I want there to be magic pill. It would come in a bright blue bottle with a big smiley face on the front. It would promise and it would deliver.

I would take one pill and a sip of water and as it slid down my throat all of my problems would melt away.

I wouldn’t get frustrated any more, I’d never feel afraid, I’d never be unsure of myself, or lack the confidence to succeed.

I would be patient and charming, cool and composed, wise and compassionate.

I would have a full head of hair, a full bank account, and no credit card debt.

I’d have the perfect relationship, I’d always know what to say, and I would never ever ever get spinach stuck in my teeth.

I would know everything about everything. People would stop Googling things and start Tokuing instead.

I would be beautiful, perfect, and infallible.

Oh how I want there to be a pill.

But each morning I wake up and I have less hair. I make mistakes. I struggle to be present. I work hard on my dreams and fall short.

Each morning I wake up and my throat is scratchy, or my back aches, or I’m in a bad mood.

Each morning I wake up without a pill, just this imperfect body, this monkey mind, and the impermanent and ever decaying world.

And each morning I work to be more grateful, kind, and compassionate (even though I’m often not.)

Because while there isn’t a pill the solution is simple.

This is your life, your body, your karma, and each day you get to make a choice which nudges the needle one way or the other.

You can choose the variety, the complexity, the bright and shiny.
Or you can choose the simple, the spacious, the clear and sublime.

You can choose to open and love, or to grasp and close.

The choice isn’t easy. In fact sometimes it’s really really hard.

But each time you choose the simple path, the path of generosity, the path of love, you move open the door to your cage and step ever closer to freedom.



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How to Simplify Your Life On One Sheet of Paper

Why Simplify?

One of the biggest fears I deal with during my initial consultations with clients is the fear of having more to do. Many new clients worry that they won’t have the time or energy to meet the demands a coach or trainer might put on them. Often I know they have this fear before they express it, because I see it in their eyes when they walk in the door.

And I get it, if you look out at most self help, personal training, and life coaching approaches out there that is what they offer. They want to help you free up energy so you can do more: more exercise, more work, and more activities. They paint this picture of the do everything, be everything, man or woman who is a titan of industry and a master of their lives.

Of course, this ideal has a certain appeal. I mean who wouldn’t want to have wealth, fame, and power. And how else are you going to get there without being able to do everything all while looking like a model and eating a perfect diet?

But what I’ve found again and again is that although this image is appealing it’s not one that actually speaks to the hearts of most of the people I meet or work with. Sure it appeals to our egos’ and to the media’s image of success, but it rarely equates to the deep satisfaction that people think this idealized lifestyle will give them.

Finding Deep Satisfaction

Instead, I’ve found that deeply satisfying lives are often the opposite of this ideal. Deep satisfaction comes not from doing more but from doing less. Not from being perfect or looking perfect, but by embracing our imperfections and humanity. Not from conquering the world, but living in a peaceful relationship with it.

Of course, this is easier than it sounds. There is a lot of cultural energy pulling us to always do more, instead of doing less and being ourselves. So I want to offer a few of the many reasons why I think it’s so important to simplify your life in order to find the peace, happiness, and meaning so many of us long for.

Simplicity Helps You Focus

Imagine you walk into a bedroom filled with many things. There are a few items in this room that matter more than anything to the person who lives there. But as you look at the room, it’s hard to pick these items out. All you see are lots of items and while some might seem more important than others. The sheer number keeps your mind from knowing for sure.

Now imagine you walk into a bedroom filled with just a few things. In this room, the few things you see are obviously important. They stand out against the background of the space that surrounds them. In just a few moments, you can easily determine the things the person who lives here cares about.

Our lives are very much like these rooms. When we have many things in our lives it becomes harder for us and for others to tell what matters. But when we empty our lives of things we don’t need it’s so much easier to focus on what’s really important.

Simplicity Helps You Connect

Imagine you walk into an office. The receptionist seems to be sending a fax and also answering a phone. She puts her finger up and asks you to hold on a second without making eye contact. Next, she writes down a note, curses at the fax machine, and then looks up to ask you what she can help you with.

Now imagine you walk into that same office but this time the receptionists looks up immediately and smiles at you. He waits for you to come up to his desk and says hello. He asks you what he can help you with.

