Simplicity gets a bad rep. This is unfortunate because I believe it’s the answer to a margin-less, overwhelmed life. So, let’s begin with this.
Simplicity is an invitation to freedom.
Simplicity is an invitation to freedom.
I emphasize both words intentionally. Sometimes this invitation is hard and difficult, but as someone once said, “Before the truth sets you free, it makes you miserable.” I find this to be generally true.
Simplicity also starts with the heart, not with rearranging external habits or changing your lifestyle. You can sell your stuff tomorrow and still be filled with pride and greed. This means money itself is neither good or bad. What matters is your heart’s relationship towards money. “You cannot serve God and money,” Jesus says. “The love of money is the root of all evil,” Paul says. Both Jesus and Paul focus on motives, not actions.
Bringing this thing full circle, I believe simplicity is an undivided heart, a singular focus or desire on one thing, namely God, Jesus and the gospel.
Choices are infinite today. Literally. And too often, we allow the myriad of options to dilute our desire and distract us from what matters.
In his book, The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz says we suffer today from too many choices. That sounds counter-intuitive, I know. Choice represents freedom, after all. This is true, to a point. Without the ability to choose, we’re enslaved. But, as Schwartz argues, we also become paralyzed and stagnant in the face of endless choices.
Simplicity does not ask you to sell everything, necessarily. It is also not a never-ending quest for more, a thirst to have the biggest and best. Simplicity is a content heart, one that’s balanced and attuned to what matters most.
With that said, here are four ways to embrace a life of simplicity.
1. Choose something, and see it through.
When choices are limitless, committing to something, anything sounds restrictive and risky. What if I miss something? What if something better comes along? It’s the classic case of F.O.M.O.
When you’re always thinking about what’s next, you can’t be fully present where you are. And presence is the only way to experience abundant life.
2. Invest in meaningful relationships, not more stuff.
The Paradox of Choice talks about factors leading to happiness. Shocker (not really) people in wealthier countries are happier than those in poorer countries. But, surprisingly, once a nation reaches a certain level of wealth, it has almost no effect. As it relates to happiness, in other words, wealth matters until you reach the point of living a sustainable life. After that, wealth matters not.
Instead, Schwartz says, close relationships separate people whose lives are sustainable.
Once you reach a certain point, further riches only isolate and divide. This is a great knock against individualism. It denies the connection we have with one another. It says status and stuff can give you the same things as relationships, without the messy, time-consuming parts.
Status and stuff will not replace love, belonging and connection.
This is just not true. Stuff can’t replace love, belonging and connection.
3. Lower your expectations.
Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.
Expectations are resentments waiting to happen. Very rarely will your expectations of some future event match the actual event. And we do this quite often, do we not? We expect our wedding day to go this way. We expect the business meeting to end that way. We place expectations on everything, from the Starbucks barista to the family vaca.
And many times, most times, expectations don’t match reality, and the result is frustration, disappointment, regret, even shame.
Simplicity is a call to lower your expectations, to embrace the moment for what it is, not what you want it to be. Simplicity is an invitation to embrace the ordinary, rather than expecting life to “one up” itself at every turn.
4. Stop allowing your neighbor to answer the question, “How am I doing?”
How is my marriage? What about my relationship with God? Am I growing professionally? These are good questions to ask, but too often we look across the street or across the pew or on social media for the answer.
This is a silly game that creates shallow people.
Simplicity asks you to stop playing a loser’s game, stop putting makeup over wounds, and enjoy some peace and contentment. Competing against your neighbor always inflates or deflates your ego (depending on which neighbor is being compared) and neither lead you towards an abundant life.
Much more could be said, but I hope you consider the refreshing challenge to embrace simplicity.
Grace and peace, friends.