Linda In The News - MicronPC

Simple Answers

Is it time to slow down? Reevaluate? Rethink priorities? Start small--you'll notice big changes.

By Ann Braley-Smith, MicronPC, December 2001

Simple doesn't mean easy.

The voluntary simplicity movement is taking hold for many Americans. "Voluntary simplicity" is an all-encompassing term that, for some, means giving up the material trappings of the so-called "good life" in exchange for more fulfilling, less tangible things.

Or, perhaps it's the idea of working to live, not living to work.

Or maybe it's embracing new attitudes about frugality and downsizing, about slowing down, about lowering your own energy and goods consumption, spending less money on things you don't need, de-cluttering your personal space, or simply doing more with less.

Any way you define it, the voluntary simplicity movement is intensely personal. For people who want to simplify, often the idea of such a major life change is too overwhelming to even know where to begin.

Start small and start now, says one expert.

Getting Started
Simplifying your life doesn't have to mean quitting your job and joining the Peace Corps tomorrow, says life coach and author Linda Manassee Buell.

In fact, it's hardly a new trend, she says. It's just received more media attention since the September 11 attacks on America. Buell says today a lot of people are reevaluating what's important to them, but many won't make that commitment that's needed for the long term. Any attempt at simplicity will be short-lived. A lot of attempts at simplicity will be short-lived. But for those who are ready for lasting, meaningful change, it's well worth the effort.

Buell should know. She's embarked on a nearly 10-year journey toward simplicity. She admits she used to be "the queen of not calming down." She and her husband had what most define as successful corporate careers. They were moving from city to city, house to house, while they climbed the ladder. "We were living the high life and had all the external trappings that go along with it," she said.

Then, Buell and her husband started to question their priorities. The problem was, attention given to these little inquisitions was severely hampered, thanks to their non-stop lifestyle. "There just wasn't time to find answers, but it seemed, plenty of time for a lot of questions."

The couple made the decision to give themselves the freedom to do what they wanted to do, where they wanted to do it. They quit their jobs, picked a place they wanted to live, and started over. Buell founded her San Diego-based business,, in 1996. She's written two books and now coaches people how to find serenity in their work and their life.

And in a nutshell, this is what she teaches:

It will be a constantly learning process and applying new skills, thinking, beliefs, and philosophies into our lives.

No Wrong Answers
Buell says the road to simplifying one's life is different for everyone. To "simplify" you put into place the things you desire--and your definition of simple is different than someone else's. You can begin by changing the small things in your workspace or home that will help you get those things you really want. "To really simplify and change your life, it's a lot of work," she explains. "It's about changing routine and habits. It can be about going against cultural standards and norms."

And it may go against the expectations or values of your coworkers, your family, and your friends. "Simplicity is not always about doing the most popular thing," she adds.

Getting Started
On her Web site, Buell offers these general guidelines:

But how do you put those ideas into action? Buell offers these specific tips.

The Time Is Now
Many people avoid making change because they continue to convince themselves there will be time later.

Buell asks: why wait?

"There are so many things you can do right now," she says. "The world will continue to be a crazy place. It's not going to slow down." Buell says fear of change is the one thing that keeps people from seeking simplicity. The people who are ready for change are at the point where they know the fear of moving on isn't as great as the fear of staying put.

Two things can trigger this. First, a catastrophic event (like the September attacks or a health crisis) acts as a wake-up call. The second thing is more subtle. You create a vision for what you think your life should be, and then gain the courage to move toward it.

"Once you have that vision, you can move through the painful parts of change," Buell says.

Small Changes, Big Impact
Once you make the choice to change, start with the job you already have. "Changes don't have to be huge. This is the space you're in now. Ask yourself what can you do right now to live the life you want to live."

Buell speaks of a client, a production supervisor who felt physically exhausted and mentally drained. Her first step? Getting rid of all the office knick-knacks and clutter in her workspace. "Her coworkers thought she had quit," Buell laughs.

People started asking questions. That's because small changes, she said, can have a big impact on those around you.

Another client, a banking executive, decided to amend her "open door" policy to include one hour a day of closing the door and barring interruptions. "Her coworkers didn't know what to think. They were concerned."

And soon, all the executives were all closing their doors for an hour of uninterrupted quiet time a day. That's something important, Buell says. "People won't listen to you. They'll watch your actions," she warns.

Actions do speak louder than words--and it's time to start doing. Buell says if you've felt that simplifying your life is something you need to do, start making the changes you need to make. And do it for yourself.

"You can't believe how simple things can become."

Copyright 2001, MicronPC. All rights reserved
Used with permission from MicronPC.

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