A wise person named Jaroslav Dusek once said: “Imagine that you get up in the morning and want to have breakfast, but on the kitchen table there’s a plate with excrement on it. What will you do?” Either you can get rid of it and make breakfast (assuming you still have an appetite that is!) or you can start to obsess about what that horrible sight might mean, turning over endless thoughts in your mind: ‘Who put it there and why? Isn’t it crazy? What were they thinking?’
It may be an extreme metaphor but it seems appropriate considering that this is what we often do with negative situations and the negative thoughts that they give rise to. Instead of flushing the thoughts away, we pick at them, worry over them and allow them to bother us for far longer than they should.
Really, life doesn’t have to be that complicated. It’s just that sometimes we complicate it more than is necessary, even when we don’t really want to, because of bad habits that we don’t let go of.
Why do we hang onto them when they don’t help us? Well, that’s what habits are: behaviours that we repeat, and they can be hard to shift, but not impossible.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the more time and energy we spend on things that sap our strength, the less time and energy we have left for things that give us strength. But, in contrast, the less time and energy we spend on things that aren’t important, the more time and energy we have left for the things in life that really matter.
But do we even know what they are? Are we clear about our priorities? (I described my 5 most important values some time ago, not for you to copy, but just as examples that can help you clarify what is REALLY IMPORTANT for you. Take a quiet weekend—which is the ideal time to do this—and see if you can come up with a list of your own priorities, the things that really matter to you.)
Calm down, get healthier, and cleanse yourself, but if you’re in a hurry then here are seven quick ideas to simplify your life right now:
1. Learn to say NO
Only two letters, but it seems lots of people can’t get them past their lips. This is because they aren’t quite sure what they should add to NO, but NO is already a complete sentence. It doesn’t always require any justification or explanation, it says what it means. If someone can’t say NO to other people, they often can’t say NO to themselves, and that’s the kind of thing that leaves them feeling out of control and resentful.
If that’s you, then consider say NO, more often. I know that people who say NO are sometimes called selfish, but maybe they’re just being realistic? We all have just 24 hours a day available to us, and each of us has to prioritise our commitments. None of us can do everything in that time and we can’t please everyone. That’s why it’s essential to be able to say NO. If we can learn to say NO to what is not that important to us, we will have more time to take care of our own priorities.
2. Unify your opinion
if a computer tries to run opposing instructions it can’t work properly. It can’t resolve the internal conflict and freezes up. Our minds are not that much different.
We do the same thing when we pretend that our boss is wonderful to his face but slag him off behind his back to our friends. It’s difficult to maintain two opposing opinions in our minds at the same time. But how about unifying our opinion and sticking to it? Let’s say what we think is right, and act accordingly. By doing this let’s simplify our thinking and save ourselves a lot of discomfort, internal disquiet, and embarrassment.
3. Have fewer opinions
Having fewer opinions can be surprisingly liberating, because suddenly, it means that we don’t feel compelled to offer our thoughts about every little thing any more. Sometimes it’s okay just to say, “I don’t know.” It’s okay not to have to comment on every person, every situation, and every opinion if they aren’t dear to us. It’s best to realise that some things will be fine without our considered input, and that we can save precious time and energy by letting them drift away.
Expressing an opinion often means formulating our opinion and presenting it, and then, after subsequent reactions from other people, defending it, sometimes endlessly. The bottom line is, for a quiet life, it makes sense to pick your battles.
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