I heard the phrase, simple but not easy, quite a few years ago. I can’t remember exactly what the circumstances were at the time… but I can tell you that I’ve considered that phrase so many times since. For the last few years, I’ve been reading the blog Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. He also has a blog on minimalism, which is really interesting. In both cases, there are often times when I think about how much happier my life might be if I were to simplify. If I could learn to minimize… slow down… commit to less… enjoy more… breathe deeper, longer, and more consciously. These are very simple acts… and yet… somehow so elusive.
Upon further reflection, I realize that the elusiveness comes from the difficulty in implementation. Minimizing means throwing things away. Things I like. Things that might have sentimental value. Things I think I might need some day. Or, on the other hand, not buying things in the first place. Things I like. Things that are calling my name! Slowing down means not everything gets done. Committing less means letting people down. It means saying no, for crying out loud!
So, how do we make these simple acts easier to do? Well… I definitely can’t say I have this down! Lately I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed, cluttered and chaotic. I’ve recently been reminded of an approach to behavior change that rings true… slow but steady wins the race. Leo Babauta has a program he calls “Sea Change” where he leads participants through one dedicated change each month. You spend the entire month committed to gradually building up the habit of that one change. BJ Fogg, a behavior change researcher, contends that pairing a behavior change with an engrained habit can produce great results. You might try committing to 5 minutes of exercise every morning after brushing your teeth. Now, you might think 5 minutes is not enough time to really see the benefits of exercise. The argument is that committing to do it, using the teeth brushing as a trigger, and following through… even if it is only 5 minutes… is the best start you can make toward change. Eventually, maybe even right away, you will exercise for more than 5 minutes. But for now, it is the art of commitment and follow through that you are branding into your conscious habit.
Given my current state of overwhelm, I’m not going to attempt anything so lofty as exercise… 5 minutes or not! I’ve decided that breathing deeper, longer and more consciously is a beautiful act that I would like to practice more. I’ve already been trying to do it more lately and it feels good. It offers a taste of joy. My plan is to use the tactic above to make it easier. Every morning when I first get into the shower, I’m going to take a long deep breath. If the moment strikes me, I may take two. But the committment is one long, deep, conscious breath. Stepping into the shower is the habitual act that is already in place, that I do every morning. Maybe I’ll put a sticky note on the shower door to help me remember.
Now, before I finish, I’ll let you in on a little secret. In all honesty, this committment seems small. It seems almost irrelevant. It seems to dwindle in comparison to the big goals of losing weight, exercising more, committing to less, slowing down… and the list goes on. But here’s the interesting part… I get really overwhelmed when I think about those lofty goals. Here’s what I know about taking one deep breath when I step into the shower tomorrow… I can do it! And I think that’s part of the equation we’re looking for… a very high confidence level that I can make this happen. SO… I’m committing to one very small act… and I invite you to do the same. Be sure to let me know how it goes.
Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel