Editor's Note | Simplify Your Life
It's not about just sustaining or materializing life. It's about truly living life.
Somewhere along the way we got the notion that more is better. Unfortunately we spend most of our time pursuing more, which means we aren't content with less. (Or simply just content, period.) Whatever happened to 'less is more'? And, to simplify, more of what? Or less of what? That's the key question.
I read some striking statistics in the book, Affluenza — The All Consuming Epidemic, by John de Graff. He points out that Americans boast a higher GDP than Europeans because Europeans use a larger portion of their productivity for leisure, and leisure isn't a GDP 'product.' "Americans," he notes, "work nearly nine weeks longer each year than the Western Europeans." And yet Europeans seem to be faring much better than we are in terms of general health rates. Coincidental? He continues:
"We (Americans) have the most product, the widest choices, but is that what life is about? I think our priorities are out of whack. We have the greatest gap among industrialized nations between rich and poor, and that seems to press everybody to compete to live like the people at the top. We focus on producing and consuming stuff, and we've forgotten that all of these other values are losing out: friendships and family, health and civic participation, a future for our children."
I consider this to be a profound spiritual crisis. Think about it — we now earn three times as much as our grandparents did, so why aren't we three times as happy? Income and earning money gets emphasized more than happiness, family, or even freedom. We daily jog on a sturdy treadmill of materialism, but don't seem to be gaining much ground in areas of real importance. As the holidays, and all their materialism tidal-wave around us, we need to consider some fundamental questions about where we're going, and why. For example:
- If money were no object, what would you do in life?
- If you have only 5 years left to live, how would you change your life?
- If you had only a day to live, what did you NOT get to do, or become?
It's not about just sustaining or materializing life. It's about truly living life. Life isn't a race or a competition to win; it's a canvas to paint or a blank page on which to write. How poetically do you life your life? How often do you seize the day? Can you define what's deeply meaningful in your life? Do you live your life pursuing or strengthening that meaning? Which would rank higher — your job or family, your stuff or your friendships? Do you take time for creativity and spirituality in your life? Typically, when people honestly answer these types of questions, having more or enough isn't as important to them as having intimacy and connection with the ones they love, and personal inner growth. Not surprisingly, much of what we really want doesn't cost a lot of money. But pursuing our dreams does require management of money, and sometimes choosing to downsize and apply a budget.
For me it all comes down to time. How we spend it — how we consume it. Time is what you really need to give to others, and really, what you want from them. Time is money, and your attention and focus is a gift. Think about that as you decide what to 'get' your mom for Christmas this year.