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5 ways to simplify your life

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The hustle and bustle of this holiday season can wreak havoc on your stress levels. Stress is the power you give to outside circumstance to define what you believe you are capable of handling successfully.

 According to Harvard Medical, 80% of disease or more is stress related. Yet, our society rewards the hustle which is ignited by drive and determination to succeed.

This is all fine and well until that drive and determination start to rob you of healthy habits that allow you to thrive and survive: breathe, laugh, connect to the present moment and the people you love, healthy sleep patterns, food, exercise, and meditation.  

Drive and determination demand a certain level of speed at which you are able to accomplish what you want to achieve. When you drop in the extra components connected to the holiday season, distraction slithers into the picture and discernment around what is essential and what is non-essential diminishes.

As distraction increases, discernment decreases and along with it so does productivity as you flit from one shiny object to the next. The solution? Get back to the basic behaviors that align with what you value most. How? Make a conscious effort to create simplicity in your life.  

An example of simplicity comes from a childhood memory. When I was five years old, I noticed one acorn on the ground, it captivated my attention so much so that I picked it up and put it in my big red wagon. I saw another one, and another one and with each acorn that I found I added it to my collection of acorns in my red wagon. I was determined to fill the wagon all the way to the top with acorns. At first I was distracted by the daunting task in front of me; however, as I focused on picking up the next acorn, I lost track of time. After two hours, I looked at my red wagon and it was completely full of acorns.

Fast forward 31 years later I found myself walking through the experience of advanced cancer. As the doctor described the next few years of treatment, which included a double mastectomy, 2 years of chemotherapy, 14 surgeries, 6 weeks of radiation and experimental treatments I found myself completely distracted and overwhelmed by all of it.

 I was reminded of the simplicity of my red wagon memory when a colleague of mine sent me a card that said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” _______________. It’s true, I have evidence that demands the verdict: when you focus on the simplicity of your next step, distraction decreases and discernment increases. 

As I focused on the next step (the next acorn to pick up) without giving free rent between my two ears to the distraction of the past and fears around the future, my ability to productively move through the challenging season increased substantially.  

So, what does that mean for you? Are you focusing on all of the acorns you want to pick up and your huge empty red wagon? OR are you focusing on the one acorn that’s effortlessly in your reach to pick up and put in your wagon? Your choice of focus on the simplicity of your next action step will decrease the distraction that fuels overwhelm and stress, and increase productivity. As much as we think that multi-tasking is a badge of honor, it’s not. In fact, when we try to do more than one activity at a time, our brains get fatigued and stress increases.  

What’s the upside for you when it comes to the hustle in life? What do you get from that? A sense of purpose? Significance? “When I’m hustling about, I feel important, I’m busy getting things done” …so that? “So that I’ll be able to do I really want to do: exercise, meditate, get a good night of sleep, read a book, spend time with the people I love and care about, get outside, enjoy the moments.” The problem with connecting your hustle to your desire to do what you really want to do is that too often than not, you never get there. Hustle gets replaced with more hustle. Your identity gets hijacked by your to-do list. 

“When I am what I do, when I don’t, I’m not.”
Wayne Dyer

You are the only one to who can stop the madness and get back to picking up one acorn at a time and before you know it, your red wagon will be full. You are the gatekeeper when it comes to halting the hustle behaviors that are robbing you of simplicity which gives room for authentic joy and refreshment. Stop it.

When the doctors told me they were trying to get me 5 more years of life at 38 years old with 3 young children, the hustle was halted for me, my business, my life being important, my full calendar of essential to do items and meeting…all of it came to a screeching halt. I was forced to stop and in the midst of it all, something magical started to happen, the wonderment of life started to sprout through the concrete of what I thought was essential and important in life.  

Don’t wait until your life is halted for you before you choose to step in and resurrect the simplicity of enjoying the moment of life in front of your face. 

As Eckart Tolle wisely declared in his work The Power of Now“There is no moment of life that occurs outside the present moment.” As soon as we start to think outside of the moment at hand, we lose something very essential to our sense of wonderment: the sweet spot of our next breath which activates the part of our brain that triggers creative solutions. Stress goes down quickly when the mind is fully present to the task at hand.  

Below are five ways to expand simplicity this holiday season: 

  1. Stop and intentionally make time for the people you care about in life. Simplify it: text or email one co-worker a day a few words of appreciation. Your greatest sense of purpose is in direct proportion to your ability to show up and encourage people around you.
  2. Rather than using social media to post what you think about this or that situation, use it to send simple messages of encouragement and inspiration. Reduce the time spent on those platforms in order to recover time to spend appreciating the life in front of your face.
  3. Intentionally look for the beauty in life: people laughing, children playing, sunsets, random acts of kindness. Be the one who intentionally creates beauty: laugh more, hum, whistle, sing. Each of those activities actually reduces the stress hormone in your body. 
  4. As you are creating your to-do list for the week. Inject time for personal refreshment. Simplify it: 3 times during the day I will get up and go outside, declare 3 things I am grateful for and breathe deeply for 1-3 minutes. Be creative. 
  5. Simplify your mind by intentionally participating in a negativity fast. It takes 3 positive thoughts to override the damage in our minds from 1 negative thought. Stop complaining. Complaining actually shrinks your brain, whether you are the one complaining or you hang out with people who complain. Simplify your life and surround yourself with people who speak into the possible and who practice grateful living.  

Be very careful what you think because your body is listening. As you Intentionally seek to create moments of simplicity, calm and presence will result in inner peace along with an ability to discern what is essential and what is non-essential. Meditate on what is good, true, beautiful, excellent and praiseworthy more today than yesterday.

Enjoy your holiday season.  

 Lauren E Miller, has a Masters in Adult Education with a Certification in Human Resources Development. She has personally conquered two of life’s top stressors at the same time, advanced cancer and divorce. Now Stress Relief Expert, Award Winning Author, HRD Trainer and Certified Sherpa Executive Coach, Lauren provides process driven programs and custom trainings with structure, guidance, support and accountability designed to create positive change in behavior resulting in positive impact on business (IOB) and life purpose.  Explore more at