They way we greet people when we are overly busy and when we are present is just like these two receptionists. When I get stressed, I find that if I try to connect my ability to be present with others is limited. But when I slow down I see people, I really meet them, and that helps me form stronger bonds with them.

Simplicity Helps You Be Happy

Imagine you have 20 things to do today. Each of them is tightly scheduled, then on your way to your first meeting of the day you get a flat tire. As you wait for a tow truck, your anxiety level rises, knowing that this blip is going to throw everything off.

Now imagine you have just 4 – 6 things to do today. Each of them is important, but you’ve left some space in your schedule so you can have time to focus on each one. Then you get a flat tire. Sure you’re bummed but you realize that while your day may be a bit more hectic you’ll still have time to get much of what you wanted to get done completed. You are able to enjoy a few minutes in the car just relaxing as you wait.

I’ve found that when I over plan or over schedule I create a very limited set of circumstances that will let me be happy. But if instead I create space and focus on what’s important, I am more open to dealing with life’s little hiccups.

Simplicity Heals

Of course, there are many more reasons I could offer for why simplicity can make such a huge difference. It can save you money, help you live longer, and help you be more honest. But the reason that simplifying is so powerful is that as we let go of what’s extra our lives become lighter.

Instead of carrying around all these obligations, fears, stories, and ‘shoulds’ simplicity helps you walk with only those things you need the most. And even though the work you do to simplify your life can be difficult the results are amazing. Which is why despite the pull that each of us feels to be more busy, to do more and to be more I encourage people again and again to pick up what matters and let go of what doesn’t.

How To Simplify

Ok so by now you know why you should simplify, but the next question is how. Well I could give you a long complex set of steps, but just so I’m practicing what I preach I’ll give you a very short simple one.

  1. Take out a piece of paper
  2. At the top write: Things I don’t need.
  3. And then start writing, list possessions you don’t need, obligations you don’t need, people who suck your energy you don’t need and anything else that comes to mind.
  4. Then look at your list and choose one of those things.
  5. Your tasks for today is to take one concrete step to let go of that thing.
  6. If it’s a physical object then take it to goodwill, throw it in the trash or put it in your car so you can get rid of it.
  7. If it’s an obligation write an email explaining why you can’t do it.
  8. No matter what the step is keep it simple.

Continuing Practice

So obviously, this one small act won’t change everything, but it’s a start. A very small simple start. The key to bigger and bigger change is not to make this more complex, but to repeat this task again and again. Sure there will be obstacles, sure things will get hard, but those things are what you need to experience to get to the simple life you want.

Need to Know More?

If you want to know more or have questions shoot me an email. Next week I’m going to do an all questions answered posts where I answer any questions my readers have about anything I have ever written or done. Just remember to keep your email simple 😉


This Simple Moment

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This Simple Moment

I stood there letting the water wash over my body. I could feel the stream of warm liquid course over my back. I could hear the drops patter onto the shower floor. The pressure of the showerhead created a low and slightly oscillating shhushhshhhh. And here was this body feeling the sensations of being alive.

I turned around and cupped my hands, waiting for the plumbing and gravity to do its work. When my hands were full, I lifted the water up onto my face and closing my eyes, I let this silky cloth of warmth fall slowly over me. I took a deep breath and let it all the way out.

You see it’s very simple.

Not life. Life is complicated and confusing and scary and frustrating. But this moment. This moment is simple.

In this moment, everything can just fall away, like water falls away from your face.

In this moment, you can find a space in between everything else that can be a refuge in almost any storm.

In this moment, you can find a simplicity that’s more quenching then the coldest water.

So stop and be still. Stop looking for a better moment. Instead, look for the simple joy where you are right now.


The 5 Minimalist Planning Skills – as taught by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

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5 Minimalist Skills To Simplify Your Life – As taught by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Life is simple?
How many of your friends have dropped their phone in the toilet?
Think about it.

What does that say about our society?
Are we so connected and so busy we can’t even take a second to use the bathroom?

Sure modern life is complicated. But what if it doesn’t have to be that way. What if we could learn to live more simply and with more joy?

