It can be said that there are only two certainties in our lives – that we will die and that there will be change. The beginning of a new year is traditionally a time for planning but sometimes planning at any time can seem futile when life can be so unpredictable. How do we come up with a plan for our business or our personal life that is sustainable? How do we ensure that our plans are flexible enough to be worth spending any time on?
The good news is that there is an easy solution. Sustainability in every aspect of our lives is about simplifying. Somehow we’ve come to associate progress with more sophistication, in our technology, in how we communicate, how we look after ourselves, how we raise our children. And yet, simplicity is often the more elegant solution and the more sustainable. Think of the difference between creating energy from a nuclear power station or a wind turbine. Think of the difference between steering an ocean liner or a rowing boat. The simpler and less sophisticated the system, the more maneuverable, flexible and sustainable it is likely to be.
In Our Homes – fewer, multipurpose tools.
De-cluttering is a term in common usage these days. It seems to me to be an essential step towards simplification. I’ve found, in my own down shifting ventures, that de-cluttering is best treated less like a “spring clean” and more like “brushing your teeth”. By that I mean that simplicity requires daily rather than annual attention and involves a deliberate decision to maintain or reduce items rather than accumulate. This can apply to paperwork, gadgets, toys and games, clothes. One way to reduce the number of items you need is by using fewer multipurpose tools. For example, in the kitchen, when your food processor wears out, you could replace it with a good quality cook’s knife. Similarly with our clothes, we can decide to keep fewer, simpler, more flexible items that can be mixed and matched. If more specialised items are required, for example for a special occasion such as a wedding, we can choose to hire an outfit rather than buy it.
In Our Businesses – simple systems, health and heart.
In my experience, most business owners who love their work have a strong, well defined vision and a few simple and robust business systems. For most of us, there will be several ways in which we can earn a living. The reason, other than money, that we do what we do is our business purpose – our vision that drives us forward and adds meaning to what we do. When we have a strong, well-defined vision for our business then we have something congruent and steadfast with which to align our decisions. This usually makes decision making simple and straightforward. It also makes designing and creating robust business systems simpler, more sustainable and less time consuming to manage.
Your continued and sustained good health and wellbeing are as much assets of value as the material items you believe you need for your success. It’s a good idea to make sure that your business plan leaves spaces for you to look after yourself.
Sustainable businesses place a heavy emphasis on people and relationships. When we communicate from the heart we value honesty over manipulation, cooperation over competition and authenticity over propaganda. This is simpler and less energy draining than trying to force ourselves, our employees or associates to behave in a way that’s not authentic for them.
With Our Children – individuality and exploration.
What is our vision for our children? What kind of parents do we aspire to be?
We can teach our children to live in simplicity and in alignment with their values by modelling it ourselves. Expecting them to lead a heavily timetabled life, controlled mainly by adults is just leading them to believe that a rat race existence is normal and healthy.
Whatever our views might be about the need to control children, they will in the end walk their own path. Our children are not just smaller versions of us, but have their own preferences and their own strengths and weaknesses. It is usually simpler for all concerned when we acknowledge and accept this early on rather than battling with it.
When we consult children on decisions that affect them and show them that we value their input then they feel respected and are easier to be with and to plan with.
Plans for our future, whether at home, in our businesses or with our children, can be easy to create and to follow when we emphasise simplicity and a well-defined vision. Having such a focus allows for flexibility in the face of unforeseen events and sustainability in our actions.
Sally Lever 2008 http://www.sallylever.co.uk
Sally Lever is a Sustainable Living Coach who specializes in encouraging and inspiring those who are down shifting or otherwise moving towards a more sustainable way of life. She offers one-to-one coaching, teleclasses in “How to step off the Treadmill” and a free email newsletter.