What I’ve learned about simplicity.
Sometimes if feels a bit like nothing has changed. The reasons I first embarked on this simpletomiam mission are still as present as ever in my little life.
This last year I’ve been working hard. Too hard. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed it. In fact, having an exciting and challenging focus has been rewarding. There have been parties and weekends where I’d actually rather be working. My new business is just being born and there’s a lot to do and I’m wanting to do it. I’m not burning out, just yet. I feel like we, the amazing Razvan (my partner) and I could be embarking on a long, rewarding journey.
After a year and a bit in Kenya and in San Francisco wandering, resting and reading – I’ve reacclimatised to the wonder of having a singular purpose and a passion. However, that single-mindedness has left friends, family and loved ones without as much attention as I’d like and they deserve.
But more importantly, the ways I’m working and the way I’m living needs attention. At the moment, I’m pushing myself and the pushing isn’t helping.
When I truly let go in the past and allowed my natural energy and drive to determine my work I found that, despite my fears that I might slip into a apathetic slumber, I found a natural, self-fulfilling energy and drive which propelled me forward. In the absence of goals, there was a great freedom and achievement.
Leo Baubatua and Tim Ferris talk about that in this video. But there’s something that Leo doesn’t mention which I experienced – the fact that, in the absence of goals, it’s possible to achieve more.
Here’s a slightly clunky analogy about progress – it’s like pushing against a moving object. No matter how hard you push the object moves at the same speed. However, the pushing is exhausting. If you spent 5 minutes pushing as hard as you could against a wall, whether it were moving or not – you too would end up exhausted.
Now imagine just wandering behind that moving object, letting it move of its own accord.
That’s how I feel about my own progress. There are two ways to be:
1) Trying as hard as possible to move that object as far and as fast as I can. Which is exhausting and because it is exhausting, it means that I can’t do it for that long and a lot of the energy is used up in the pushing, rather than the natural momentum.
2) Trusting that the object will move of its own accord and going along with it, even being carried by it.
It’s not just work that suffers from this, but other things, like love. The more that it’s pushed by the desire for love, the less natural the love itself, at least in the longer term.
The reason for slipping into 1) is fear that without effort, things might stop moving and there would be no practice. In order to get to 2), one has to trust that if we stop pushing, things will still move.
That’s the difficult bit. Letting go. Plus it’s also hard to distinguish between pushing and propelling. There are still difficulties pursuing the second option and painful tasks that need to be accomplished. But the motivators are different – when I find myself in the ‘zone’, being propelled by a natural energy, these tasks form a component part of a much richer direction and therefore I can do these tasks without frustration, which in turn, often improve the quality of thought that goes into the tasks.
In the day-to-day, moving from 1) to 2) is very difficult.
A few things have helped me try to make this transition – these include:
– Trusting and trying it for a while. As stupid as this sounds, many people simply haven’t given it a chance. My time in Kenya and before was an experiment. Coupled with period in life where I’ve not had to do things, there have been plenty of achievements. It took a bit of trust to give it a go, but now that I know the outcome, I’m aware of what can be done.
– Understanding that by pushing, I lose my objectivity and energy for exploration, which in turn affects my ability to commit to the task in hand. Being exhausted doesn’t help move anything.
– Failing. Sometimes even when we push, things go backward. That has helped remind me to recognize that using forced energy can not just be wasted, but be deconstructive. By attaching too much importance to things, there can be negative consequences. Anger, frustration and anxiety almost never contribute positively.
So, bringing the wisdom home, I need to remind myself daily that this is a journey. I have a dynamo and ambition inside of myself that whirrs whether I want it to… and it’s powerful enough without desperately trying to fuel it. By recognising and trusting that it will take me where I want to go, I am free to go where I want to go.
Now to implement…