Should you simplify your life?

Have you ever thought about the relationship between complexity and time? It seems like there is one. Did you ever hear of anyone who said they lived a simple life and did not have any time? As our lives become more complex, time seems to become shorter and shorter. As we add more and more stuff to our lives, they become more and more complex. I had three motorcycles and it was confusing to keep them all running and up to date with license, insurance, oil changes, tire pressure etc. When I sold one, I simplified my life and I had more time to enjoy the two bikes I had left.

How often do we think that we are adding to the enjoyment of our lives when we are really diminishing our lives? The things we own and buy begin to possess up. We buy things to make life easier and simpler and ironically the more things we own the more complex and hectic our lives become. Think of all the stuff that you own. You must maintain it, fix it, store it and find it. Half of the time, you probably cannot find what you want anyway. Have you ever gone out to buy something, simply because you cannot find the one you own? We have a very good vegetable peeler and I could not find it the other day. I went to the market and bought two cheap ones so I would always be able to find at least one. I thought I was getting a bargain as they were only $1.99 each. Well, as soon as I started to peel a carrot, I realized why they are so cheap. So now, I have two cheap poor quality peelers than I can find but can hardly use and one very good high quality peeler that is lost someplace in the kitchen drawers.

Is your life now more complex than you would like it to be? How many times have you thought that if your live was simpler, you might enjoy it more and have more time and fun to do what you really wanted to do? Would you like to return to the simpler times? What if you started today to simplify your life? What if each week, you did one act of simplification? Where could you start to simplify your life? What stuff could you get rid of this week? One act a week and at the end of the year, you will taken 52 steps to simplify your life. As they say, all journeys start with the first step. Take a step today to simplify your life.

Do you ever have a "dull" momemt?

Never a dull moment! Do you ever have one of those days that you honestly wished were dull? A day that is without any excitement, surprises or disasters! For some of us, life is so busy that we have no time to think and hardly time to breath. We go from one event to another. We manage one project after another. We have a series of never ending appointments to attend. We careen from one meeting to another, with just time to grab a coffee in between. We fuel our constant state of activity with high energy caffeinated drinks or other energizers. Coffee, donuts and some candies now come with extra dosages of caffeine to fuel our frenzied lifestyles. Calendars, Blackberries and I-Phones are all hot-sellers as we try to manage and schedule the many varied activities that comprise our daily life. We would pity an animal if it led the type of life that some of us lead. We laugh at the rat on the treadmill but many of us have become that rat.

Do you have the type of life that is never dull? What do you think your life would be like if you had a few more “dull” moments? Are you a junkie for action? Do you think time might slow down for you if you were not constantly going from one activity to another? Do you ever take some time for just meditating during the day? Every great spiritual tradition in the world notes the spiritual benefits of meditating. “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)

Try meditating for five minutes today. If you don’t know how to meditate, look it up and find a technique to try. Go to the following website for some ideas and methods on how to meditate: http://www.learningmeditation.com. There are many different ways to meditate. Start off by meditating for only a few minutes each week. Gradually increase the time and number of days that you meditate. Your days will probably not become dull but you will gain a deeper appreciation of life.

What is your personal best?

Your personal best is a term that we usually hear applied to runners and athletes. Generally, it means the best score or time that you achieved at some athletic event or competition. I have a personal best for a ten k run that I did several years ago. I have never exceeded this time. I think when I was about 32 or 33. I was living in a small town in Wisconsin and married to my first wife Julia. She used to go to watch me in my events. As I have grown older, the details have receded from my grasp. However, I still remember the time: 38:48. It seems etched in my mind despite the other details about the race which grow further and further away. I don’t even remember where I placed in the standings. I have now been running for over 35 years but seldom do any races or events.

Surprisingly, I feel better and better as I continue my daily runs. I no longer care about “beating” my personal best. I am more satisfied to simply go out, run, and soak up the wonderful feelings I get from a more leisurely pace. I take the time to see the flowers and observe the animals, birds or whatever crosses my path. I focus more on the quality of my runs and less on how fast or how far I am going. Running does not seem like a chore or a task, but it is something I look forward to doing. If I were obsessed with beating my personal best or cranking out miles, I don’t think I would enjoy it as much or have been running as long as I have.

