Our modern life­styles are any­thing but sim­ple – we have to meet fam­ily obli­ga­tions, keep up with our friend­ship cir­cle, stay fit and en­sure the bosses are happy. But there are ways to make your life sim­pler – here are seven steps you can fol­low to en­sure

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Amanda Visser Editorial@fin­week.co.za

most­peo­ple are rush­ing and rac­ing through each day try­ing to sur­vive. To do this, they have to make money – and more money. Ul­ti­mately, they en­deav­our to reach a point where they can live a sim­ple life.

How­ever, con­sumed by this mad rush, they find that they them­selves – their lives, re­la­tion­ships, fi­nance and health – have be­come so darn com­pli­cated. Sim­plic­ity seems like a lux­ury.

The au­thors of How to Sim­plify your Life, Tiki Kusten­macher and Lothar J. Sei­w­ert, reckon the way of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion trig­gers a sort of “a-ha ef­fect”.

“The big­gest stress fac­tor for your mind is mul­ti­ple tasks. This ap­plies to ev­ery­thing we do. If you do not know where to start, you can­not make progress.”

The au­thors com­pare the way of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion to a pyramid. The pyramid is made up of seven steps to get to the top – each one rep­re­sent­ing the var­i­ous ar­eas of life.

Step 1: Sim­plify your things

Ap­par­ently each per­son, on av­er­age, owns over 10 000 “things”. These items are part of the low­est step on the pyramid. Sim­pli­fy­ing this part of your life does not mean that you have to be­come a min­i­mal­ist or that you have to have your of­fice or house in per­fect or­der. It sim­ply means to de­clut­ter.

Imag­ine clear­ing your of­fice or a room in your house by di­vid­ing the floor or an ad­di­tional ta­ble into four ar­eas.

1. Area for throw­ing away: Ear­mark the big­gest space for this. Get rid of those old Christ­mas cards, or those maps or old pre­sen­ta­tions. 2. Area for “for­ward­ing”: Ev­ery­thing that you can pass on to oth­ers to deal with. In­clude ev­ery­one in this process – fam­ily mem­bers, col­leagues or even a char­ity or­gan­i­sa­tion. 3. Area for im­por­tant stuff: Make sure there is a clear plan for each of the items that lands in this area.

4. Area for im­me­di­ate ac­tion: These are ob­jects that should be cleared the minute the de­clut­ter­ing process starts.

Step 2: Sim­plify your fi­nances

The au­thors re­fer to a Ti­betan say­ing about the proper mea­sure of wealth: a per­son is rich when they know that they have enough. Peo­ple have a few men­tal bar­ri­ers that pre­vent them from sim­pli­fy­ing their fi­nances. These in­clude wor­ry­ing about the “what ifs”, dream­ing of win­ning the lot­tery, and hav­ing the word “but” in their minds and when they have con­ver­sa­tions.

Step 3: Sim­plify your time

The au­thors ask an ex­tremely per­ti­nent ques­tion – how is it that some peo­ple have no time while oth­ers get bored eas­ily? When some­one has no time, the dis­or­der is not in their time, but in their tasks. There are sim­ply too many things to do. “Sim­pli­fi­ca­tion does not mean ‘sav­ing time’ but rather ‘sav­ing tasks’.”

Ac­cord­ing to the au­thors this no­tion that per­fec­tion is achiev­able is a myth of modern in­dus­trial society. It has been ham­mered into our un­con­scious minds mil­lions of times by ad­ver­tis­ing, which is try­ing to con­vince us that we could have the per­fect house, a stun­ning body or com­plete fi­nan­cial plan for re­tire­ment.

Their ad­vice is to pri­ori­tise tasks and keep to them, to re­alise that not ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble and that you need to be able to say no and mean it.

Step 4: Sim­plify your health

The au­thors stress that be­ing healthy means more than just not be­ing ill: “But be­ing healthy also means be­ing al­lowed to be ill.

“There is hardly any other level of your life pyramid where mak­ing a pos­i­tive start is as im­por­tant as it is here.”

