A Simple Life Isn’t About Reducing the Amount of ‘Stuff’

A Simple Life Isn’t About Reducing the Amount of ‘Stuff’

For some reason this week, my mind has gone to simplicity and complexity — the feeling of having nothing that I ​need​ to do and yet doing the things I want to, no matter how seemingly complex.

In life and work we think that complexity is about our circumstances — how much stuff we have, how many people or projects we manage.

We believe that, if we control things or people, if we reduce our stuff and keep everything in its place, we’ll be more comfortable with that complexity: that creating simplicity on the outside can create a feeling of simplicity and calm on the inside.

In work, there’s talk of being able to ‘manage change’, of being agile — words that imply some kind of control of or response to what’s out there, that being on top of circumstances is a first step to being able to manage ourselves and others.

In the personal development space, we’re seeing a trend towards minimalism — the premise being that the world is more complex now than ever, and the less ‘stuff’ we have around us, the less we have to think about, the clearer our minds will be, and therefore the happier and more peaceful our lives.

And yes, there does seem to be a correlation between having peace of mind, and being able to ‘manage’ everything life throws at us.

But which way does the causality run?

 

Does Simplicity Create Peace of Mind?

 

I love the ​idea​ of keeping things simple, it definitely seems as if it’s the way to create peace of mind.

And yet…

…I look at what’s actually going on in my life and somehow my reality contrasts sharply with this ‘ideal’.

At home, I thought I was downsizing, making my physical surroundings small and modest, to give me more choices and ‘freedom’ outside. Turns out I’m moving towards something bigger, older, and more demanding of my attention than where I currently live.

In business, where I thought I had a clean, straightforward way of working, it turns out I’m creating projects that involve managing others, with layers of relationships with individuals and organisations I never imagined I would have.

And yet, rather than any feeling of complexity in either domain, life feels easy, it feels slow (mostly!) and it feels unpressured. I don’t take on responsibility for things that are not mine, and I don’t experience change or unforeseen events as problematic or overwhelming.

Well, mostly…

…we’re all human sometimes 😉

Why is this?

Why is it that going against the grain of what we’re told will help us create simplicity, is the way to find a feeling of an effortless life, well lived?

 

Apparently Not…

 

It isn’t about the ‘stuff’.

We’re moving and sometimes my husband panics about how much there is to pack,

“We have so much stuff!” he cries.

It looks to him as if it’s the ‘stuff’ that is causing him to feel the way he does, and that we need to do something immediately to either reduce, or manage the ‘stuff’ so that he can feel better.

Mostly I ignore him. I know that it isn’t the ‘stuff’ that is causing his momentary anxiety and that responding to the feeling is likely to reinforce his misunderstanding.

We don’t really have that much stuff and it will get packed when it gets packed.

 

It’s Like Falling Off a Bike

 

We were out with the dog earlier this week and we saw a small boy fall off his bike. The boy’s immediate reaction was to turn around and look for his parents.

His mum had seen the fall, and she smiled.

And then ignored him.

She wasn’t being a bad parent, she could see that he was OK, she was simply teaching him not to make a fuss when he wasn’t really injured.

The boy picked himself up and rode off. You could almost read his mind as the thought of “oh well, I must be OK then,” flashed through his brain and any pain or desire to cry disintegrated in an instant.

You see, his reaction — to cry or not to cry — didn’t come from the fall, it came from the thought ​that he might be in pain.

It’s an obvious example that any parent (or pet owner!) knows to do.

We want to show our children their innate resilience, so we make a judgement about the severity of the fall and our reaction is an example to the child.

We might not think of it like this, but we’re teaching them which thoughts to pay attention to, and which to ignore and allow to pass on by. By ignoring the idea of pain, the child can get back on the bike and ride on without making, or feeling the need to make a fuss.

In this example we’d see it as an over-reaction to take the bike away and never allow the child to experience risk. We know that the degree of pain is in the child’s head, that some risk is inevitable, and that being scared of falling is more likely to lead to an injury.

