about anything you have, or are considering having.

What are these four questions? OK, I’ll share.

  1. Is this possession required for my personal or family safety?
  2. Does this possession promote my well-being or health?
  3. Do I agree with the practices employed to create this possession?
  4. If I don’t have this possession, will my quality of life be truly diminished?

Remember that real honesty is required. Questions like number 3 require us to consider something that we mostly overlook. How was this manufactured? Was the labor employed in a way I would agree with ? Is it done with the most ecologically sound approach? Is the building of this the best use of the natural resources required?

Now here’s the key for the four question exercise. If your answer is no to any of these questions, it’s probably a good idea to pass along the possession if you already have it or not acquire it if you do.

Whew, you may say. That’s a lot. Yep. If you don’t want to drop over the cliff as a consequence of our continuing mindset of more, you are offered this opportunity. It won’t hurt. It will just be a bit uncomfortable for a short while, and then the real benefits will kick in.

I’m writing this not just for you. I was here at my desk until midnight last night. This was very familiar. I could rationalize the situation and say that I don’t normally fall into this type of behavior. I know how easy it is to fall into the old habit, and I’d be off to the races.

The consequences would be more severe this time. I know better. I’ve tasted life without this stress. Good, I say to myself, I can pull back now. Yes, and its this practice of reflection and writing that is bringing me back.

What do you do to maintain your sanity? How do you remember where you have fallen off the path of a balanced life and bring yourself back? Perhaps this is something worthwhile to munch on over the weekend.

Author: Thomas White

Over the past thirty-five years, Thomas White has created and led private and public organizations that initiated breakthroughs in areas as diverse as computer software, publishing, printing, market research, leadership development and organizational change. The common ingredients in his success are simple. He looked beyond the limitations that others believed and found real solutions to needs that business leaders have. He attracted the best talent to translate these innovative solutions into practical products and services that were of high value to customers. He created cultures where people love what they do, work at their best and produce extraordinary results. In addition to his role as a business leader, Thomas has been a pioneer and inventor of technologies in the computer-networking field. He is a patent holder for innovations in business process and workflow technology. As part of his passion for educating others about the interface of human and computer systems, he was the co-author of “New Tools for New Times, The Workflow Paradigm”. He has also written articles for numerous publications. In 2001, he turned his attention from leading companies to supporting leadership teams in creating organizations of excellence. After many years of being a part of the machine of change, Thomas recognized that business is the most powerful force in the world. It has a major impact on public policy and governments everywhere. It is a key influence on how we use our resources and sets an example of the values that shape communities from local to global. He formed the consulting firm of Profoundly Simple to be a guide for exemplary leaders - leaders who wisely uses the power they are entrusted with to serve their constituencies first and themselves second; leaders who know that it is good business to treat people with respect, honor the environment and act with impeccable integrity – leaders who inspire greatness in those around them and by doing so create great organizations that are notable examples of success. Feeling the itch to get back into the game again, Thomas joined with two long time friends, to start the C-Suite Network. This network of business leaders offers an online network, events, services, and insights to its 500,000 member community. In addition, the C-Suite Network produces and distributes television and radio content to an audience of over 5M per month

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