Remember the famous author Henry David Thoreau? In Walden Pond, Thoreau confined himself to a one-room cabin and showed the world what it’s like to live by the mantra, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”
While none of us probably need to take it to that extreme, many of us lead lives that are way more complicated than they need to be. Most of these complications arise for one simple reason: We do not have a bottom line, or we ignore the one we do have.
But most of the complications in our lives are avoidable once we identify and internalize our bottom line, something some of us have never really done. Start by identifying your bottom line for the 10 issues below:
- How much you take on. Can you say no? Do you? What are you doing right now that you don’t enjoy, that doesn’t build you up, or that doesn’t give you any type of payoff for your time? Can you eliminate that from your life?
2. Who you spend your time with. If you tend to stay in relationships even when they no longer support and sustain you, ask yourself why. Give yourself permission to step away from people who really haven’t been great friends or who drain your energy or try your patience. God doesn’t tell you that you have to choose people who are difficult – just that you need to extend them grace.
3. What you expect of your children. Your children are their own people, not clones of you. Keep your expectations realistic and teach your kids how to treat you and others. Know which hills you’re willing to die on and what you can let go of because it just doesn’t matter.
4. What you expect of your partner. Standards are important, and the person you choose for a partner should meet those standards, assuming they are reasonable and the person is capable of doing so. If not, compromise is key. All relationships go through rough patches, but overall, your relationship should be supportive, loving, and happy.
5. What you refuse to do. Some decisions are black and white, and you need to know where you stand when it comes to inherent beliefs. When you are true to yourself – and to what God asks of you – you won’t find yourself wavering and giving in to something you will regret later. This includes stances on drinking and driving, betraying your spouse or a friend, or signing on for a political or religious function that doesn’t align with your beliefs.
6. What your priorities are. If you work all week, do you insist on spending the weekends with your family? If you haven’t seen your bestie in a month, is that too long? If you miss a deadline at work, do you beat yourself up about it? Know your priorities so you don’t allow distractions to pull you away from them. And reassess your priorities every once in a while, as they tend to change.
7. What upsets you. If you’re in touch with this part of yourself, you can avoid situations, people, or decisions that will ultimately lead to your unhappiness. If your mother-in-law makes hurtful statements every time you see her, talk to your husband about how he can help in these situations. Limit get-togethers if need be. Or speak directly to her if you feel she’d be receptive. God tells us that anger is destructive, so work out solutions that will keep anger at bay.
8. What frustrates you. If you suffer from road rage, seek a way to avoid rush hour. If dirty dishes in the sink make you seethe with resentment, tell your family members that their days of being sloths are over. Identify what sets you off and come up with a plan to head those triggers off at the pass.
9. How you react to upsetting and frustrating situations. Even if you are 100 percent right, you’ll feel miserable if you allow others to frustrate and upset you. It’s a trite expression but a true one: You can’t control others’ behaviors, but you can control how you react to them.
10. And finally, what kind of person you choose to be. The most important bottom line is this one. You only have one go-around in this physical world before eternity with Christ. How do you want to do it? How do you want people to remember you? Figure out your bottom line for all of the above, then take a look at the bigger picture – at who you are and how you want to grow as a person.
Just one change can set off a series of positive and even life-changing rewards. Find your bottom line and start putting it into practice, and before you know it, your life will be simplified, simplified, simplified.