And we also know that it’s better to encourage the child to develop an open and free mind to enjoy life, and be ready to respond to dangers as they arise (of course, while exercising reasonable caution.) ​

 

In Life, We Take Our Bikes Away

 

In life, though, we seem to have lost sight of the wisdom of developing this freedom of mind. We operate with the professional and personal equivalent of taking away our bike to minimise any current and future pain. We think that controlling our circumstances is the way to manage our emotions.

We get so wrapped up with the notion that we must remove complexity if we want to experience peace of mind that we forget that complexity is a consequence of what we’re thinking — not of what’s ​out there.

In the same way the boy can experience pain, or not, from a minor fall from his bike. Or that my husband can one day panic about the amount of ‘stuff’ we have and the next be totally at peace with how our move is progressing, so each of us is operating from our state of mind, not the state of our circumstances.

Right now, I find myself creating complexity in a work project, and yet I’m experiencing it as joyful, easy and effortless.

And the same is true for you: the feeling of self-assurance and certainty that you think will result from managing what’s in front of you, is available to you no matter how complex your personal or professional circumstances.

And it’s the feeling that gives you the authority and the confidence to manage those circumstances to the best of your ability — just as the boy on the bike will have more enjoyment from his cycling adventures the freer his mind becomes.

 

It’s All in the Mind

 

This freedom of mind is the key for you to unlock an easier way to live and higher performance at work.

From that state of mind, it might occur to you to create a simple life, with minimalism on the outside.

Or it might not.

Like me, you might pursue projects that require ways of interacting with people that might, at one stage of your career, have been considered ‘high risk’ or ‘high stakes’. And that, now, simply appear as the obvious next step in creating what you want.

Or you might create more simplicity — sell your stuff, create a succession plan at work, slow down.

Whatever emerges in your life, know this: complexity isn’t about the outside world. ‘Change management’ isn’t something you ‘do’, it’s an effect of knowing who you are.

How you show up to your circumstances dictates how they turn out.

Like that child falling off a bike, you can cry, and believe it’s because of the bike, or you can shrug, get back on, and continue to enjoy the ride that life’s taking you on.

From that perspective complexity is irrelevant; love of life is the only thing that matters.

With love,

Cathy

Enter your email address to receive exclusive updates and resources, as well as invitations to insider-only free calls and seminars.

Powered by ConvertKit
Let Go of ‘Busyness’ and See What’s in Front of You

Let Go of ‘Busyness’ and See What’s in Front of You

Slow Doesn’t Equal Passive

 

I was with a client recently talking about appreciating what’s in front of us and following our curiosity, versus aggressively hunting down the thing that we think is going to make us happy.

When I talk like this, about slowing down to see what’s around us, following what we know, seeing beyond the fog of our thoughts to the clarity and focus beyond them, it can come across as if I’m advising people to slow down to the speed of stationary traffic.

But I don’t want to be passive!

she said, with a tone of mild panic.

I get this a lot.

 

What is ‘More’ Anyway?

 

As my clients (and you!) experiment with slowing down their thoughts, losing the ‘busyness’ and letting go of the need to control everything, some of them fear what’s on the other side, and even resist letting go.

What if they slow down so much they can’t get started again? What then? And so, they cling on to habits of behaviour derived from patterns of thinking.

And society reinforces this conditioning.

School, work, the management and productivity literature centres on ‘doing’ as the source of value; as if the raison d’être of life is the output and we are only being purposeful when we are heading for the thing we’ve set our sights on.

Sure, it can be fun to ‘get more’ out of life but what is ‘more’ anyway? What are we chasing at the end of the day?

 

The ‘Big Five’

 

To show my client that there’s a different way to behave, I told her about my experience living in Africa when we spent a lot of time in game parks.

People focus on the big five,

I told her.

But some of those animals are difficult to spot; you can drive around all day long and see nothing — at least if that’s where your focus is.

If you learn to appreciate what’s in front of you, then you begin to see the joy and the sophistication of some of those lesser-known, less photographed species. I became familiar with the different species of antelope, and the birdlife.

Whatever you turn your eye to can be enthralling — it isn’t about the animal on the other end of the binoculars, it’s the way you look at them.

