For the past ten years, I have been pretty much into personal development. Well, as a teenager I was already a bit interested in not-so-mainstream topics such as the power of the human mind, psychic phenomena and plenty of other metaphysical topics. It comes to no surprise that my peers thought I was a bit weird, you know how it is. So when I got hooked on to personal development topics later on in life, I was already primed for certain ideas and insights. It came easier for me to hop on from one book or one topic to another without needing a stretch of time to digest certain ideas. I got pretty sucked into it. I read heaps of books, started off my blog Soul Hiker and wrote a few hundred articles to share my insights and experiences with others following the same path.
In those ten years of learning and practice, I did come a long way with a wealth of inner growth but also many pitfalls. What is more relevant is that I have also arrived at a solid practical realization — a kind of a key that unlocks some doors without having to knock them down really. That key is Simple Living or the idea of simplifying life in order to shed away what is unnecessary, inauthentic and a hindrance to your life purpose. The concept might seem obvious but somehow hidden none the less. Personal growth, or rather actualizing your highest potential and becoming the best version of yourself, requires shedding off and letting go of things which are not authentically in line with your Soul agenda rather than putting in a lot of effort to learn or acquire something else. It’s energy-wasting spending hours, days and weeks trying to relearn habits, boosting your confidence, visualising your goals, improving your creativity, doing soul searching, etc. without first simplifying your life. Yes, all these things and others are important personal development tools but I have realised that by doing one thing — engaging in a path of Simple Living — will make everything else effortless. This is particularly true to your goal of self-actualization or becoming the best You.
So in a way, if we only tried to make life simpler and nothing else, it’s already a hundredfold better than trying hard to do other self-improvement stuff — some of which perhaps fail, we give up on or take us a lot of persistence and struggle to achieve. I strongly believe that the message of Simple Living is a very important one and here are some of the reasons why:
Less Noise and Clutter:
In an online course, I created about Simple Living, one of the most important lectures is one which has to do with clearing and decluttering spaces. Not just physical spaces around us (although this is also important) but our inner spaces too. In a way living a simpler life means managing your time and space better. Very often our spaces become cluttered and disordered, making life more difficult than it has to be.
On a physical level, this can be seen in cluttered living or working spaces, rooms in our homes or perhaps disorganized drawers, closets and desks. On an emotional and psychological level, this manifests as mental noise, unclear paths of action, conflicting ideas and lack of a clear purpose. So decluttering our inner and outer spaces will literally clear the obstructions for us (or others: hint) to move freely through them and this will resonate on all other levels of our life. Clearly there is much more to decluttering than routine — it is a way of opening up to life.
Understanding what is Relevant:
Another important concept of simple living is understanding what is necessary vs. what isn’t. It is about distinguishing between our real needs and socially suggested wants. Of course everyone is able to distinguish between the two but we don’t most of the time because we live in a collective trance of consumerism and mass media.
When we start becoming more aware of how much our actions and decisions are influenced by society and culture, we start standing back from it all. It becomes more and more clear that a lot of the things we were made to believe were needs are nothing more than wants and we can do without because they are not authentic to our purpose. This clarity brings with it a sense of power and freedom. In itself it is the spirit of simple living.
So in a nutshell living simply involves being clear about what is relevant, necessary and needed rather than living in a haze or worse living out a social program just like automatons.
The last point naturally brings forth a more interesting topic — that of living an authentic life. But what does living an authentic life really mean? In my view, living authentically means not being limited or confined to live out someone else’s life or a social template laid down to us through our socialization. It means being free of the fear of being judged or disapproved of by your peers and authorities. It means being free to follow your passions and purpose without being infected by those fear-based thoughts transmitted by others.
Creating Space for Inner Creativity:
Of course, authenticity walks hand in hand with creativity. It is natural that creativity requires a degree of freedom from constraints and limited thinking. Free-thinker, artists and bohemians are considered to be creative because they live outside the norms and behavioural rules of society. They are often nonconformists because of this reason. But more importantly, creativity arises when there is enough space for it to flow through and also here I mean inner and outer space.
So having a simplified and clear environmental and inner spaces is conducive to more creativity. The reverse is also true. Try to work in a messy storeroom with machinery noise going on and see whether creativity comes knocking on your door!
Life Purpose in Focus:
People often ask me how is it that they can find their life purpose. Many times I jokingly reply that they are asking the wrong person since it took me a long while to discover mine but I know that a good part of the answer lies in simplicity. In other words, the less physical, mental and emotional obstructions one has in life, the more clear his or her life purpose comes into focus. There is no real mystery here. The perfect analogy to vision is obvious. If you try to look for something — say your TV remote control in a disorganised and overcrowded room — it is going to be more difficult then if there was nothing else in the room besides the remote control. In this scenario, the more you start shedding away the junk and stuff in the room, the better are the chances that what you are looking for comes into view. Same thing with your life purpose. If you are trying to be approved by others by living other people’s goals and standards, the less chance you have of coming close to understand what is authentically your life purpose.
On the other hand, with less obstructions along the way, what genuinely drives you becomes clearer, which brings me to the next point.
Understanding Yourself and Motivations:
Finding your life purpose might not always be a direct result of simplifying your life although a lot of times it is. Sometimes simplifying life brings us first closer to understanding ourselves and our inner motivations which then sheds more light on our true purpose.
Sometimes our motivations and drives are not clear because very often the mind and heart are in conflict or out of sync. With simplicity comes less noise and conflict which in turn makes it easier to have a better understanding of ourself and our motivations.
More Time or Better Management of It:
The natural companion to decluttering spaces is managing our time better. Admittedly, I was always at a loss when it comes to managing my time. But then I found that time is much easier to manage when you take away all those things, chores, pressures and activities which server no purpose. In reality when you are living a simpler life, time management is not so much of an issue anymore. Time management is more relevant when you are bombarded with a thousand chores and activities, the hallmark of a complicated and stress-laden modern lifestyle.
Simple living is moving in the opposite direction to this. So when you are doing only those things and activities which springs out from an authentic sense of passion and belonging, time management is simpler. Of course some time management skills still apply even in simple living — in fact in my course I have also reserved space for this — but it is not the rat-race time management sort of thing; it’s more of a further optimization to an already focused and simple life.