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Transcript – 8 Key Lessons for Living a Simple Life
Shawn: Hello BioTrust Nation! We are back with another episode. This is your host, Shawn Wells, and I’m here with my co-host, Tim Skwiat.
Tim: Trusty boy wonder over here. [chuckles]
Shawn: And we are here for another episode of BioTrust Radio. And you can get the full show notes at BioTrustRadio.com, and get all the fun links. Also, if you want to join our group at BioTrust.com/VIP, you can join the community there. We’re going to jump into an article from ZenHabits.net. And it’s about 8 Key Lessons for Living a Simple Life. This is by Leo Babauta, and we’ve talked about him before on some other episodes. We’ve read some of his articles and we’ve also talked about his book, The Power of Less.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right.
Shawn: Really amazing guy of some great insight and we love covering some lists and just giving our insight. And this is connected to another episode we just did on, again, simplifying life, becoming minimalist, reducing some of the noise around you so you can have clarity. You need to reduce the complexity and get the clarity you need.
“For the last dozen years,” he says here, “I’ve been living a relatively simple life. At times, the complexity of my life grows, and I renew my commitment to living simply. Living a simple life is about paring back, so that you have space to breathe. It’s about doing with less, because you realize that having more and doing more doesn’t lead to happiness. It’s about finding joys in the simple things, and being content with solitude, quiet, contemplation and savoring the moment. I’ve learned some key lessons for living a simple life, and I thought I’d share a few with you.
No. 1: We create our own struggles. All the stress, all the frustrations and disappointments, all the busyness and rushing; we create these with attachments in our head. By letting go, we can relax and live more simply.”
Tim: That’s powerful. And just kind of as you are reading through this, Shawn, it just reminds me of so much [chuckles] of this simplicity and minimalism. It comes back to that abundance mindset that we’ve talked about.
Tim: Which also is deeply rooted in the practice of gratitude, which we’ve harped on quite a bit, for good reason. It’s so important to take the time, like he talks about, to savor the moment and be present. We’ve talked about that. The importance of being present. But I think this is profound because a lot of our stress is self-inflicted, so to speak, by trying to do more or by talking to ourselves in a negative way, or by setting the bar unrealistically high, or trying to do too much at one time. This is profound, and again, we’ve talked about the importance of awareness and mindfulness and how that’s just taking a look, an objective look at your life, a non-judgmental objective look at your life, and the source of these stressors and things that, how that’s the first step to change.
Shawn: Why would you say that we’re doing this to ourselves? There’s a physiologic reason and we have some level of addiction to creating this stress, right? That we have this past where, obviously, it helped us survive. That fight-or-flight thing. It made us aware, it made us focus, and it made us close down the distractions. Our heart rate raises and our pupils dilate, and we focus because maybe there’s an animal out there that’s hunting us, or we hear that noise in the bushes. That serves us and there’s a reason for that, but we have an addiction. There’s a rush that comes with it, right?
Tim: An adrenaline rush, basically.
Tim: Definitely. I think that part of it too—I love that you provided that evolutionary example, because that we don’t have that present in modern day society. We’re not really hunting. So, we’re hunting for something and it’s this the stress response maybe be to some degree. But I also think that stress and being busy is kind of the wallpaper of the 21st century. We think that it’s normal and that if we’re not busy, if we’re not doing all these things, then we’re missing out.
Shawn: We’re lazy.
Tim: Or we’re not living up to the standard that that x person is setting on Facebook or Instagram. How do they have time to do all this stuff? How do they have more hours in the day? All we see is that snapshot. It’s interesting.
Shawn: Great points. “No. 2: Become mindful of attachments that lead to clutter and complexity. For example, if you are attached to sentimental items, you won’t be able to let go of clutter. If you are attached to little to living a certain way, you will not be able to let go of a lot of stuff. If you are attached to doing a lot of activities and messaging everyone, your life will be complex.”
Woo, this one’s tough. I feel like I am this way. I am not extremely sentimental. Sometimes I get criticized for that, but it’s probably because I do like to focus and I do like to give things my attention, and I do feel quite often those things serve to clutter my mind and clutter my eyesight. Oftentimes, things that are cluttering just your vision are cluttering your mind.
Shawn: You have to look at them. You have to process them. You have to focus on them. You have to think about them, and therefore, it’s serving to be noise in your mind. If you’re in a room that was clean and nearly empty and you had a task to do, you could probably get a lot more done because there’s less distractions there and there’s less noise. And certainly just letting go of the sentimental items, like he says, “will help you let go of the clutter.” And if you’re too attached to living the high lifestyle, let’s say, then it’s hard to get rid of a lot of stuff. But there’s people that have done the mini homes—what is that called?
