Simplicity is constantly under attack. Perhaps a more accurate statement is that we are trapped by complexity, which seems to be our default setting, and simplicity becomes the casualty as a barrage of complexity invades our lives.
Our hurried lifestyles and constant scurrying after progress certainly add complexity to life by giving too many choices too often.
How can we discover who we truly are and what makes us happy if we are constantly distracted by choices thrown at us by progress?
Yet progress is impossible to completely ward off, and we soon discover that we must simply and deliberately choose to not take it all in. Even the Amish, who represent a long-forgotten simplicity in life, live lives more complicated than they once were. Even though they don’t personally maintain them, the fact that the Amish are the focus of many web sites and are themselves a tourist attraction shows the impossibility of keeping progress at bay even when simplicity is a religious doctrine.
Interestingly, the Amish are such a draw because of their simplicity. Life used to only become complicated mostly by choice. Now, complexity happens to us at the speed of progress.
Teaching my boys that value of simplicity is a focus of mine. These lessons include a deliberate limiting of extra-curricular activities, a focusing of time and efforts on fewer and better quality activities, and a prioritizing of events and opportunities that constantly present themselves.
We’ve also incorporated simplicity into our eating. With about 20 meals that we cycle through, my guys love that they get their favorites often. Because they feel the quality of their meals are better since they regularly have their favorites, they more look forward to meals. We also find simple joy sharing these favorites regularly.
When I first began to deliberately simplify my life, I thought I was pursuing simplicity in order to be healthy and strong. My initial push for simplicity came after undiagnosed food allergies created an environment where depression, anxiety and illness thrived. This experience not only forced me to simplify my eating habits, but it also directed me toward a less-stressful and more fulfilling career.
At first, I was very unhappy at what I saw as a severely limiting diet. But the illnesses caused by my food allergies provided the necessarily motivation to pursue lifestyle change.
For the first year, I convinced myself that having multiple food allergies (dairy, gluten, eggs, crabs and cashews) would cause misery for the rest of my life. I hated reading all the food labels, I quit going to my favorite restaurants, and I had to cook separate meals for myself. Oh, and allergen-friendly food is more expensive too.
Now, years later, adapting my diet feels quite natural, and I find that less food choices makes grocery shopping much easier. Plus, my husband and I no longer go through our usual back and forth “Where do you want to eat?” conversation when dining out. We basically have 3-4 choices most of the time, and choosing among those few is definitely much simpler than choosing among the myriad of options found in most cities.
So many people feel trapped by complexity. They feel hopeless because a way out keeps alluding them. At least, that’s how I felt when I just couldn’t climb out of the pit (turns out there is a labyrinth in the pit too). Yet, taking the first few deliberate steps toward simplification often starts the momentum needed to affect major change.
While I didn’t know what change needed to take place for me to be healthy, I kept looking and trying and adjusting. Eventually, I discovered many small changes that added up to make a huge difference for healing in my life.
Our complex culture and lifestyle attacks any intentions to simplify. Complexity seems to happen without any effort while simplifying requires intentionality.
Complexity pursues. Simplicity must be pursued. And while complexity will never cease to pursue, simplicity will begin to pursue as we allow room for it to do so by slowly pushing out the complex.
DISCUSSION: What is one area in your life you would like to simplify? What small steps could you take to begin that process?