I recently attended a webinar with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits about simplifying your day. First, he shared 11 obstacles to simplification
1. Underestimating Completion Time
2. Overestimating Capacity
3. The Ease of Yes
4. Misallocating Personal Resources
5. Distractions
6. We Forget To Make Time for What’s Important
7. The Demands of Others
8. Wanting to Please Others
9. E-mail
10. Expectations
11. Small Task Mode

He explained how these 11 habits can get us of track and keep us stressed out. Then went on to explain a short set of skills we can use to overcome them.

5 Minimalist Skills to Simplify Your Life
These 5 skills are the ways he discovered to living a simpler and more fulfilling life. And though none of them are secret or revolutionary there application can be.

Often we don’t pay close attention to how we spend our time. We move from one activity to the next responding to situations without considering the bigger picture. As soon as we get going the momentum of activity carries us away.

Leo defines consciousness as deciding ahead of time how you are going to live your life.

He says we need to continually ask, “Is this how I want to be spending my time?” Is this in line with my values?” And then assess the answer.

You can make this assessment at the beginning of each hour, each day, each week, then look again at the end of the day, and see how you did. The key to simplification is to make sure you have a system with reminders built in.

2. Mindfulness
Making good choices about how we spend our time is a great start. But if we are not careful during the day, we can easily get off track. Many of the obstacles that Leo listed arise in the moment. And without mindfulness, we won’t be able to notice and avoid them.

He identified 4 things that we need to be especially mindful of: expectations, plans, goals, and energy levels. When we are mindful of these things we can start to make simple conscious choices about how to spend our time.

3. Limits
Leo defined limits as tools for consciousness. Setting limits creates cues for us to check in see what we are doing.

One way is to simply limit the number of things you have on your to do list. Another is to limit the amount of time you spend on work in a week or a day. Leo suggested setting working hours after which you shut off your phone and computer or to only do email in limited amounts of time.

4. Priorities
Leo points out that when we first list our priorities we may have 10 or 15 items on our list. As we begin to use the tools we’ve already talked about we realize that there isn’t enough time to do all of them.

We can try, but Leo warns that when we say yes to everything you are really saying no to all of them.

If we underestimate time and over predict capacity, then we will be unable to do all of these things proficiently. And in the process, we will actually destroy our capacity to handle an even short list of items.

Stress and overwork will take their toll and lead to distraction or burnout.

So, Leo encourages us to shorten and simplify our list by ordering priorities and regularly eliminating the bottom item. We simply see what the least important and bow out by contacting those involved and excusing ourselves from that responsibility.

Every item we eliminate gives us more energy to focus on what is more important.

5. Negotiate
Negotiations have to do with expectations. Leo warns that expectations can significantly affect our ability to simplify our day.

But he doesn’t think that we can just wish away these expectations. Instead, he encourages us to renegotiate them.

First, we need to renegotiate our own expectations. There is nothing wrong with being driven and focused, but often we think we can do it all. Leo encourages us to focus on a few important tasks. If we have extra time we can always do more, but this assures that the important things get done first.

Next, you need to renegotiate expectations with everyone else. This could include your family, friends, or coworkers. If you explain what you are doing and why, you may find more support than you expect.

Like a Boss
Leo noted that many people fear renegotiating with their boss. We often view our bosses as inflexible. And are afraid that if we say we want to do less, our jobs may be at risk. So, Leo offered his personal experience of how he used this technique with his boss, back when he had one.

First, Leo would go in and say he thought all the things on his to do list were important. But that he knew couldn’t get them all done today. He asked to collaborate with his boss to make sure their priorities were in line for that day.

He would work with his boss to identify what was important and what he thought he could do that day. Once they came to an understanding he would go out and get to work.

If he got done with the list early, he would go back to his boss and talk with her about what else might be important to do.

This not only helped Leo manage his day better. But helped him communicate more clearly with his boss, which no doubt built some rapport between them.

What’s Really Important?
At the end of the webinar, Leo shared a lovely bit of wisdom. He reminds us that our expectations and ideals can cause a lot of anxiety in our lives. In truth, we don’t really know what is going to happen. The future is unexpected.

