I’m a big fan of simple living. This is not always a good thing.
I’ve told you before how when it comes to saying yes to new adventures, my default setting is “no.” I love my life. I love my home. I love the regular rhythm of our everyday, and just hanging out with my husband and my kids.
This means that while lots of people say they need to learn to say no, I need encouragement to say yes.
Thankfully, I’m not the only one.
I just finished Gretchen Rubin’s latest, Happier at Home. It’s great. I suspect one of the reasons I enjoyed it and The Happiness Project so much is that my personality strongly resembles the author’s. I resonated with this passage:
The first principal of my happiness project was to “Be Gretchen.” One important way to “Be Gretchen” was not to assume that virtues that others strive to cultivate are ones that I should strive for. Others strive to save; I push myself to spend out. Others try to work more; I try to play more. Others strive for simplicity; I fight the simplifying impulse, because if anything, I cultivate too much simplicity–not a disciplined, thoughtful simplicity, but one created by indifference and neglect.“
Like Gretchen, I don’t need to strive for simplicity; I was born with the keep-it-simple gene. But what I too often end up with is not serene and joyous; it’s bare and spartan. My “no” is not strong and purposeful; it’s merely automatic. When my “no” is reflexive, I’m not a good steward of my resources–time, and more precious, energy. I’m a hoarder of them. I want to do better.
Last summer, I resolved to fight my own simplifying impulse. I changed my default to “Yes.” I had a wonderful, memorable, (tiring) summer.
Now, I’m resolving to carry that “yes” forward. Because when I make the extra effort, I’m almost always glad I did.
I’ll be revisiting this theme in 2013 here on MMD. I’m dreaming and scheming all sorts of ways to put it into practice in my own life, and you can bet I’ll be sharing those with you.
But right here, right now, here’s what this looks like for me:
Like Gretchen Rubin, “I never looked forward to traveling–too many details.” Those words from Happier at Home could have been mine. Logistics wear me out, and traveling is all about logistics.
But this fall, I’ve been doing tons of traveling–much more than usual–and there’s more to come. Since going home is not an option, I’ve been trying to Go Big.
We’re currently making preparations to head off to a family wedding in Virginia. Usually, this would be an in-and-out kind of trip. But this year–with an eye to saying yes–we’ve decided to make a little extra effort to see some sights and make some memories.
We’ll be oh-so-close to Washington, D.C. for the wedding, so we’ve decided to drive an extra 100 miles to show our kids the nation’s capitol. We’re swinging through Williamsburg–my once-college town and “home” to my daughter’s beloved American Girl doll. We’re seeing new sights, old haunts, and long-lost friends.
It’s going to be a total pain. But it’s going to be worth it.
What’s your natural inclination? Do you need to simplify? Or do you need to make yourself make the effort, like I do?
P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.
Books mentioned in this post:
In the spirit of her blockbuster #1 New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin embarks on a new project to make home a happier place.
One Sunday afternoon, as she unloaded the dishwasher, Gretchen Rubin felt hit by a wave of homesickness. Homesick—why? She was standing right in her own kitchen. She felt homesick, she realized, with love for home itself. “Of all the elements of a happy life,” she thought, “my home is the most important.” In a flash, she decided to undertake a new happiness project, and this time, to focus on home.
And what did she want from her home? A place that calmed her, and energized her. A place that, by making her feel safe, would free her to take risks. Also, while Rubin wanted to be happier at home, she wanted to appreciate how much happiness was there already.
So, starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.
In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.
Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well.
With her signature blend of memoir, science, philosophy, and experimentation, Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire readers to find more happiness in their own lives.