Tim: Tiny homes.
Shawn: Tiny homes. That are doing that, that are literally just smaller than a room you had in college, and they’re living in these homes. And I know it seems crazy and I’m not saying you have to go to that extreme, but they’re finding a degree of freedom from that because there isn’t all the stuff to maintain and the cost, and the heating and the cooling and the fixing, and the up and down, and the moving the stuff from one room to another. It’s overwhelming. All this stuff you have to keep up with. The more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to keep up with. And when you can let go of some of these things, then you’ll have a simpler, easier life.
And I like how he even mentions that doing a lot of activities and messaging, because that does add complexity. That stuff on your phone, that stuff in your head that needs to be moved around and shuffled. These messages need to be responded to and then they respond back to you, and then you respond back to them. I’m not saying it’s not good to keep in contact with people. It certainly is and it’s great to have activities, but it’s not good when it’s just filling empty moments.
Tim: Yeah. I love the example that you gave of just having clutter on your desk, or something like that. It’s analogous to having too much going on in your head, how you can’t really sort through it, right? You can’t really focus. I like the physical example, in order to think about all the things you’re trying to sort through when you’re maybe trying to multitask, or maybe trying to think about all these things that you have to do. A lot of them may be unnecessary.
Shawn: Yeah, absolutely. “No. 3: Distraction, busyness, and constant switching our mental habits. We don’t need any of these habits, but they build up over the years because they comfort us. We can live more simply by letting go of these mental habits. What would life be without constant switching distraction and busyness?”
Tim: Yeah. [sighs]
Shawn: Yes, we’re all guilty of this. Again, I think we’ve said it 100 times, 100 ways on this show, that that’s not serving us. That the busyness and distraction, and multitasking, and moving things around, and feeling the need to be important, and having ourselves heard, and having a full calendar, and running around. This makes us important. This makes us needed. This makes us get attention. But none of it is actually serving us. No one’s actually impressed that you’re super-busy. No one’s actually impressed that you’re doing things half-heartedly. No one’s impressed that you’re tired all the time. No one’s impressed that you start everything and never finish it. No one’s impressed by any of that stuff. You think you’re impressing people, you’re not. You’re not. Then none of this stuff is working for you or the people around you. It’s all counterproductive. There’s no need for it. [laughs]
Tim: Dude, I love that, what you just said there. That was really eye-opening.
Shawn: Well, thank you, Tim. So, “No. 4: Single task by putting life in full screen mode.” [laughs]
Shawn: That’s a cool metaphor. “Imagine that everything you do: a work task, answering an email or message, washing a dish, reading an article, goes into full-screen mode, so that you don’t do or look at anything else. You just inhabit that task fully, and are fully present as you do it. What would your life be like? In my experience, it’s much less stressful when you work and live this way. Things get your full attention and you do them much better, and you can even savor them.”
Tim: Yeah, I mean, this is the whole uni task idea right here. But I uh love this metaphor of thinking about how there’s not 42 different tabs open or your email browser there that you can see popping up, turning on notifications and things like that. That’s a great picture to have in your mind’s eye. It’s: This is it. This is what’s getting my attention. I’m going to give it everything I got. I’m going to do it great and I’m going to do it. I love that.
And I think you’ll feel a sense of freedom when you do that that. There’s just this a sense of peace that you’re doing what you need to be doing right now, and when that’s done then you can move on to the next thing. I think it’s profound.
Shawn: I’m just thinking about seeing a movie. I’m excited to see Creed II or let’s say I go see the next Star Wars or something. And in the middle of the movie that I’ve paid for it there’s all these pop-ups.
Shawn: And then people start standing up and talking to me. And then there’s more pop-ups on the screen that say, “Click this now.” I mean, this is the reason that we go to full screen mode, right? We just want to pay attention to this amazing thing and zone out to it, and give it our full appreciation, and enjoy it for two hours. I’m going to enjoy this. That’s why the movie theater goes dark, right? That’s why we sit back in the seats and “Shh.” You’re not allowed to talk. Turn your phones off so that we can enjoy the movie. No multitasking.
[laughs] No pop-ups.
Shawn: No talking. No walking in and out. No jibber-jabber. None of that. We want to enjoy it, so why shouldn’t we apply that same mentality to other things in our life.
Tim: To everything.
Tim: I mean, time you’re spending with people, right?
