Psychology

The One Question That Will Simplify Your Life Forever

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Written by Gail Brenner

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” (Lao Tzu)

Have you noticed that we live in a complex world? Every moment is filled to the brim with stimuli that vie for our attention. We manage by reacting to what’s in front of us, doing the next thing so we can keep our heads above water. When we live in this haphazard way, we find ourselves stumbling through life with minds disturbed by confusing thoughts, bodies in stress, and hearts heavy with anxiety and self-doubt.

simplify_your_life_foreverWe rarely, if ever, stop to think: What is my life really about?

Years ago, my friend, Jason, was offered an impressive job that included money, prestige, and influence. It was the kind of offer that most people thought he was crazy to turn down. Yet he did. From the outset, there was something that didn’t feel quite right. He spent two weeks filtering through the enticing aspects of the proposal until he finally became clear.

He realized that the people he would be working with were motivated by dominance and power, qualities at odds with his core values. He is now happily ensconced in a seemingly lower status position that affords him the greatest joy and fulfillment. Jason figured out what was important to him, then used it to inform his decision. He followed his heart.

Why Simplify Your Life

Knowing what is really important to us ““ and using this as a benchmark to guide our actions ““ brings tremendous simplicity to the millions of decisions, large and small, that we make every day. When your life expresses what you truly want for yourself, you experience:

  • A sharp and clear mind. When you act according to what you want your life to be about, you only have to think about a decision once. You don’t need to clog the mind by deliberating, justifying, or second-guessing yourself.
  • Confidence. You are more committed to your decisions, making doubt and worry
    unnecessary, confusion obsolete.
  • Conscious living. You get to be awake and grounded in the moments of your life rather than coasting through a mindless daily existence.
  • Greater fulfillment. When you embody what is important to you, your life becomes infused with it, leading to more satisfaction and happiness

What Is Your Life About?

The starting point for knowing what you want your life to be about is to recognize what your life is actually about. How to know this? Not by coming up with a list of values or writing your life mission statement. The answer is simple: you know what your life is about by looking at how you spend your time.

If you chronicle the actions you take and the thoughts that occupy your attention over say, a 5-day span of time, you will know what your life is about.

What you will discover are the reasons why you feel depleted and unbalanced, why enjoyable work and gratifying relationships have eluded you. This method disables our tendencies to delude or justify ourselves. It requires the willingness to undertake an honest appraisal in the service of ultimately greater simplification, satisfaction, and joy.

What Do You Want Your Life to Be About?

Armed with the truth, you are in the ideal position to know what you want your life to be about. There are no prescriptions about what should be important to you, no right or wrong answers. You simply ask: “In this moment, what do I want my life to be about?” then wait for the response to appear.

The answer might be a core quality, such as truth, love, or peace, that permeates your life in general and/or a guideline that shifts dynamically, depending on the situation you are in. If you are about to sit down for a meal, making healthy choices might be your directive, whereas, if you are lolling about on the couch too long, the desire to spend your time in a more enriching way might be foremost in your mind.

Putting It into Action

Now, let your discovery guide your actions. In order for your life to actually be about what you want it to be about, you act in accord with what you discover when you ask the question.

At this point, anything can happen. If you are ready to initiate an argument or defend yourself against wrongdoing, maybe you will walk away, take a breath, or offer an olive branch. If you are obsessively repeating a story in your mind of self-pity or victimhood, maybe you will turn your attention to something more affirming. Maybe you will realize that a major life change is in order.

Aligning your actions with your deepest longings and desires might happen smoothly, or you may face a significant upheaval for some time. Fear is likely to come knocking on your door as you turn away from the status quo and consider actions that may be viewed as erratic or unpopular. Let courage inspire you.

In my own experience, becoming clear about what is important to me and committing to living it in every moment changed everything. The end of anxiety and confusion has revealed the flow of creativity, balance, and effortless joy. Clarify what you truly want, and watch your life shine.

“When deeds and words are in accord, the whole world is transformed.”
Chuang Tzu

What do you want your life to be about? What would need to change for your actions and deepest desires to be in alignment? I’d love to hear your reactions and insights.

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About the author

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Gail Brenner

Gail Brenner writes at her blog, A Flourishing Life, where she delights in offering practical wisdom for untangling self-defeating habits and realizing happiness. Subscribe to the RSS feed and stay updated on the latest inspiring articles.