by Stephanie Harbison ~
What would life look like if things in life were less complicated? Would people be happier, less stressed, or feel more empowered to make big decisions? Would we be healthier, have better relationships, and perhaps even be more successful?
About two years ago I had to ask myself that question. “What IF my life didn’t feel so complicated?” At the time I was dealing with a recurring illness that was taking a lot of my energy and confidence; I was overwhelmed with work and had too many outside commitments; and I wasn’t making time for the people I cared about most. I couldn’t even make time for the simple things I really enjoyed, like cooking or running — they actually just caused me more stress!
This was definitely a time when I did NOT feel like I was thriving. Life just felt so complicated and I longed for the days when things were simpler; when I could just enjoy the moment. I didn’t want to worry about living up to society’s standards for success, I just wanted to be myself. I wanted life to feel simple again.
Like the days when you were a kid and you could play all day in the pool with your friends and never worry if anyone was judging you, or wonder if there were something more productive you should be doing. Or when you found the perfect pumpkin in the pumpkin patch and were so excited to carve it as soon as you got home.
And sleeping in … oh the days of sleeping in and not thinking about a laundry list of all there was to do that day. That’s the kind of simple I missed. So I started to envision what my life would look like if it was simpler, and what would I change to make it that way.
I envisioned being able to enjoy the things I care about without feeling distracted. Being more present, so I can be a better listener and a better friend. Feeling at peace, even when circumstances aren’t perfect. Finding purpose, even in simple everyday tasks. And making room in my life for the “good stuff,” so I could actually experience all of the blessings in my life.
I’m working on simplifying my life as I write this, but a lot of it has to do with changing my perspective. Instead of feeling unproductive for just watching football with friends and family, I want to cherish that time instead. Rather than dreading the grocery store or cooking dinner, I will find the things I like about those tasks and decide to enjoy them instead. Being intentionally positive is not always easy, but when I do it, I feel I can start to enjoy the little things a lot more.
I also realized I wasn’t dedicating enough time to the things I said were important to me; my supposed priorities. For me, these things are my faith in God, my family, and my health. I was spending plenty of time at work and with outside activities. I would offer to take the lead on any and every opportunity that came my way. Eventually, I had no energy to dedicate to what brings me the most happiness.
In order to bring life back to what makes me happy, I have learned I need to say “NO” to opportunities without feeling guilty, build routines around my priorities and “schedule” in free time. That last one is the hardest most days, but it is when I can be free to relax and read a book, go visit a friend, or say yes to an unexpected dinner invitation. The best stuff happens when you make time for the unplanned.
So what would I say about my life today? It’s a work in progress. Some days I feel energized by all that they day brings, and I feel like a multitasking queen! Other days I feel the weight of all the expectations I set upon myself. It’s on those days that I need to remember to take it one day at a time and not to feel guilty if I just don’t feel like being superwoman that day. Tomorrow is a new day and has enough worries for itself. Today, I will choose to live simply.