This raises a very interesting question. We live in a time of intense global competition, where our very lifestyles depend on increasing our productivity almost daily. Our mantra is: “Better, faster, cheaper” and our standard of living depends on accomplishing this mantra. The question then is: “Do we always have to be doing something better and better?” Where does our quality of life fit in? Is more or faster necessarily better? When is slower better? During my race track training with Keith Code from California Superbike School, Keith always told us that “you have to learn how to go slow before you can go fast.”

How can you improve your quality of life today by slowing something down or by taking it easier? Can you let go of some personal best that you have been obsessed with? How much longer will you live if you slow down some today?

Who are you taking for granted?

I just never had the time. A friend died in a motorcycle accident on a mountain road. It was a trip that Karen and I had almost gone on. He was a member of our motorcycle club and a really caring and loving guy. Karen cried on and off all day. I felt like crying myself but somehow I did not have the time to cry or could not find a place to go and cry by myself. Gary was not a best friend but he was someone I liked and admired very much. He always had time for you and I never heard him say anything mean or untoward about another person. If you ran into Gary some place, it was like meeting a long lost friend. He would greet you like the returning Prodigal Son and give you a big bear hug.

Gary was a big man with an even bigger heart. Nobody and I mean nobody disliked Gary. I had intended to see more of him or occasionally go out for coffee with him. He was easy to talk to and more than pleasant to be with. He was always positive and a very fun person. Of course, I never did any of these things with him. About the only time I ever saw Gary was at club rides and club meetings. I am a very BUSY person. I never spent enough time with him or told him how much I thought of him. I just never had the time. I thought he would be around longer. I really did mean to get to it. Who could have known his life would have ended so soon? I wonder if I will ever learn.

Who do you need to spend more time with? Who do you want to spend more time with? Who do you think will be around forever? What if they are not? What if your assumptions about how your friends and relatives will live were all wrong? Who would you want to see today? Maybe you should.

Can you anti-procrastinate today?

Anti-crastination! What does that mean? It is not in the dictionary! Well, it should be. We are all familiar with the word procrastination. In fact, most of us are probably too familiar with it. It means to put off doing something. Generally we say, “Well I will do it tomorrow or I will start tomorrow.” The suffix “pro” means to put forward and “crastination” is for tomorrow. Thus, “anti-crastination” would mean to be “against putting something off.” Most of us are guilty of procrastination but few of us could be said to be guilty of anti-crastination.

The word or concept of anti-crastination could possibly imply compulsive behavior of another sort. Someone who always has to do things “right away” would be an “anti-crastinator.” Someone who can’t rest for a second but is always going from one thing to another or who is always on the doing, doing and doing. A compulsive personality in regards to doing things might be an anti-crastinator. Have you ever wondered where all the anti-crastinators are? It seems like we have many more procrastinators than we do anti-crastinators.

Now some of us might occasionally like to have that compulsion. With less procrastination, we might get more things done and have things weigh on us less heavily. Many of us have had to deal with procrastination in our lives. At times it is simply funny and at other times it is debilitating. We can start disliking ourselves and become severely depressed with too much procrastination. Of course, as with all things, moderation is the best medicine. Sometimes is okay to procrastinate. We don’t always have to be anti-crastinators. We don’t always have to be accomplishing things or getting things done. Nikes famous slogan “Just do it” might be good for a running company but for many of us it becomes a demon urging us to get things done at all costs and with little thought.

So today, look at where it might be better to be a procrastinator. What can or should you put off doing today because: 1. you just don’t feel like it or 2: Maybe it will get done better if you have more time to think about it. Can you give yourself permission to be a procrastinator and still feel good about yourself? What will you put off doing today? How will it feel?

Where is the humor in your life?

