The Art of Being Simple
- Do you lead your life on your terms, or do you just allow your life to lead you?
- Do you feel trapped without the trappings of a upper middle-class lifestyle?
- Do you find television soap operas dictating how much and when you should spend time with your family?
- Have you experienced the 'freedom' of being without a mobile phone?
- Do you feel lost and left out when your friends' excitedly discuss about the latest gadgets that they have, that you don't?
If you tick 'yes' to any or all of this, don't worry, you are not alone. Most of us live this complex life. So much so, that we have forgotten how to be simple. We get stuck with jobs that we can't leave because of some or the other loan on our heads. We fall for marketers' tricks, buy more (often on credit) and then spend the rest of our lives, trying to earn to support our 'lifestyle'.
So, is there a way out?
Yes. If you're already addicted to conspicuous consumption, it will take some getting used to. But it is possible to own your own life if you are determined to do it. How? Simplify!! Being simple is an art not many are able to master. The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn't simple. And the definition of simplicity is also quite warped.
The term "downshifting" is often used to describe the act of moving from a lifestyle of frenetic consumption towards a lifestyle based on voluntary simplicity. Many simplicity gurus urge us to become tightfisted as the true path to a simple life. But voluntary simplicity and frugality are not really the same thing. Frugality is a vehicle for achieving simplicity, but voluntary simplicity is about freedom. It's about owning your own life. Frugality is living with less of what money can buy. Voluntary simplicity is wanting less.
This revelation allows us to be content in our work or to change that work when it no longer satisfies. It permits us to spend less time acquiring things and more time acquiring experiences, insights, and relationships. It encourages us to lend a helping hand in our community, whenever the need arises, because we can make the time to do it. It gives us freedom and control of our lives.
And they lived happily ever after
People who practice voluntary simplicity act consciously to reduce their need for purchased services or goods and instead spend the extra free time to enrich their interpersonal relationships with family, friends or partners.
Take the case of Jayesh Shah who quit the highly successful stock broking company that he had started, to publish a magazine named Humanscape that deals with social and political issues from a humanistic angle. Today, Shah maintains a lifestyle that, though comfortable, is thrifty, and free of frills. The changeover for him has meant "freedom to do what I really want to do".
Eliminating or reducing the role of television in one's life has been a dominant theme in many modern theories regarding simplicity. Television is seen both as a waste of time and as an implicit advocate of consumerism.
Mumbai-based Sajan George and his family comprising wife Mary, daughter Natalia and son Nigel, is one such family that voluntarily opted to not own a television. Says Mary, "We had always felt that television was impinging on our family time. So, when it broke down, we simply decided not to repair it. Actually, we still have that dysfunctional TV set at home just to keep incessant questioners at bay." After removing the television from their lives, the Georges have a lot of time in their hands. "We sing a lot and play the guitar. We all have caught up on our reading habit, and we're voracious readers now," she says. Natalia and Nigel too don't miss the TV and have not let any peer pressure affect them. "Yes, there is a flip side to it. We do miss many things on the telly like National Geographic, but the time we are getting as a family now justifies our decision."'
Try this simple exercise
So, going simple really worth it? Try this. Make a list of the ten activities you enjoy most. Then make another list of the ten activities that occupy most of your time. Compare the two lists. This little self test may be all you need to convince you to jump off the merry-go-round. As Confucius put it: "Life is really simple. We insist on making it complicated."