Shawn: Exactly. “No. 5: Create space between things. Add padding to everything. Do half of what you imagine you can do. We tend to cram as much as possible into our days, and this becomes stressful because we always underestimate how long things will take, and we forget about maintenance tasks like putting on clothes and brushing teeth, and preparing meals. We never feel like we have enough time because we try to do too much. But what would it be if we did less? What would it be if we padded how long things took, so that when we have the space to actually do them well, with full attention? What would it be like if we took a few minutes pause between tasks to savor the accomplishment of the last task, to savor the space between things, to savor being alive?”
That’s heavy. And it’s not about going from task to task to task to task to task. We can take the time to do something well. We can take the time to admire the work we did and enjoy life, and be proud of that thing. And then take some time to think about the next thing and maybe how you’d approach it. Have you ever noticed that when you actually—a lot of times you think that you don’t have time to plan. You don’t have time. You’ve just got a rush into this thing and just do it. You don’t have time to plan it out. But what happens when you actually take that time that you think you don’t have, to plan it out. You execute it faster, you execute it better.
Tim: Yeah, exactly.
Shawn: You have the time. If you have the time to do something then you have the time to plan it out. I would say that’s true 99% of the time.
Shawn: And you have the time to certainly appreciate the things that you’ve done in that space between—I love that way of thinking of that—the space between the things. And just relish those moments, those quiet times, those downtime, those non-task times, and afford yourself those. Not only appreciate the work you just did in the task, but appreciate the non-task.
Tim: Exactly. It’s not normal, right? It’s hard to do because that’s not what we’ve been conditioned to do, and it starts with pruning back the tasks. But it’s also about the mindset, too, right? In the sense that a lot of times we’re just not going through the motions, but we’re just trying to get through one thing so we can get to the next. And I think about it, like an example of cooking. Like we’re just trying to get this meal done so we can get on to the next thing. But take time to prepare that meal with love and with your heart, with your full attention. And I guarantee it will taste better and be enjoyed by more people. And then when it’s done, that’s something physical that you can actually look at and say, “Wow, this this turned out to be really good,” and you get maybe some compliments on it. But that’s just one example.
Basically, everything that you put your hands on can be a piece of art. And if you look at it that way, whether it’s writing an email, whether it’s cooking a meal, whether it’s spending time with your child. All of those things are on your tapestry, so to speak. And when you look at it that way, maybe it helps you immerse yourself in the moment more, or maybe it helps you take that time afterwards to kind of reflect on how that time was spent and help you kind of set the path for the next task or the next time you have that opportunity to do the same task.
Shawn: Boom. [laughs]
Tim: Boom sauce.
Tim: Boom sauce.
Shawn: [laughs] “No. 6: Find joy in a few simple things. For me, those include writing, reading, learning, walking and doing, and other active things, eating simple food, meditating, spending quality time with people I care most about. Most of that doesn’t cost anything or require any possessions, especially if you use the library for books. I’m not saying I have zero possessions, nor that I only do these few things, but to the extent that I remember the simple things I love doing, my life suddenly becomes simpler. When I can remember, I can let go of everything else my mind has fixated on and just find the simple joy of doing simple activities.”
Tim: So, for the listener, when is the last time you thought about what are the things that you enjoy most? If you could, right now, just ask yourself that question. What are the things that you care most about doing? And he gave his list here: the writing, the reading, learning, walking, being active, eating simple foods, meditating, spending quality time with people. What are the things that you find the most joy in, and write that list. And then compare that list to what you’re doing.
Shawn: What you do. [laughs]
Tim: Are you are you falling in line with your priorities, or not? and then you have that list and then you can start to pare back on the things that you’re spending your time on so that you are immersing more of your time in the things that bring you the most joy.
Shawn: [sighs] It makes me just kind of relax and think about the things that I enjoy, too. And it is simple things. I love just taking my doggy for a walk.
Shawn: Just that I live by the lake and the sun’s out, and just walking along the lake with my little doggy that seems to run and just love the wind. And I just like watching her just kind of run around, and that kind of makes me feel more free. That’s probably one of my most favorite things. It’s super simple. No cost. My dog loves it. I love it. So, quite often that’s the case that not only are these simple things at no cost, but when you love doing them with someone else, they probably love it too and they enjoy it.
Shawn: Whether it’s your dog, your cat, your kid, your friend, your wife or husband, or your grandma or whatever. Quality time is simple. Think about that 15 minutes you could spend at the nursing home with grandma or grandpa, or just with someone that may not even be someone you know, but just think about you’re going to tell me that they were wishing that they could spend a bunch of money to ride around in a car? No, to them, you spending 15 minutes with them, talking to them is the most powerful thing that you could give them. The greatest gift, just to connect. And fellowship is the greatest thing that we have in life, quite simply. And the reason it’s so extremely powerful to them is they probably don’t get enough of it.