Time and humor seem to be related. Have you ever noticed that a good comedian has an extraordinary sense of timing? For a comedian to be funny, their timing has to be spot on. A comedian has to sense the pulse of the audience as well as gauge the temper of the day. For instance, jokes about 911 would probably not sound funny even today due to the seriousness of the tragedy. However, comedians often joke about minor disasters and other failings when the time seems right. Some comedians get away with telling racist and sexist jokes. They are able to sense the mood and nature of the audience. They also have an excellent sense of the Zeitgeist. The Zeitgeist is a German word that roughly translates to “tempo of the times or the sign of the times.” During the sixties, many of us took ourselves very seriously but today we can look back and joke about hippies, Woodstock, flower children and many of the quaint ideas we had back then. Just look at how silly the dress and clothes look from back in the sixties. We thought we were so cool then and now we laugh at how clownish we all looked.

If you watch the evening talk show hosts, they are masters at getting the timing just right with their audience. Even when they flub a joke, they are able to make an instant comeback. Not only do they have to have excellent timing for their jokes but the selection of guests is very critical as well. All of us want to see guests who are current in the public mind for one reason or another. Perhaps they have an upcoming movie, divorce or some other noteworthy event. If they are not connected to any significant happenings, we are not likely to be as interested in them. Being a celebrity has a great deal to do with timing as well as talent. Great celebrities are great marketers.

How do you deal with humor in your life? What in your life today can you laugh at that you might not have been able to years ago? What do you regard as so serious today that you do not ever thing you could laugh at? What if you are wrong? Is your life so serious that you cannot find anything humorous about it? How could you add more humor to your life? How could you find a sense of better timing in your life to deal with humor? When was the last joke you told?

Brother, can you spare me ten seconds?

The 10 Second Rule at Wahoo. The rule at Wahoo, a sort of trendy restaurant among young kids in California is that no one will wait more than ten seconds. Now ten seconds does not seem like a long time “unless” you are waiting. It is well know that our perception of time is psychologically based. The sense of time for us is never fixed nor does time ever seem to flow at the same rate for us. It often depends on what we are doing, when we are doing it or even whom we are doing it with. Waiting for a computer to reboot or waiting for a doctors report can seem to take forever. Waiting in lines at the airport or waiting in line to register our cars or waiting in line at any government office also seems to take forever. The time you spend on vacation or with a new romantic partner will fly by before you even realize it.

But with the fast pace of life today, waiting ten seconds is a long time. Years ago, we might not have thought much of having to wait ten seconds but today the emphasis is on speed and waiting is –for most- the ultimate waste of time. We must be quick today. Productivity and lifestyle all depend on quick. If someone cannot do it quick, we find someone who can. Fast everything is the modern answer to our lives. We have fast restaurants, fast food, instant meals, microwaves, faster and faster computers, sound bites for news and compressed college degrees that you can get in one year and online. Even funerals rarely last more than one hour. Our churches, schools, workplaces and sometimes our families all run on time and by a schedule. If they do not run on time we get impatient and find ways to leave.

Have you ever wondered about a world where ten seconds is a long time? Are we moving so fast that we cannot spare ten seconds for anyone or anything? How do you feel about spending ten seconds doing nothing? Can you spare ten seconds? How often do we drive by someone who needs help because we are in a hurry or because we are late or need to get somewhere for an appointment? When was the last time you spared ten seconds to help someone you did not know? Are you always in a hurry? When could you spare ten seconds? Did you ever want anyone to spare ten seconds for you? What if no one had the time to spare ten seconds for anyone else? Would you want to live in that kind of a world?

What is the flavor of your life?

“Savor Time” like you would savor a good meal! It is interesting that we can talk about savoring a good meal but when is the last time you heard anyone talk about savoring time? We seem to move so fast that time to savor time is practically non-existent. So how would it feel to “savor” time? When we savor a good meal, we linger over it, tasting every morsel very slowly and with great attention and concentration. We let the flavors drift into our body and we enjoy the smells and texture of the food. A steak has one aroma, roast chicken another and a good salad quite a different set of aromas and tastes. Can you imagine trying to enjoy a good meal if there were no aromas and textures to the meal?

If we were to do the same thing over every morsel of time and over every portion of time, would that make our appreciation of our lives any different or any better? It just might. I think we could all gain a greater appreciation for moments of happiness, sadness and loneliness. Funerals give us a time to savor the flavor of sadness. Funerals become healing time for the survivors. The time to linger over the flavor of death is essential to the healing process. Weddings are a time to taste and smell the flavor of great happiness and romance. Family holidays give us equal portions of nostalgia and joy as we reunite we those whom we have not seen for months or years. It seems like we need special events in our lives before we can take time to “smell the roses.”

