“That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Steve Jobs (Co-Founder, Apple Inc.)
“Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”
Lin Yutang (Author, The Importance Of Living)
“In character, in manner, in style, in all the things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Poet, Paul Revere’s Ride)
Unhappiness is caused by weak choices.
What’s the point? I sat in my boxers at the little IKEA kitchen table that I bought and screwed together earlier in the year. It was 6:30AM. I felt like a zombie on death row about to do a slow march to the electric chair. Really I was just getting ready for work.
I hated my job. Mostly I hated sitting in one place for 12 hours a day. I felt like I was trading in my soul for crappy Internet access. I could feel part of me roll over and whimper whenever I clicked on my company’s computer. It was a bad deal. Surely my soul is worth better WiFi?
My boss hated his job too. But he hated it in a kind of manic-depressive way. He’d complain about the company one minute and then turn around and demand we do something for the good of the company the next minute. I just accepted all of this as normal.
Hack Away At The Non-Essentials
Mondays were the worst because I spent my weekends doing things that my girlfriend and her friends wanted to do. If I didn’t, there was hell to pay. I had a group of close friends too but a couple of them didn’t really act like friends. They had a knack for giving me unsolicited advice about my life and dragging my goals down into the gutter.
I was chained to my job during the week and chained to a hundred different obligations during my nights and weekends. My life felt like scrambled eggs. It was messy, jumbled, and …soft. And someone else was eating it. Eventually, I made a few shrewd decisions about who and what to keep in my life. Things got better. I cut out more. Things got better still. The more I cut out, the happier I became. Why?
Are You A Hacker Or A Hoarder?
A survey of 2,500 people showed that 87% are happier living with fewer possessions. But very few people are opting to live with less. The reason so many people are unhappy is because they are stuffing their lives full of useless possessions and unhealthy relationships.
Credit card debt is on the rise again with the average household owing more than $7,000. This is why there are now over 40,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S. alone. One in 11 households owns self-storage space—an increase of 75% from 1995. These self-storage numbers are increasing. At the same time, more and more people are staying in bad relationships for fear of being alone, even if the relationship is literally damaging their heart. It’s no wonder the average person is unhappier today than 30 years ago.
5 Ways To Simplify Your Life
The biggest cause of unhappiness in the world is weak judgment. Too many people make soft decisions when it comes to accepting things into their lives. These people let anyone and anything in. Don’t do this. Instead, make shrewd decisions. Get very deliberate with who and what you let into your life.
This is not always easy to do. Sometimes you have to be cold. Sometimes you have to be harsh. You have to hack away at the non-essentials, especially the non-essentials that make you miserable. But it’s worth it. What’s at risk is too important. Your happiness must come first. You must ruthlessly protect it. Here’s how:
1. Ignore urgent requests.
News flash—not everything is urgent. Everyone has a colleague or friend who thinks everything is urgent. These are the people who send you life and death emails that must be answered the same day or else. They blow up your phone with important messages and get furious when you’re not 100% responsive to their requests.
From now on, ignore these people. Practice rising above anything that anyone else tries to make you see as urgent. Train others by being less and less responsive to their increasing levels of insanity.
Nothing is really urgent except for things like a code blue in the emergency room or a bogey at 12 o’clock that has you locked-on target. Your sense of urgency is a tool you should use on yourself to get your mission-oriented tasks done. It’s not a tool that other people should use on you to get their tasks done.
2. Turn down great offers.
The older you get, the more great offers you’ll get. Past colleagues and friends will call you with million-dollar opportunities ranging from once in a lifetime timeshare buy-ins to software company angel investments to coupon books worth $5,000 in savings …yours now for only $50.
Don’t waste your time with these so-called great offers. You’ll never be anything more than average if you keep chasing offers other call great. Instead, stay focused on your current goals. Keep your efforts concentrated on what you really want, not what someone else wants for you.
From now on, be a “no” machine. Do you want to get in on this deal? No. Do you want to split a group package to… No. Do you… No. No. No. Get really good at saying no. Get so good at it that you enjoy turning people down because you know that every time you say no, you’re saying yes to your happiness.
3. Quit negative people cold turkey.
Two chances. That’s all you should give people. The first time they treat you poorly, let it slide. Maybe you misunderstood them. Maybe they were just in a bad mood.
The second time they do it, sit down and have an authentic, one-on-one conversation. Offer up your shortcomings in the situation first. Show the other person you really want to improve the relationship. If you’ve made a real effort (only you will know if you have) and the door gets slammed in your face over and over again, then it’s time to step away.
Some people will never like you. Some people are just negative. When you come across these people, drop them cold. Get surgical and cut them out with no strings attached. Forget their pleas and excuses. Refuse to get sucked back in. Be done. The end. Learn the art of self-reliance. Master the skill of never again. Your happiness literally depends on it.
4. Quit activities that suck.
What’s the point of going to an event that you really don’t want to be at? You know you don’t want to be there. Everyone else knows you don’t want to be there. You’re unhappy. They’re unhappy that you’re unhappy. Ugh. It’s disgusting. This is what obligation looks like.
Stop going to activities that bore you to tears. Either show up for real or don’t go. When in doubt, don’t go. Dragging your way through an event just because someone gave you a guilt trip does not make you a good person. It makes you a fool for giving up your happiness to something that sucks. It also makes you a jerk because your negative energy is ruining the event for everyone else.
5. Eliminate your worthless possessions.
Look around you—most of the things you own are worthless. Don’t believe me? Is there any non-human object in your line of site that you wouldn’t trade for medicine to save a friend’s life? Is there anything you wouldn’t trade to save a stranger’s life? Even if you’re the world’s biggest hoarder, the answer is likely no.
Yet, most people cram as much garbage as possible into their apartments, houses, garages, and storage facilities. Then these same people wonder why they feel weighed down and distracted. If you’re spending more time taking care of your home than you are developing yourself, you’re in trouble.
The stuff you own, owns you. Every single item you’re responsible for takes up room in your brain. The fastest way to increase your happiness is to throw out as much of this clutter as possible. Every six months, go through everything you own and throw out what you haven’t used in the last three months.
The only exceptions should be significant assets that are increasing in value faster than inflation (not your #521 Spiderman comic book) and maybe one or two items you bring out for holidays. When in doubt, error towards the dumpster.
Start seeing useless possessions and unhealthy relationships as a disease you need to cure. Ruthless elimination is the only cure. Your happiness is at stake.
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