Shawn: And we take it for granted. And it’s just an amazing joy and it costs no money, and it’s the greatest gift. So, give it to yourself, give it to others. Focus on them, do the simple things, and enjoy and watch your life change.
“No. 7: Get clear about what you want and say no to more things.” [grumbles]
Shawn: Man, this is a big one for me. I need this one right here. “We are rarely very clear on what we want. When we see someone post a photo of something cool, we might all of a sudden get fixed on doing that too.” That’s what’s called FOMO, fear of missing out.
Shawn: “And suddenly the course of our lives veer off in a new direction. Same thing if we read about something cool or watch a video of a new destination or hobby. When someone invites us to something cool, we instantly want to say “yes” because our minds love saying yes to everything, to all the shiny new toys. What if we became crystal clear on what we wanted in life? If we knew what we wanted to create, how we wanted to live, we could say “yes” to these things and “no” to everything else. Saying no to more things would simplify our lives.” And I’ll take it one step further from what he says, it would make your life infinitely better and more rich, and you would feel accomplished and clear, and passionate, and joyful because you’re focused on the things that you love, that you’re good at, and not wasting times on things that are draining your energy, that you’re not good at.
It’s going to be clear that you’re not good at them. It’s going to be clear that you’re not passionate about them. People are going to see you half-hearted. People are going to see you constantly failing at whatever this thing is because you don’t care about it, you’re not passionate about it, you don’t love it. But you’re sitting there doing it, wasting your energy, and it’s not serving yourself well, it’s not serving those people you’re with well, and it’s not serving the people well that you’re not sharing your true gift with. There’s opportunity costs, right?
Shawn: When you’re wasting your time with those people doing something not well and you think that’s somehow serving them because hey. They asked me to do something. I’m going to show up. And I’m going to be half-hearted and I’m going to be there. At least I’m there. I said I’d show up. You’re not serving them well with your half-heartedness and mediocrity. But if you’re over here and showing up in your full power in being a rock star at the thing you love, that you’re good at, that you’re passionate about, and everyone’s like, “My goodness. I’m learning from this person. I’m inspired by this person. Look at them just in their full power, just being everything that they were meant to be.” Now you’re serving someone. Now you’re showing your gift. Now you’re showing up.
Tim: I love that, Shawn, and I love that you talked about opportunity cost, because by not saying no to one thing that we probably don’t want to do, we’re saying no to ourselves and to other people who we care about, basically. There’s a great book called Boundaries. It’s subtitled, When to Say Yes and How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. And that’s a book that I would recommend people take a look at if they have a hard time saying no. Because it’s not something that comes easy to everyone. People pleasers have a hard time to say no. But again, if you’re saying yes to something, you’re saying no to something else; whether you realize it or not. And that’s something that needs to be very clear. And then there’s a lot of people who are just go getters and they want to say yes to everything.
I think it comes back to—in large part—simplifying your goals and really understanding what your priority is. And when you do that, when you have that one big goal—I think in another show we said to simplify the two things—whether it’s one or two, you can basically take a look at something that’s presented to you and say does this align with my top priority or not. And if it does, say yes; if it doesn’t, say no, right? It should be that simple. It’s not.
Shawn: It never is.
Tim: I know it’s not that simple. If we want to look at it objectively, if I was helping you, if I was coaching you, Shawn.
Tim: I could say, “Listen buddy, you just told me this is your top goal and this thing right here, if you say yes to it, your counter your top priority.”
Shawn: That’s why you need those accountability partners, these coaches and mentors that that can read you, that know you that know what you said your goals are, that know where you’re trying to get to and can read through your BS and your excuses.
Tim: Yeah. [laughs]
Shawn: Period. Let’s be frank about this. We lie to ourselves constantly. We’re filtering and we’re adding complexity to things that really aren’t that complex. It should be that simple. Is it serving you or not? It’s a yes or it’s a no. And we’re making it super complicated, and that’s where having those people in your life that care about you, that want to see what’s best for you, and give you constructive advice, that can be extremely helpful. You have to make sure they’re the right people and that they are caring for you and serving you, and then you can certainly surround yourself with those people. But that can be immensely helpful.
