The fellow who answered the question above gets high marks for cleverness, but he got no points on the quiz. I love the joke because it’s a good reminder that we can get carried away with trying to simplify. The ideal amount is going to depend on the individual and the circumstances.

The Dali Lama’s ideal is more sparse than mine. He says,

If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.
—The Dalai Lama

Sorry, that wouldn’t work for me. I had that as a kid, and there was a time I was severely depressed because of the lack of mental stimulation and meaningful challenges. Nope, I never wanted to feel that way again, and one of my main goals in life was to create a life for myself that was mentally richer. That’s why I’m such a believer in the idea of optimizing stress:

Too little challenge in life can be as harmful to our health as too much, the trick is to find the optimum level for ourselves. Sometimes we have to drop some things, sometimes we have to add them. I dropped a lot of projects the past 19 months because of the fire. Now that part of my life has settled down and I’m starting to get back to the projects I dropped and to get involved in new ones. I’m grateful that I get to choose — I don’t take that freedom for granted. What about you? Do you have too much or too little challenge in your life, or are you at about the optimal level?

Thanks to tammy and Rummuser for inspiring this post.

Thanks to Mike, Rummuser, Evan, bikehikebabe, Cathy and Ursula for commenting on last week’s post.
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12 Responses to Simplifying

  1. Rummuser says:

    There is another way of looking at this. While your model stresses on the optimal level, I prefer a dynamic model like the creative tension model where the tension is in the area between current reality and one’s vision of where one wants to reach. Please mark my words, I am not suggesting improving, I am just suggesting change to reach a different way of living.

    Creating in this sense can also include destruction to renew and discarding things/ideas that no longer serve any purpose to create space for new things/ideas to enter the space thus vacated.

    The concept of creative tension is talked about by Peter Senge in “The Fifth Discipline.” and Robert Fritz in “The Path of Least Resistance.”

  2. Jean says:

    Yes, I’m well aware of The Path of Least Resistance. As you know by now I have a creative approach to life. We’re always changing and why not have some choice in what those changes will be? The idea of optimal tension/stress still holds.

  3. Jean says:

    PS How are you applying those ideas to your everyday life right now?

  4. Rummuser says:

    I am in the process of dismantling my infrastructure at the moment. My blog to which you so kindly linked to, writes about one such move. There have already been others before about which I did not write and there will be more in the future till such time that I create the new structure to my life.

  5. Mike says:

    Years ago — pre-internet times — I adapted existing material for a new class for the operators on “Stress Management,” so I’m bit familiar with the idea that some stress is good and that too little or too much stress can be harmful, though the thresholds for each will vary from person to person.

    I have to keep busy mentally (and I need to be more busy physically — I’ve lapsed there, again) and I’ve been fairly successful with that. I’d say I would be in the shaded area of your figure.

  6. bikehikebabe says:

    I tend to detail & don’t see the big picture. Tom does a huge job fast & I clean up all the detail.

    I’m creative with hands-on projects. I don’t read much. I listen. Tom reads many books a week from the library & on Kindle.

    Oh Ramana, Ramana I’m going back to your blog. I was trying to save time but your blog is not the kind of time I want to save.

  7. Jean says:

    Ramana as a creative force in his life. A delightful switch. I think it’s a lot more fun than just going along with whatever life decides.

    Yes, a lot of people don’t know that and think that if the pressures in their life go away they’ll be happy. Good for you.

    The main thing is to find out what works for each of us.

  8. Cathy in NZ says:

    well, I don’t do stress…because it just stresses me out, waiting for it to clear. I jump in, shout alot, get angry, add a few curse words; then I’m basically done.

    One of my friends told another this story about me…”If you hear her shouting, angry – do not go and ask the problem? You will then be the cause, even it you are not! Wait until the shouting subsides and them just amble into the “cathy-space” and say something innocent like “how’s it going? is there anything you would like?” or “I’m going to make coffee, would you like me to get you one?”

    As to SIMPLIFYING – that never seems to occur although in the last few years the basement garage has acquired a “floor” – I just love my goods and wares of my life :-)

    Infrastructure is ongoing challenge but I enjoy most of the time…the life it gives me :-) I also spend a lot of time, collecting personal data and then analysing how best to go forward, for simple and complex things.

    I have been doing that these last few days in relationship to ongoing study coming up real soon…need to tidy up a few other things before admission will come forth!

  9. Rummuser says:

    That creative force has also come up on me without my going looking for it Jean :-)

  10. Jean says:

    There’s no way of telling, so it doesn’t matter. It does tickle my funny bone that you’re advocating a book with the subtitle Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life. Thanks for the chuckle. 😀

  11. bikehikebabe says:

    Cathy, your “just amble into the “cathy-space” and say something innocent like “how’s it going?” after the shouting has subsided, brings this to mind:
    On Dr. Oz yesterday a woman who got addicted to laxative pills to lose weight (259 to 87 pounds) was a skeleton (with large bones to boot). The woman who runs the clinic to help women addicted to that, greeted her with the cliché “HOW ARE YOU?” Seems unkind to me.

  12. Cathy in NZ says:

    bhb: I have a friend who is addicted to starting all his texts those words as well, everytime the first text says that…and if I don’t reply in that vein, he repeats it. I see texting as something fast to communicate not write an essay on the matter, or for that matter actually detail “my wellbeing”…

    When you go to see the doctor, and the receptionist asked “how are you?” – well as far as I can see, I must be either chronically ill or real sick right now!! Otherwise, I wouldn’t be there…

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