 

Don’t Move Until There’s Something to See

 

Part of this appreciation and growing love for what’s in front of you also affects the pace of life, it opens you up to opportunity.

Sure, we slow down when we’re more present, but we also speed up when speed is appropriate. This is as far from ‘settling’, and ‘passivity’ as it’s possible to get.

I went on to share a story about an experience in Rwanda, where my family and I took a boat trip with a ranger.

We got on the boat and meandered around the edges of the lake, looking at the colourful weaver birds and their intricate nests; appreciating what was in front of us.

Suddenly, the ranger fired up the boat and set off, at top speed, to the other side of the lake. I looked where he was looking and saw what he’d seen — elephant.

When he saw something worth chasing, there was no stopping and no diversion until we got there. Two bull elephants were inches away from us, cooling off in the shallows, pulling at the reeds.

The ranger turned the engine off and we floated, almost able to reach out and touch those magnificent animals, watching them watching us.

We stayed like that for, oh perhaps an hour. There was nothing to do and no need to rush off for the next ‘experience’.

 

I Tell you This, Why?

 

What’s in this story? Why do I even tell you stories like this? What’s the relevance?

It’s so obvious, I think, when we shift the context of the story, that there’s no point ‘hunting’ something down when we don’t know what we’re looking for.

And yet, in work, in life, we do this all the time. We pick a ‘thing’ and then we go for it; assuming that happiness lies on the other side of getting what we think we want.

Sure, in the game park, we set off knowing elephant were somewhere around us, and wouldn’t it be great to see them!

We were simply enjoying the scenery and the animals we could see until the moment there was something else worth seeing. We weren’t impatient, we weren’t creating ‘busy work’, we weren’t frustrated about what wasn’t there, we were appreciative of what was.

And then, in a flash, there was something else to see; something that lit a fire under all of us, and we went all out to see the elephant.

It’s exactly like this in life, we can chase something that isn’t there, or we can be present, doing what looks like meandering, appreciating what’s in front of us, until we catch a glimpse of the opportunity that lights us up.

In that moment when we meet someone, we hear about a job opportunity, we get a sniff of an exciting new project, when inspiration strikes, that’s the moment to head off at full pelt.

That’s the moment to put everything into the person or the project or the idea. That’s when we move, when we’ve found what the next big commitment: when it appears in front of us.

An easy life isn’t a passive life, and it isn’t a slow life.

It’s all about being present so that, when the elephant appears, you’re ready to move, ready to do your absolute best, ready to go for it.

And, in between times, there is plenty of life to be lived. Why not enjoy it?

With love,

Cathy

 

P.S. I always love to hear from you, message me and tell me what’s going on for you and where in your life you’d like to leave behind some of the ‘busyness’ so you can appreciate what’s in front of you.

Enter your email address to receive exclusive updates and resources, as well as invitations to insider-only free calls and seminars.

Powered by ConvertKit
Are You Waiting to Grow into Your Shoes?

Are You Waiting to Grow into Your Shoes?

From time to time I have clients who are entering a new phase of their life or work – a big promotion, starting or entering a growth phase of a business, perhaps something in their personal lives. Although they never quite use these words the feeling that strikes me is that they are waiting to grow into something – that the role, like a pair of shoes, is “too big” for them and they need to grow into it.

The work we do together helps them feel comfortable and confident, totally at ease in their situation, even looking ahead ready for the next thing.

Here’s the thing, we are always equipped for where we are—how could we not be?—we simply don’t feel it. The feeling of not being ready, not being good enough, not being competent enough, comes from our thought in the moment.

Sure, sometimes there are skills and experience to be gained, but how we feel about where we are and therefore the actions that we take, comes from our state of mind.

Like driving a car. If you drive, there will have been times when you felt as if there was all too much going on at any one time – too many levers and pedals (certainly in the UK where we all drive a ‘stick shift’) and how on earth are we going to be able to remember everything at once?

While the newness of the experience is real, we can take it in our stride or we can panic about it – and that’s the difference that coaching brings to someone experiencing a big step up – the learning curve is inevitable but how we manage the learning curve and how we perform while we’re on it is down to us.

