This week we’re gonna take a look at creating an environment that makes it super easy to focus on the things that matter most.
But first, let’s have a quick refresher from where we left off from last week. Getting on your feet financially is a critical step for launching a creative project that can make a difference in the world. When you have a steady flow of income and the bills are covered, there is much less pressure around making your big idea come to life.
Instead of feeling sad that you are trapped in a 9 to 5…..feel grateful that someone is happily funding your current life while you figure out how to capitalize on bringing your talents, interests, skills and strengths together to create an amazing project that rocks the world!
Step 2 for Getting Paid to Make a Difference: Simplify and Prioritize
As I look back on the last several years, I realize how much my priorities have changed. I remember back in 2005 when I decided to move and the moving company weighed all my stuff. When they told me that I had over 12,000 pounds of stuff, I immediately wondered how I could possibly have accumulated so much in such a short period of time. I suppose it shouldn’t have been that big of a surprise considering that I spent most of my early post-college years indulging in the things that I could now afford.
But 12,000 pounds!?
After moving, I made it a priority to host a garage sale every summer no matter what. My new rule for stuff was if I hadn’t used it or worn it in the past year then it went into a big box. From there, it got sorted into two piles:
- Pile 1: Things of sentimental value such as photos, keepsakes, things given to me by my relatives. In other words, things of meaning or value that I truly loved.
- Pile 2: Things that I did not love and hadn’t used in the last year. In other words – Stuff
I was ruthless. I staged everything from pile 2 for the yearly garage sale or immediately donated it to Goodwill.
I’m not sure what it was about de-cluttering my life, but it felt cathartic to unburden myself from the stuff that I didn’t really use or want. This made more room for expansion and enjoying the things that I really did care about. Ahhhhh…this felt really good!
Since my de-cluttering journey started back in 2005, I have practiced keeping the stuff in my life to a minimum.
Stuff vs. Joy
As I survey my life today, I realize that most of the things I buy and own are things that truly give me an experience of joy. For example, I could care less about buying new furniture or having a collection of the most stylish clothes. I have two pairs of jeans, a suit for work, and one pair of casual pants. My wife and I just celebrated our one year anniversary as a single car couple because we don’t really need two cars. We share a 10 year old Subaru and we put our extra money towards things that we really love like travel, enjoying great meals with friends, spending a little extra here and there on a good bottle (or 4) of wine. 🙂
I guess that it really boils down to deciding on the few things that float your boat and then letting that guide your decisions of what to let go of and what to keep/buy. Once you make this decision, it will free up a tremendous amount of energy that typically goes into trying to have it all.
Our consumer driven culture hypnotizes us into believing that everything is important and so many of us get caught in the trap of spending our entire adult lives working hard to pay for the things that we think will make us happy.
I used to lease two new cars, have a big mortgage payment on a brand new house, have the latest electronics, buy a new patio set every couple of years, and on and on. I was trapped into thinking that I needed to have all of these bright shiny objects to feel happy and rewarded for working so hard.
Now I realize that it’s mostly experiences that I enjoy. My wife and I love to take several mini-vacations per year to experience new places, people and adventures. I love to ski so I allocate time and money to really good ski gear and a season pass at the local ski resort. Some people might think that I’m still enjoying stuff and that’s absolutely true. But the big difference is that I am deliberately choosing only the stuff that truly enhances my quality of life.
Some people love shoes. Some people love cars. Some people love gardening. Some people love fishing. Decide what really makes you happy and let this guide your decisions about how you can simplify and lighten your load. You will be a lot happier for it.
How I Prioritize My Day
Over the last few years I have also applied the idea of simplification to how I organize my day. I used to think I could do it all (similar to the belief that I could have it/buy it all) and as a result, my energy was scattered and I never did anything all that well. Then I began to get really focused on the things that are most important to me and I narrowed it down to these four:
- Quality time with Jill (my wife), family and friends
- My job/work
- Health and exercise (eating healthy and moving my body every day through yoga, running, skiing, etc.)
- Creating my new ‘Startup Sessions’ project
Placing my attention on these four things guides my life in a powerful way. If I ever have a decision to make about whether to do something or not, I just go to my ‘top 4’ list. If it’s not on the list, I don’t do it! It’s that simple.
Some might say this really sucks the spontaneity and creativity out of life but I have found the opposite to be true. I've found that by gaining depth and focus around the areas that matter most to me, it frees my mind and spirit to be more creative because I’m not always questioning (i.e. regretting) my decisions about whether to do something or not. And it makes it really easy to decide when to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
How Does This Apply to Getting Paid to Make a Difference?
You’ve probably been wondering what this has to do with getting paid to make a difference. My answer is that is has everything to do with it!
For me, this is the foundation that I needed to make physical, mental, emotional and spiritual space to live my life with more freedom and creativity than ever before. The comparison of how I live now compared to how I lived in 2005 is pretty different but it was really just a process of making small changes along the way that allow me to enjoy the following benefits:
- I have closer and more meaningful friendships than ever (with fewer people)
- The relationship that I have with my wife is the best it’s ever been
- I have more flexibility in my work life than ever
- I have complete clarity about what’s most important in my life
- I don’t have any debt outside of a mortgage
- I prioritize what’s most important and rarely feel guilty about where or how I spend my time
- I enjoy more freedom and adventure, doing the things that make me happy
While I am far from finished with this journey of aligning my priorities and simplifying my life, I can honestly say that I feel great about the foundation that I have created over the last few years.
If you haven’t already done so, schedule some time this week or this weekend to do the following:
- Start with just one room, or closet, or even a drawer and commit to donating or selling anything that you don’t need, love or haven’t used in the last year. Use this as a stepping stone to make space in your life for what you really do want.
- Decide on one hobby/interest/passion that makes you feel alive and write it down on a note card. Cary this card with you and dedicate some time, money and attention to it. (Hint: Start with just one thing and schedule it into your day or week. Even if it’s just for a few minutes….just do it!)
- Write down the three or four things that are your top priorities in life right now. These will change over time but identify what it is that you know you need to be focusing on right now. Then practice saying ‘no’ to anything that is not on that list. Notice how much easier it is to decide whether or not you should do something.
- This is extra credit. 🙂 Journal about how you feel after taking action on these items.
If you are really gung ho about the idea of simplifying your life, I recommend checking out my friend Tammy Strobel’s work. Tammy is a full time writer and teaches others about simple living and entrepreneurship through her blog called Rowdy Kittens. She also wrote a fantastic book on the subject called You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap). She’s the real deal!
That’s all for this week. Next week we will be back on track and talking about STEP 3 for getting paid to make a difference.