How to Make Simple Your Superpower
5 Principles of the Staying Power of Simple Living
If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
At the risk of sounding like a youth pastor breaking the ice with a group of self-conscious teenagers, what superpower would you prefer? What would be the most useful, fun, or powerful in your life?
I don’t know how to answer this question, mostly because I would need about six different superpowers to get done everything I’d like to. Invisibility would be great when I’m introverting real hard, and flight would be super helpful when I’m running ten minutes late for school pick up. I definitely wouldn’t want mind reading, because my own mind is scary enough, but I think the superhuman deduction powers of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch version, obviously) would be awesome when I’m trying to solve the mystery of the lost sippy cup.
Since none of these superpowers seem to be manifesting in my life, I’ve spent the last couple of years searching for a real solution to simplify my life. Superpowers or not, there had to be a better way to make it through the day without overwhelm, exhaustion, self-rejection, and restlessness. What I discovered changed everything.
“To have what we want is riches; but to be able to do without is power.” – George McDonald
I used to think I was unhappy because I didn’t have the right personality or body. I thought I was dissatisfied in life because I wasn’t as funny or talented or beautiful as others. I even thought that I had to change who I am, constantly morphing my personality to fit in with the social situation at hand, rejecting and betraying my own self-worth.
I thought I needed the right clothes, a nicer car, and a bigger home. It seemed that was where the power of a contented and full life was found.
It was exhausting. What I really wanted was more of what everyone else had instead of accepting what I had within me all along. In reality, I was powerless to create the life I wanted because I was striving for more and bigger and better.
The power to create change in my life didn’t come from satisfying all of my wants but from the ability to want less; to simplify.
Although they aren’t superhuman powers, here are some ways I discovered power in simple living:
- Do without
The ability to do without is a power rooted in gratitude. This world tells us that we should have rather than be, but the more we pursue how to be the more we accept that we are enough. We can live without that thing, or that personality trait we envy, or the perfection we strive for – because gratitude is acknowledging enough.
When we do without and cultivate gratitude we interrupt the constant feed of advertisements and comparison, because nothing can stand against the power of a heart full of thanks.
I’ve been experimenting with less lately. Not just doing without, but to choose less in the every day – less busyness, less numbing out with distraction, less food, less convenience. I ask myself, “How much do I really need?” instead of indulging in what I merely want. Sometimes I don’t need any at all, other times, indeed, I am satisfied with less.
These small decisions aren’t heroic, but they remind me throughout the day that I have the power to take back my life and design my own definition of happiness.
- Live small
I spent many years with the belief that bigger was better. I’m not the only one, either. The average American home has more than doubled in size since the 1950’s and SUV’s are more popular than ever. But it doesn’t seem to be making us as a society any happier. A larger home takes a lot of time and money to maintain, and often attracts more clutter. Perhaps, the bigger our things are isn’t the way to contentment but it’s in the small spaces where we create an intentional life.
I didn’t move to a smaller home or purchase a smaller car, but I stopped wishing for bigger and better. I realized our house is just right for now, our old cars are just fine, and they’re all more than enough.
- Go slow
I saw an image on Facebook that said, “Stop the glorification of busy.” Slow is where we become present to our life, where we appreciate the small magical moments of life. Busy is a distraction from the beauty happening when you aren’t there.
It’s too easy to feel trapped in the cycle of chronic busyness, as if we are unaware that we are in control of our time. Harness the power of saying no to invitations, delegating tasks to others, and setting boundaries.
- Pick the few
Greg McKeown says we have to choose our vital few from the trivial many. I simplified my life because everything felt like a priority, while the true and most important things in my life were given my leftovers. I put more energy into the trivial while my vital few (my husband, kids, and soul-care) had to settle for crumbs. Simple living orders your priorities properly, and allows you the power to say no to the non-essentials.
If I had to choose a superpower, I’d choose a simple life. To do life simply is real power. Not to deprive ourselves, but to liberate ourselves. When you take away the power of the world telling you who to be, and you’re just you, you don’t need the riches of fulfilling your wants. You are grateful to do without; to do with less.
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