What if we could learn to savor time on a regular basis? The time you are alive and well today may someday be a great banquet that you will never be able to feast on again. Every day I wake up healthy and well fed is a day of abundance. If I do not take the time to savor these days, I am missing out on the joy of living. When I finally learn to appreciate the days that I have to savor, it might be too late.

See if you can savor just a few morsels of time today. Which ones did you find worth lingering over? What was the experience like? How much more enjoyable would life be if you could savor time more? If you did not find any good morsels, then ask yourself why not? What would it take for you to find some times that were worth savoring? Do you have enough good tastes in your life? Where can you go to improve the quality of your “banquet?”

How many new friends have you created this month?

“Churn Rate” refers to the number of participants who discontinue their use of a service divided by the average number of total participants. In short, how many customers do you lose versus how many do you gain. A cell phone company would measure the number of customers who quit each month divided by their total number of customers for that month. This ratio or rate would be an indicator of how many customers they are losing each month. Another way of looking at this idea of Churn Rate is to ask: “Are more fish jumping into your boat or out of your boat? Churn Rates can vary by day, month or year. However, the rate measures a very important indicator of business success. I once worked for a company where we hooked a great many new potential clients, but we could not keep them in the boat. The hard work to hook the potential client was lost by poor service and delivery techniques further along in our pipeline.

This same concept of “Churn Rate” can also apply to how we treat our friends, families and loved ones. Do we gain more friends as time goes by or do we lose more? Most of us will lose friends and relatives over a lifetime and somewhat like customers, old friends must be replaced by new friends. My 95 year old aunt told me that while most of her “old” friends had now passed away, she had many new friends. Of course, most of her new friends were now younger than she was. She was a healthy and vital 95 year old widow who kept herself surrounded by a strong support group of diminishing “old” friends but was constantly adding “new” friends. It is possible to do this if you really value the role of friendships in your life and if you have an attitude like Will Rogers who once remarked that” He never met a person he did not like.”

How is your Churn Rate for friends and relatives? Do you wish you had more friends but can seldom find the time for the ones you have? What stops you from spending more time with friends and relatives? How long since you have added some new friends to your support network? How long has it been since you have had contact with your best friends? Do you have a best friend? Are you friends and relatives really important to you? If not, perhaps it is time to find some new friends.

Do you have good timing?

Good timin, a tick a tick a tick a tick a
timin is the thing it’s true, good timin’ brought me to you.

These lyrics were written by Jimmy Jones in the sixties. He was one of the early rock and rollers. The song suggests the importance of timing and falling in love. I have always wondered about the idea of “good timing.” It seems to be something that can account for so much good or bad in the world. A friend of mine’s son was killed in a car accident on the way to pick his parents up at the airport as they returned from vacation. He was only 29 years old. A young woman was killed while running on the street when a car veered into her path and struck her. She was 18 years old. A two year old toddler wanders outside on a cold night and dies of exposure. A different time of day, a different day and a different season and all these people would still be alive.

Another person starts a business to sell disk operating systems and becomes the richest person in the world. Sam Walton starts a retail discount business fifty years after Sears, Penney’s, Wards, Grants, Woolworths, Target and K-Mart and becomes the largest discount store in the world. Mary Poppins and the Wizard of Oz both were released during some very troubled times in America and went on to become blockbusters. Their message of hope and optimism came at the right time for millions of people who needed some inspiration.

What does it take to get good timing? Can we develop good timing or is one born with good timing, or is it simply luck. I have never been a believer in the idea of luck making anyone successful. Some pundit once said “luck is where preparation meets opportunity. This suggests that we are the master of our fates and not the victim of random chance. I see a great deal of evidence of this definition of luck when I look at successful writers, businesspeople, athletes and artists.

So how do we account for the factor of good timing? Is timing the one element of success that is random or is timing a factor that is also in our control? Is timing something we can get better at? How good do you think your timing is? Where would you improve your timing if you could? Perhaps by understanding the role that timing plays in our lives we have a better chance of adapting it to our needs.

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