How to Master the Lost Art of Simplicity

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of simplifying here at Peak Conflict Solutions. The simpler our lives, the lower our stress, and the fewer conflicts we have in the first place. Check out this compelling video on mastering simplicity below. It’s a 2013 TEDx Talk by Bryan Byrd called The Lost Art of Simplicity, and it will have you rethinking your priorities in just a few minutes.

The Importance of a Simple Life

At 22 years old Bryan Byrd couldn’t fathom why someone would want to live a simple life. Most of us have experienced similar thoughts in our twenties, when life seems to really pick up and the opportunities seem limitless. At 42 years old, though, Byrd wants to know not how to avoid a simple life, but instead how to embrace a simple life.

He adopted the following mantra to remind himself how to live simply: Stop. Look. Listen.

Choose Now, or Life Might Choose For You

The stop, look, listen mantra is not necessarily new. Many of us have heard it before as children when learning how to cross the road or how to approach train tracks. But Byrd purports that this philosophy is not just a safety practice for children; in fact, it can also be the key to living a more simple life.

There are two ways to simplify your life, Byrd says: you can take action and choose to make changes in life, or life can do it for you.

He’s experienced it both ways.

Clear Your Calendar

Byrd tells about the day his family learned that his five year-old son had leukemia. In an instant, their whole world changed. Normally an avid calendar aficionado, Byrd says that he immediately cleared everything from his calendar. Instantly, he shifted his priorities from all that less-important stuff to either sitting with his son throughout chemotherapy and doctor appointments, or sitting with his other son at home, while his wife was at the hospital with their ill child.

Traumatic illnesses and injuries can have that sort of immediate effect on a person’s calendar. But it doesn’t mean that you should wait for a horrible life experience before you change your priorities and simplify your life. Instead, take the time now to reassess your values and cut the activities that don’t contribute in a positive way.

Reintroduce Only the Most Important Things

Eventually doctors encouraged Byrd and his family to reintroduce activities, commitments, hobbies back into life. They needed to create “new normal.” And surprisingly, they realized that by clearing their schedules to focus on their son’s health, they learned a lot about themselves. They had a lot more endurance than they ever imagined. They made the conscious decision to be more intentional about what they allowed back into their lives, and back on that calendar.

Stop, Look, and Listen

Byrd challenges everyone in his audience to stop, look, and listen to their lives. He asks, are you spending time moving around your stuff? Are your weekends wasted by constantly cleaning out the basement, the shed, the attic, and the garage? Maybe it’s time to eat off the good china. How are you spending your time? As Covey said, are you making the most important thing the most important thing?

In the end, Byrd offers the following takeaways for how to actively simplify your life, before life simplifies itself for you:

  • Listen to your body.
  • Listen to your Spirit. Are you making time to be still and listen every day of your life? Prayer, meditation, yoga. Make time for it.
  • Listen in your decision-making. When I was led to the Katuah plateau, found artistic community, volunteering community, main street community.
  • Make time every day to be still.
  • Listen to your loved ones.
  • Listen to a higher power, even if you’re not religious and your higher power is nature.

If you do these things, Byrd says, not only will your life be simpler and richer, but more satisfying as well.

Have you found areas of your life that need some simplification? Will you take the time to stop, look, and listen this week?

About The Author

Camille Fairbanks

Camille Fairbanks was born and raised in Arizona and now resides in Lethbridge, AB. She received her BA in English from the University of Lethbridge; she now raises her children and her garden full time, and enjoys writing about minimalism and the Zero Waste lifestyle on her blog, The Non-Waster.