Leo reminded everyone that what’s really important is being happy right now. There is no way to know if all of your dreams will come true. But if you work at it, you can learn to be happy right now.

And whether your day is simple or complicated remembering this one thing can make a huge difference.

What tricks do you use to simplify your day?

MindFitMove Practice:
Make a list of what you’d like to get done today.
Now eliminate the bottom item.
Set a time that you will you stop and take a break.

When you do take a break, reflect on 3 questions:
How’s it going?
What could I do better next time?
What did I totally rock at?

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Simplify Now: The 10 Obstacles To Radical Simplification

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Simplify Now: The 10 Obstacles To Radical Simplification (Based on a Webinar by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits) 

What Time Is It?

My hands hurt. My eyes hurt. And I’ve got a crick in my neck that would make the Spanish inquisition tremble.

As my mind ticks away at all my daily tasks I hear a soft thumping in the hallway that matches the pounding in my head. I suddenly realize that it’s my girlfriend walking up the stairs on her way home from work. Her key in the lock wakes me from my daze.

What time is it? What have I been doing?

I feel tired and cranky and I fear the question she is going to ask me. It’s the same one she asks me almost everyday. What did you do today?

I’ve spent all day working but if feels like I haven’t gotten anywhere. I feel defeated and confused. What the hell happened?

Working Hard
This happens to all of us. We get caught up in working and a whole day vanishes before our eyes. We work hard, but it feels like we are hardly working.

Our jobs can feel like a Sisyphusian task, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can choose to live differently, to live more simply, to do less, and get more done.

I recently attended a webinar with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits about simplifying your day and here is what I learned.

What does it mean to simplify your day?

It means different things to different people.
It could mean taking time to write, exercise, spend time with family, and enjoy a good book.
Or it could mean working on a project you are passionate about, coordinating with a team, and collaborating with your boss.

Everyone’s simplified day looks different, but there is one universal theme.
Simplifying your day means making time for what’s important.

Well as Leo Babauta pointed out we all strive for this, but we get caught. And the same things often catch us.

He identified 10 main obstacles to simplifying your day and one bonus obstacle that I’m sure you’ve gotten caught up in as well.

10 Obstacles to Simplifying Your Day.

1. Underestimating Completion Time
Completion time is simply how long it takes to get something done. We are good at guessing a general completion time, but we often gloss over transitional steps.

The example Leo gave was that before the webinar he decided to go on a run. He wanted to run 8 miles and at 9 minutes a mile he should be able to complete his run in 1 hour and change and have plenty of time before his webinar. But he failed to factor in things like putting on his shoes, grabbing his keys, and making his post run smoothie.

Because of that he was still drinking his smoothie as he signed on to the webinar. This is something we’ve all done before. We don’t think about all the extra little steps that are added to other tasks.

We often plan for everything to go perfectly and things rarely do. These small steps and delays add up and before we know if our whole day has gotten off track.

2. Overestimating Capacity
Many people underestimate what they are capable of, but overestimate what they can do. Leo gave the example of a typical daily to do list.

Let’s say you make a long to do list for your day. You work all day and can’t get it done. Instead of simplifying your list, you think, “Man I need to work harder tomorrow.” So, you add that list to tomorrows list.

Tomorrow you work even harder and get your list done. So you think, Wow look at everything I did. Maybe if I work even harder I can get more done. So, no matter if you do your list or not you end up trying to do more.

This process leads to you rushing through your tasks and results in a ton of stress. Even if you get a lot done, you probably aren’t doing it well.

3. The Ease of Yes
Saying yes is so easy, especially when you say yes to someone else. We rarely say yes to things like exercise or self care, but we are great at saying yes to all sort of other things.

Leo tells us that fulfillment is much harder than commitment. Saying yes only takes a second, but fulfilling that commitment takes time and energy, which are two of our most precious resources.

We always think we are going to have more time, more energy, and more money in the future. But when we say yes all the time, we run out of these resources faster that we think. Our short-term commitments eat up everything and we never

4. Misallocating Personal Resources-
One thing I always tell my clients is “You are your most valuable resource.” We are great at protecting our assets but often neglect to honor the precious resources of our energy and attention.

