Everywhere you go these days people are overloaded with, and sometimes paralyzed by, choices. Not only is the number increasing, but the speed at which choices are coming at us also is accelerating. We suffer from option overload. The average grocery store carries more than thirty thousand products. In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwarz writes about our option overload.
Scanning the shelves of my local supermarket recently, I found 85 different varieties of crackers. . . . [N]ext to the crackers were 285 varieties of cookies. Among chocolate chip cookies, there were 21 options. Among Goldfish, there were 20 different varieties to choose from.
This option overload poignantly illustrates the increasing complexity of our world. It begs the question “in a world that is increasing in speed and complexity, how do we move toward simplicity”?
In last week’s article we said that the first step on the road to simplicity is to get clear about who we are and who we are not. We must do the hard work of finding our identity only in Jesus and being true to how God uniquely designed us.
Let me now share with you 2 additional steps on the road to simplicity.
2. Own your life
The second step to simplicity is responsibility. I need to “own” my life. I have to face the fact that the life I’m living is the result of the decisions I’ve made. Much of the complexity and clutter that exist in my life is because I have allowed them to be there. I know that we all face circumstances we don’t control, but we have more control that we are often willing to admit. And even though we don’t control all the circumstances that come into our lives, we do control how we respond to those circumstances.
I love the words of Henry Cloud, “You are ridiculously in charge of your life”. Every person you pastor is ridiculously in charge of their life.
At least for me, the first step toward simplicity was taking full responsibility. I had to own my stuff and admit that when it comes to simplicity I am my own worst enemy. Most of the complexity and clutter was my own doing—saying yes to too many requests, not having healthy boundaries, not knowing my limits, and always trying to please everyone contributed to a cluttered life.
I was not the victim, I was the perpetrator.
3. Identify the higher yes
Once you are clear about your purpose and your identity and what you value, you have to put a firewall around them. And one of the best practices is to learn to say “no”.
Part of our challenge is that we want to do it all. We can do almost anything we want, but we just can’t do everything we want.
Every “no” needs to be rooted in a higher “yes”. The higher “yes” is your purpose, your values, your calling and your talents. It’s the “must do” of your life.
· Saying no to Jimmy Fallon could be rooted in the higher yes of getting up to exercise the next morning.
· Saying no to an invite from an influential church member could be rooted in the higher yes of being at your kid’s soccer game.
· Saying no to a requested meeting could be rooted in the higher yes of needing “think time”.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” –Hans Hofmann
When values you get clear, decisions get SIMPLE.
Let me conclude by giving you an equation for simplicity.
Clarity + Courage + Calendar = Simplicity
The order is important.
1. Clarity = what matters to you.
What are the things you really value? What are the “must do’s” of your life?
2. Courage = the resolve to make change.
Will you have the guts to move toward simplicity? Will you have for resolve and discipline to recalibrate your life around that which is most important? It takes courage to eliminate the nonessential.
Here are some questions to help you think through changes you might need to make:
· Where are you overextended?
· What are you spending time and energy on that’s not a core value or priority in your life?
· What are you doing simply because it is an expectation others have put on you?
· What step could you take that would bring greater simplicity to your life?
· What do you sense you need to stop doing?
3. Calendar = the discipline to execute.
This is where your values and priorities get operationalized.
Your calendar is far more than a tool to keep you organized and a way to get to meetings on time. It is a primary tool for helping you become who you want to become.
Your calendar can be a bit like a junk drawer. It can get filled with all sorts of random things that clutter your life
Those that I have seen get the most traction are those that have great clarity, great courage and resolve, and great discipline to execute the plan.
 Barry Schwarz, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), 9.