Simplicity: The Art and the Science

Simplicity has been a buzz word for at least 20 years. We crave it, try to structure our lives around it, and many of us find it ever elusive. Perhaps instead of searching for simplicity, what we really need is a life free of distractions.

Way, way, way back in the late 1990’s when Phil Collins was still cool (and bald) and we did not have Evernote, Simplenote, GoogleKeep, Yojimbo, or any other trendy apps (only half-price apps at Applebee’s)… I purchased… a Palm Pilot! Yes, I was that cool, even way back then. The Palm Pilot III with a cool cover, a cool stylus, and some guidelines from my FranklinCovey Planner were going to be the answer to keeping my life simple, focused, efficient, and effective. The only problem with this big plan was… ME. It was during this time that I read the words of Richard Foster in his book, The Freedom of Simplicity, where Foster writes this:

“There is a need today for what I call prophetic simplicity. We need voices of dissent that point to another way, creative models that take exception to the givens of society.”

“Simplicity” has been a buzz-word for the last twenty years and it has helped a lot of people make a ton of cash! Books, blogs, articles, Apps, software, devices, diets, Life Coaches… all of these have cashed in on the need that we as humans have to discover and stick to simplicity amidst the chaos and confusion of our day. There’s even a magazine that has thrived for the last sixteen years called “Real SIMPLE”. It amazed me when I first read that magazine that Real Simple generally meant really expensive! But that’s another topic for another time.

I am personally to blame for all of this. OK, I probably am not the only one to blame, but I will take my part of the blame. I’ve bought all the books, many of the Apps, the software, new devices, and I love gathering information on how to simplify life. But amidst all of my efforts, I’ve made so many things in life the complete opposite of simple.

Over the last year I have really enjoyed reading (and seeking to put into practice – which is the hard part!!) different books and writers on this theme. My hope is that a few of the things that I have learned are helpful to you today!

One writer who does a very helpful job at giving us practical steps for simple living is Joshua Becker. He offers a very focused and practical list of ten things that we can begin today to evaluate and then make hard decisions that will enable us to live life more simply. The goal is that we can be focused on the things that God has entrusted to us that truly demand our time, our passion, our energy, our focus, our affection, and our best!

Becker’s List of Areas to Simplify Our Lives:
1. Your Possessions
2. Your Time Commitments
3. Your Goals
4. Your Negative Thoughts
5. Your Debt
6. Your Words
7. Your Artificial Ingredients
8. Your Screen Time
9. Your Connections to the World
10. Your Multi-Tasking

Now… the temptation would be to nod your head, agree, or even write down this list. The challenge would be to sit down with your spouse, your family, or a trusted friend, and really work through this list. There are 1,001 ways to simplify your life. Don’t fall into the trap of over-thinking and over-analyzing all of them (I’ve been there and done that). Pick one and work it.

I have run over 40 marathons over the last 13 years and I have used many different plans and approaches to preparing for the race, but all of them had one common denominator: Running!

The great American author Henry David Thoreau once stated: “Our life is frittered away by detail…Simply, simplify.” Simplicity, like running a marathon is both art and science. There are some great tools that will help us get there. Don’t get muddied in the details, make the hard choice day-by-day to say “YES” to the essentials in your life, and make a confident and resolved decision to say “NO” to the distractions!

God bless!
Ryan Snow

Further Resources:
1. Freedom of Simplicity, by Richard Foster
2. Clutterfree with Kids, by Joshua Becker
3. Simplify, by Bill Hybels
4. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown

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