The better we manage it, the more rapidly we’ll progress. Not just to the step we’ve taken, but the step that’s beyond this, and beyond, and beyond.

Where in your life are you taking a step up and how’s your state of mind?

Are you filling out the shoes or feeling like you still need to grow into them?

With love,

Cathy

Enter your email address to receive exclusive updates and resources, as well as invitations to insider-only free calls and seminars.

Powered by ConvertKit
What’s Your Relationship with Success? (And Why This Is More Important That Any ‘Success Strategy’!)

What’s Your Relationship with Success? (And Why This Is More Important That Any ‘Success Strategy’!)

You Can Have What You Want… (but not by doing the things you think you should)

 

Earlier this week I recorded a podcast with my dear friend Maren: The Paradox of Success: how understanding the relationship with what you want is the key to unlocking success in all areas of your life.

If you’re working on ​anything in your life — at home or at work — then tune in and listen to our conversation about how to get more of what you want.

At the heart of this discussion is our relationship with what we want.

It turns out that how we feel, and how we feel out our feelings, is the key to achieving everything that (we think) we want in life.

Why is this? And how can it be the case that this is more important than ‘taking massive action’?

 

Massive Action?

 

We’re told that ‘focus’ and ‘commitment’ (fist-pumping actions optional!) are the key to achievement. That we have to ‘set goals’, ‘show up’, ‘do what it takes’.

And yes, of course, if we don’t ​do​ anything, then nothing happens. I can sit at my keyboard, but these emails don’t write themselves!

 

Creates a Stranglehold

 

We’ve all seen those movies where the guy or the gal is soooo desperate for a relationship that he or she pushes away any potential partner. And it’s often at the moment of letting go, that love falls in their lap.

It’s exactly the same in life and work: holding on too tightly to the thing we think we want will squeeze the life out of it.

But how do we square this circle? How do we bring together ​action​, with ​lack of attachment​? It can appear paradoxical.

 

Unlocking Attachment

 

And what is attachment anyway?

As Maren asks (and answers) in the podcast, it’s something that we’re (innocently) making up through thought. We don’t actually ​live​ in the future, we live in the present, so it has to be the case that everything we’re making up about having that job, or achieving success in our business, is coming from what we imagine it will bring us, and — crucially — ​how we think it will make us feel​.

This is key to unlocking the paradox.

We make up a story about how ‘having’ something (or not having it) will make us feel a certain way.

But how can that be the case?

It’s because feelings are intricately connected with what we think; they’re not ‘transmitted’ through the air from the thing that we’re looking at. We make up meaning, and then we live into it as if it’s true.

But what’s the alternative?

We want to ‘do well’ in life? We want to have things and to contribute to the world around us, to be in loving relationships, have children perhaps, friends certainly. Does it all mean nothing??

Not at all!

 

The ‘Game’ of Winning

 

Success is a game.

It’s like tennis. Or football (ouch, sore point this week!) It’s no more ‘real’ than any sport of game my eighteen-year-old son might play on his PlayStation. We choose our sport and we play full out. And, we know it’s a sport.

That’s the key to solving the paradox.

Because, when all’s said and done, we are not what we do. We are not the career, or the clothes, or the ‘identity’ we take on in our short lives. We are so much more than this.

We are an expression of what it means to be alive, we are a source of unlimited ideas and creativity. A source of love and joy. And, if we bring ​those​ ​qualities​ to the game, we’re sure to win, whatever the outcome.

Listen in to hear the full discussion.

With love,

Cathy

Enter your email address to receive exclusive updates and resources, as well as invitations to insider-only free calls and seminars.

Powered by ConvertKit
Do You Ever Feel Unappreciated? Not Listened To? Well, There’s a Simple Solution

Do You Ever Feel Unappreciated? Not Listened To? Well, There’s a Simple Solution

Why doesn’t he listen to me?

 

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re talking and someone isn’t listening?

Or that your work is unappreciated?

It happens to me in my relationship. Not all the time, and it isn’t a factor of whether he is actually listening, it’s totally related to whether the distraction bothers me or not.

I know I’m not alone in this. I have clients and friends who complain that their children don’t appreciate them,

Look at this fabulous meal I cooked for you!