So, “No. 8: Practice doing nothing exquisitely. How often do we actually do nothing? Okay, technically we’re always ‘doing something,’ but what I mean just sit there and do nothing. No need to plan, no need to read, no need to watch something, no need to do a chore or eat while you do nothing.” I’ll add no need to be looking at your phone.
Shawn: Even while you’re watching TV, you’re looking at your phone, while you’re sitting there waiting for someone, you’re looking at your phone. While you’re in your car and parked in a parking lot, you’re looking at your phone. “Just don’t do anything. Don’t accomplish anything. Don’t take care of anything. What happens is you will start to notice your brain’s habit of wanting to get something done, it will almost itch to do something. This exposes our mental habits, which is a good thing. However keep doing nothing. Just sit for a while, resisting the urge to do something. After some practice, you can get good at doing nothing, and this leads to the mental habit of contentment, gratitude without complaining.”
Tim: Yeah, that’s awesome. I would even go so far as to say do nothing in a public place.
Tim: It’s kind of awkward for others and it’s really eye-opening to see how many people can’t do nothing. Like you talked about, I’ll be at the airport later today.
Shawn: Screen time. [laughs]
Tim: Man, there all these people. You’ve talked about this before. You have all these people sitting next to each other and 90% of them or more are looking at their phone, instead of engaging with one another. That’s fascinating.
Shawn: You know what’s funny is they’re probably conversing with other people through messages and they could actually be conversing with each.
Tim: [chuckles] Exactly. So many of these people sitting live next to real people, yet they’re just talking to other people through their phone. Another place that I like to do this is if I go out to eat at a restaurant and I’m with someone else, but maybe they get up to go use the restroom. Almost invariably, everyone wants to take out their phone and start looking at the phone because it’s kind of like “Oh, I don’t want to sit here by myself.” I just to sit there and just look around and take inventory of all the people enjoying conversations and sitting there, or hopefully not on their phone while someone else is trying to talk with them. But I don’t know, the exercise of doing nothing in a public place is pretty profound to me. Because it’s uncomfortable, and I think that times that we can allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable is that hormetic stress that we’ve talked about, where we adapt and we have this sense of peace, this tranquility, this parasympathetic activity, and things that.
Shawn: You know, one thing I’d love to see more people do, too, speaking of being out in public, is just keep their head up and smile.
Shawn: And say, “hi.”
Shawn: I can’t even count how many interactions I have a day, when I walk by people in the gym or in the parking lot, or whatever. And I have my head up and when they walk by me, they put their head down, to avoid the interaction. And sometimes I’ll even say, “Hey, how you doing?” And sometimes it snaps them out of their head being down and then they interact and they smile. But some people can’t even deal with that. They just ignore that and it’s kind of a sad state.
Think about if we were several hundred years ago and you were out in the country and you’re in a wagon, and you’ve been riding for days, and another person passed by in another wagon. And if you said hi and waved to them, don’t you think that they’d say hi and wave back and be kind of excited to interact with you?
Shawn: And yet because we’re spoiled with so many people being around us, we think that we don’t need to interact with them on any level. And this is just basic humanity to recognize the other person in front of you and have gratitude that they’re healthy and well, and that they’re sharing space in your life. No matter what it is. If they’re in the gym, if they’re in the parking lot, or if they’re in the elevator, smile at that person, wave to that person. Say hi, like “Hey, what floor are you going to? Hey, let me press that for you. Hey, can I hold the door for you. Have a great day.” You can change someone’s day. I mean, you literally could have someone maybe not commit suicide that day. You never know how profound just one little thing that you think is nothing can change someone’s life.
But here’s news to use—it can change yours. It can totally change your attitude on how you feel. When you interact with people, when you care for people, when you put your heart out there, when you risk something. You know, no risk/no reward. Put your head up, smile, engage someone in the eyes, and say hi. I bet you make more friends than if you have your head down.
Tim: This mic doesn’t drop, but if it did now would be the time.
Tim: Buddy, that was that was profound. Thank you for what wrapping things up like that.
Shawn: Thank you, Tim. You know, Tim, you inspire me a lot. I’m really appreciative to Tim being my partner on the show, and we’d love to get some more reviews from you and hear from you, and we’re thankful to have the opportunity to do the show. It’s a blessing, really. We love speaking to you and getting your feedback. Again, just doing reviews on the show or asking questions that lead the show or giving us topic ideas, or when you share the show with your friends, when you subscribe on Spotify, on Stitcher, on Google Podcast, on iTunes. I mean, we can’t thank you enough. We just have gratitude for you, and I hope you have a simply better day. So, thanks again guys.
Tim: Cheers gang.