We’ve been told so many times before that the simplest answer is usually the right one. Occam has been pretty busy and efficient with his razor, and yet we’re still trying to figure out how to mow the 18 holes at Augusta with a pair of school scissors. The thing is that there will always be this great divide between what we think we should do and what we actually end up doing, which is why simple life lessons aren’t really all that simple after all.
It’s one thing to recognize the right thing to do or the best thing to do or the optimal mentality to have. It’s another thing altogether to internalize those simple life lessons and actually apply them to how we go about our daily business. Allow me to illustrate with a few deceptively simple examples.
Don’t Worry About the Money
While I am certainly not among the so-called one percent, it’s fair to say that I am in a fairly comfortable financial position. Our family has a decently-sized nest egg and emergency fund that should be able to absorb something unexpected. We have a good amount of equity in our home too. When the credit card bill arrives each month, I don’t really have to worry about paying it. I know the funds will be there.
Given this, and this is not meant to be boastful, I have been told many times before that I shouldn’t worry about the money. My in-laws gave us this delightful insight when we were looking to buy our first home. Don’t worry about the price. Just get the home you love. But of course I worried about the money. I worried a lot about the money.
Part of the freedom associated with freelance writing is that I can pursue the projects that interest me. Many of these might not make a dime (and they might even cost me a pretty penny), but I’ve been told not to worry about the money. Just do what I love, because I love it. But of course I worry about the money. Time spent on an unprofitable passion project could be utilized to generate more income on a paying gig instead. It’s not so simple.
Live in the Moment
Related to so many other simple life lessons, like the one above, allowing yourself to live in the moment is a lot harder than it sounds. Rather than being wholly present, your mind drifts. You think about what you could have done differently yesterday. You think about what you still have left to do today. You think about what else you could be doing right now.
This inability to live in the moment can result in a tremendous amount of self-inflicted guilt. I’m wasting my time, just sitting on this park bench and staring off in the distance. It doesn’t matter how peaceful or serene it might be. I should be working. I should be productive. I should be making something of myself.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
… because trying to be someone else is a waste of the person you are. We’ve been told on countless occasions to embrace our individuality. We’ve been told that the grass always looks greener on the other side, because we’re not seeing the whole picture. We’re not really comparing ourselves with our peers; we’re only seeing a version of them filtered through Facebook.
Of course, many of us would certainly be happier if we stopped focusing on what other people were doing and focused instead on what we ourselves were doing. You may have seen the meme above from for the Rio Olympics. Winners focus on winning. Losers focus on winners.
By this definition, most of us are losers.
The Complexity of Simplicity
All of these “very” simple life lessons make a lot of sense. Intellectually, we can understand how they can improve our lives, boost our happiness, and lead to a far more contented existence. At the same time, they can also feel way too hard to follow. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Be grateful for what you have. Learn from your mistakes, don’t dwell on them. Stop making excuses. Give more than you take. Material possessions will never make you happy.
When you’ve got all of these “little” things figured out, let me know. You’ll find me over here, skimming through Facebook, worrying about the money, and thinking about what I need to do tomorrow.