Leo gives the example of waking up early and working hard all morning. But because you have pushed yourself, in the afternoon you are spent.

You have to take a nap or you just can’t seem to get going. Even if you do take a nap, you might find that you are groggy all afternoon and can’t really work effectively.

When we misallocate our resources, we don’t have energy for what’s really important. We find ourselves rushing around and tiring before we can get anything done.

5. Distractions
Distractions are not new, but with the pace of modern technology the amount of time and energy that we can lose to distractions is greater than ever.

Leo gives the example of sitting down to write. But first he wants to do this one little thing. That one little thing leads to another. And then he has to check something else and then something else.

All of a sudden, he looks up, it’s five o’clock, and he never got around to writing. He spent the whole day caught up in distracting tasks.

Distractions always start will a small diversion, but if we’re not careful they can eat a ton of our time. All those little 5 min diversions add up to a ton of lost time and energy.

6. We Forget To Make Time for What’s Important
Most of us know what’s important to us, but we often don’t live our lives in accord with our values. Leo notes that most people value things like spending time with loved ones, creative work, and self-care.

But even though we care about those things we forget to prioritize them. Because those things don’t jump out and demand our attention. We have to make a conscious choice to focus on the things that really matter.

7. The Demands of Others
Humans are by their very nature social animals, but if we don’t have direction we can get lost in the herd. My teacher used to tell me, “Without strong vows, you will spend your whole life caught in someone else’s agenda.”

Leo said that you could spend all day answering emails and responding to phone calls. But this means you are letting other people dictate your day.

Working with others is great. But if you don’t find a balance, your priorities will get lost in the shuffle.

8. Wanting to Please Others
Other people are not the enemy, but even people with good intentions can get us off track. Leo noted that simplifying your day doesn’t mean we should never try to help others. But there has to be a limit.

If we don’t set these limits, we not only become stressed out, but we lose the ability to be present. And that doesn’t benefit those whom we want to help.

9. E-mail
Leo put this in a category all its own, because E-mail can become a black hole from which nothing escapes.

There are many good reasons you need email. A lot of our work is done there and it can help us organize our correspondence. But when you are working in your inbox, other things are always coming in. There may be questions, requests, and/or the demands of others.

Leo warns that email can expand to whatever time we give it. Which means email demands a special kind of awareness.

10. Expectations
My father always used to tell me, “You’ve got to inspect what you expect.” Expectations are common, but often lead to a load of problems. Because when reality doesn’t match our expectations, suffering ensues.

Leo identified 2 categories of expectations that act as obstacles.
1. Our Own expectations- This is how much we think we can do, who we think we should be, and how we think we should respond. These expectations can lead to inner criticism and doubt. They also often hide the fact that we are actually doing a kick ass job.

2. Other peoples expectations – This includes what everyone expects us to be able to do, who they expect us to be, and how the think we should react.

It’s really easy to get tied up into knots about these expectations. They begin with the primary relationship we have with our parents, continue through school, and then expand, as we become an adult.

They can be a prison that keeps us from realizing our potential or maintaining balance in our lives. But for living a human life, expectations are par for the course. If we aren’t aware of these expectations, they will buffer us at every turn.

Bonus Obstacle
In the original list that Leo shared on the webinar there were only 10 obstacles but in the Q&A discussion he identified 1 more.

11. Small Task Mode
Leo describes small task mode as being caught up in doing lots of small tasks. These small tasks include things like emails, social media, and anything that is done in small bits.

The real danger of small task mode is that once our mind enters this space we tend to avoid doing larger more complicated tasks. For example, have you ever noticed that an email that takes more thought to respond to stays in your inbox longer than other emails? We often skip over these longer emails while we are dealing with fast response items.

The way to get over small task mode is to slow down and give yourself space to do longer tasks. Not only will we get these items done more efficiently if we just take a moment to work with them. We will also give ourselves space to be creative and work on the harder things which are often more important.

5 Radical Simplification Skills

Leo didn’t stop with these obstacles. He went on to talk about 5 simplification skills that can help anyone tackle these obtacles. So make you check out my next post where I’ll share these 5 skills. And how you can put them into use today.

Or even better make sure you don’t miss another one of my posts by subscribing to my blog.

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