And there are truly sim­ple ways of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. Phys­i­cal ex­er­cise causes beta-en­dor­phins to be re­leased in the body. Kusten­macher says the ideal ac­tiv­ity would be danc­ing, which com­bines the pos­i­tive ef­fect of mu­sic with so­cial con­tact.

How­ever, tak­ing the stairs, walk­ing, gar­den­ing or jog­ging will also do the trick.

Your diet can also have a huge im­pact on how you feel. If you have a spe­cific is­sue to ad­dress, try the fol­low­ing foods:

Im­prove con­cen­tra­tion: av­o­ca­does, as­para­gus, car­rots, grape­fruit En­hance mem­ory: milk, nuts, rice Re­duce stress: cot­tage cheese, al­monds, brewer’s yeast En­hance well-be­ing: beans, peas, tofu Im­prove your mood: orange juice, pa­prika, soy­beans, ba­nanas You also need to en­sure that you get enough sleep. “Do not try to com­pen­sate for a pe­riod when you sleep much too lit­tle by sleep­ing a lot; that can cause de­pres­sion and ap­a­thy,” the au­thors warn.

A per­son is rich when they know that they have enough.

Step 5: Sim­plify your re­la­tion­ships

A life with­out good re­la­tion­ships is poor and com­pli­cated; a life with friends and ac­quain­tances is rich and sim­ple. One idea of sim­pli­fy­ing re­la­tion­ships is to un­tan­gle fam­ily ties. The re­la­tion­ship with one’s par­ents is the most im­por­tant one. Be aware of their age and that they will not be able to talk openly about ev­ery­thing as you can. Lis­ten to them, cut­ting them short by say­ing you have heard a par­tic­u­lar story a thou­sand times is more hurt­ful than they will let on.

Ac­cord­ing to Kusten­macher and Sei­w­ert, one of the big­gest fac­tors pre­vent­ing you from cre­at­ing last­ing re­la­tion­ships is the urge to judge oth­ers. Some peo­ple just have

to crit­i­cise: “Clear out your box of judg­ments and prej­u­dices.”

Some peo­ple also see it as their duty to find solutions to other peo­ple’s prob­lems. Re­alise that you can make your life so much eas­ier and sim­pler if you re­strict your­self to mat­ters that only you can change.

Step 6: Sim­plify your life part­ner­ship

The Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist John Gray wrote the highly ac­claimed book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus in which he il­lus­trates that men and women are fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent in the way they solve prob­lems.

Men want to solve prob­lems, alone if pos­si­ble, al­most like a handy­man. Women see prob­lems as an oc­ca­sion for com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The au­thors say that many peo­ple are frus­trated in mar­riages and part­ner­ships be­cause the other per­son does not per­ceive their wants and needs. It is im­por­tant to make re­quests prop­erly and to ac­cept “no” as an an­swer. And, stop nag­ging. Re­ally.

Start mak­ing joint de­ci­sions about your old age now. Make that will, de­cide when you will move into a smaller place and rec­on­cile with whomever you need to.

“The way of sim­pli­fi­ca­tion has be­come more and more se­ri­ous… this is about fi­nal mat­ters,” they add.

Step 7: Sim­plify your­self

“Ev­ery per­son – even some­one with the most un­spec­tac­u­lar, chaotic, or mis­er­able life – has a goal.” Ac­cord­ing to Kusten­macher and Sei­w­ert this goal is fed from four sources: life it­self, your par­ents’ wishes, your tal­ents and weak­nesses and your life’s dream.

Sim­plify your­self by re­liev­ing your con­science of “ex­ag­ger­ated, un­healthy feel­ings of guilt”. Iden­tify the is­sues (those lit­tle judges sit­ting on your shoul­der) which make you feel guilty. Give them time off. Look for some­one to whom you can in­tro­duce them, and do not be afraid to re­veal more about your­self.

Keep a di­ary and make sure it is un­cen­sored. Be hon­est with your­self and make time to write. Even if you take these steps, it is not to say that your life will be free of stress or prob­lems – i.e. fi­nan­cial wor­ries and stress at work or in your re­la­tion­ships. But at least your life will no longer be a “chaotic en­tity gov­erned by pure chance”.

John Gray Psy­chol­o­gist and au­thor

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