Or who never get noticed at work,

My boss never notices when I go above and beyond!

Or who feel unappreciated for the time and energy they spend volunteering,

No-one cares! Why should I bother?

We think it’s about them; about the person who doesn’t appreciate / listen / respect / value us…

If only that person could…

We hear ourselves saying.

But that’s not really what’s going on. And, until we know the cause, we can’t work on a solution.

 

What About ‘Boundaries’?

 

Some coaches would tell you it’s about boundaries. About setting in place rules and restrictions to limit how much you give, what you should and shouldn’t do, and even which people to let into your life.

Or they might tell you that you have to make the other person understand how you feel, that a good heart to heart is the solution.

And sometimes those things work, but never for the reasons we think.

Because, you see, it’s never about the other person.

We live our lives through the stories our mind creates and the way we feel is inextricably entwined with those thoughts.

I can’t possibly feel irritated at my husband without the entanglement of an irritated state of mind. The irritation comes from me, not from him. If it was caused by him and the way he was (wasn’t) listening, then why, at other times, would I feel compassion for his distraction, or a sense of love and understanding at the disorientation of his own emotional experience?

Life is never fixed; our feelings are never fixed.

In that single moment I feel irritated and, if I look outward for a cause, I’m sure to find one — there are plenty of people and circumstances to ‘blame’ if I choose to look.

But when I know my irritation is coming from me, then there is nothing to look for and only myself to settle down.

 

What Do You Already Know?

 

Sometimes we have a sense of this, which is why we seek out a moment alone to ‘calm down’. It’s why we cultivate a peaceful state of mind through mindfulness and meditation.

We know that no good comes from acting out of anger and that the world will look different ‘in the morning’.

But what’s going on here? And why wait until the morning? If the cause is never what it looks like then why not drop the stories as soon as we see them for what they are?

Is it because we hang on to a remnant of an identity we associate with our stories? Is it because we don’t know who we’d be without them? That we’re scared we might lose a sense of self?

But, what if it’s holding on to that sense of ‘self’ that’s keeping us in the bad feeling?

 

Behind the Stories…

 

When we drop all our stories about what the outside world is ‘doing’ to us, we can connect with an experience that goes beyond self.

This is why the ‘heart-to-heart’ conversation works. Not because we’re explaining ourselves, or being heard, but because we’re bathing ourselves, and the other person, momentarily, in pure, unconditional love.

It’s love that brings the good feeling, and love that’s waiting beneath the narrative. When we sense it, we are sensing something that is present for all of us, and any divisions between us no longer exist.

When we keep ourselves absorbed in the smallness of our stories, we push away that deep peace of mind — a peace of mind that seems to heal all wounds, that gives us a clarity, a state of conscious awareness, a feeling of what the ancients might have called ‘enlightenment’.

 

…Is Everything We Ever Need

 

‘Enlightenment’, if I can stay with this word, isn’t something mystical, although the word certainly suggests it. We probably prefer to call it flow, quiet, calm, happiness, love.

Whatever word you use, it isn’t a place to reach after many years of meditation, or a psychedelic drug experience. It’s something that is describing a state we all fall into when we let go of our attachment to creating meaning from the outside.

The dictionary definition of enlightenment talks about understanding. And I know, when I feel as if I’m not being listened to, I’ve fallen out of my understanding of life.

I’ve fallen out of ‘love’ and I’m caught in a holographic representation of what I’m thinking. I’m living a dream-like version of a story, rather than seeing what’s true.

 

The Feeling of Being Alive

 

My husband likes to talk about finding the joy in everything and I know what he means by that.

He doesn’t pay attention to whatever he thinks about the task in front of him — sure, some things he finds boring, but why bother to ‘think’ that when he can simply think something else? He knows what we all know, which is how to absorb himself in the experience of being alive. When we do this we lose judgement and we lose our stories.

And that, my friend, is the very thing that wakes us up to the feeling of being alive.

Who could possibly want more than that?

With love,

Cathy

Enter your email address to receive exclusive updates and resources, as well as invitations to insider-only free calls and seminars.

Powered by ConvertKit