We’ve all felt it – the desire to take a hacksaw and cut three quarters of the BS out of our lives. Whether it’s work, relationships, or simple nonsense chores (that pile of dishes that’s been sitting in your sink for a week), we can all use some simplification every now and then. And there are plenty of books that delve into this topic – the Self-Help genre is rife with answers on this topic. After ages of hearing the same old answers from high-energy gurus, you might be left wondering what else is out there. I’m sure you’ve tried taking deep breaths before, but be both know that won’t make your dishes clean.
For this National Simplify Your Life Week, let’s try something different; you’ve already done the hard part and survived 6 days of complicated chaos, tallying up everything that’s been bugging you. Now, you’re ready to evaluate. To help you, here are 10 pieces of advice from fictional characters or organizations that will provide you with a fresh new perspective on simplification.
1. Kelsier – Mistborn
“If we can turn the houses inside Luthadel against each other, we can bring down the city. Mistborn will start assassinating house leaders. Fortunes will collapse. It won’t take long before there is open warfare in the streets. Part of our contract with Yeden states that we’ll give him an opening to seize the city for himself. Can you think of a better one than that?”
This can be dubbed “the Mistborn effect” in honor of the book that it comes from. By arranging your life so that doing one thing can cause multiple other things to happen, you will save yourself time, energy, and unnecessary stress. Consider the benefits of networking and investing; by taking small actions in these areas (following someone on LinkedIn or buying shares of a company), you set yourself up for greater things to come.
2. President Coriolanus Snow – The Hunger Games Trilogy
“Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have provided a spark that, left unattended, may grow into an inferno that destroys Panem.”
Sometimes, the best way to simplify your life is to get an iron grip around whatever is causing you chaos. In other words, become the villainous tyrant and establish systems to keep your house and job responsibilities in line. Be ruthless about it – to an extent. Do not tolerate the pile-up of dishes or the stuffed inboxes any longer. Just don’t obliterate your 13th stressor; you never know when it could rebel.
3. Jack Reacher – Jack Reacher: Nothing to Lose
“No, I’m a man with a rule. People leave me alone, I leave them alone. If they don’t, I don’t.”
It is easy to be cast in the wind of society’s collective emotions and values. After years blowing around, you may find yourself asking: “who am I and what am I living for?” To save you from a lot of philosophical reading, the above is an example of how simple your life principles can be. I mean, look at that! It’s basically a Tweet. Considering how many tweets you write each day, you’ll have no problem creating your life’s compass if you narrow down on what you really believe.
4. Robert Baratheon – A Game of Thrones
“I’m not trying to honor you. I’m trying to get you to run my kingdom while I eat, drink, and whore my way to an early grave.”
Ahh… Delegation. Sometimes, getting help from others is the best way to get that big project done. Whether you’re moving into a new apartment or struggling to design a product for your side hustle, finding someone who’s an expert in what you’re not can save you time and prevent those dreaded rage-quits. Take it from the guy who overthrew the reign of the dragon. Now, call your banners and get your vision accomplished!
5. Andy Dufresne – Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption
“Get busy living or get busy dying.”
We’ve all put off the things we should have done, but there’s something worse than that: putting off work toward our long-term dreams for the sake of the short-term holes we dig ourselves into. Well, it’s time you reminded yourself that this is your one life. Every day, your cells get older and you decay bit by bit until your biological systems fail you. In the mean time, if you want to actually live the life you desire, you must set aside the BS and get busy on what is really important. If you want to write a book, but haven’t found the time yet, make the time. Losing one hour of sleep to write a few pages may not be the healthiest choice, but we’re all going to die eventually.
6. Dr. Ian Malcolm – Jurassic Park
“You know, at times like this, one feels, well, perhaps extinct animals should be left extinct.”
There are some things in life that we shouldn’t touch for the sake of keeping ourselves on the right path. But no one is perfect, so you might need to wrangle your dinosaurs first (or simply get off that island you’ve stranded yourself on). Think of the things that are actively holding you back – the temptations and distractions that are sucking away your time. Perhaps, you should quit watching that new reality tv show. Some things are best left for others to enjoy, because you need to get busy building your grand legacy.
7. Gandalf The Grey to Frodo – The Lord of the Rings
Frodo: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
We’ve heard it before: stop worrying about what you don’t have control over. This advice, it seems, gets overlooked since it points to our evident vulnerability as creatures of fragile chemistry. But the lesson holds true for those wanting to master anything in their lives. Your attention can’t be wasted worrying about that immovable objects and unstoppable forces that are pervasive in your life. Instead, you can focus on improving your work output, health, and anything else that ties directly back to your mind, body, and soul.
8. Elizabeth Bennet – Pride and Prejudice
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.”
Peer-pressure is a nasty social disease that can make us do things our rational selves would never even consider. In order to cure it, you must hold yourself to your courage and outright reject the bad influences in your life. Take it from Elizabeth Bennet, who decided she was not going to have it with Mr. Darcy’s intimidation tactics. Think of how simple life would become if you lowered your anchor and endured the storms instead of letting them blow you across the ocean away from your desired destination. Though hard and painful at times, the end results will prove worthy.
9. Professor Severus Snape – Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix
“Control your emotions. Discipline your mind!”
We’ve all had moments where the dogs inside us start barking. Whether you lose yourself raging at a close friend or simply can’t exit Facebook, discipline and emotional control are things everyone can benefit from. Though this is one of the hardest pieces of advice to implement, you will become a true master of your fate if you succeed. Considering Snape’s success at outwitting the Dark Lord himself, there is no doubt that he mastered his own emotions. Had he not, it’s likely Voldemort would’ve been victorious.
10. Bene Gesserit Incantation – Dune
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Fear is a pain in the arse. Plain and simple. So, how do you eliminate it from your daily life? While that would make things so much simpler, unfortunately, human neurology doesn’t yet work that way. We’re all wired to fear, but there are ways of controlling your fears by putting them into perspective. One way is to look at the Bene Gesserit philosophy, which calls for analyzing your fears, learning their sources, and uprooting them from your life.