In all areas of our life, we should be seeking ways to simplify. Simplicity, as Leonardo Da Vinci said, is the ultimate sophistication. When we simplify, we recognize what is non-essential and remove it, leaving behind only what is essential.
The act of simplifying is not easy, but it yields incredible power. When things are simple, we are not distracted by the non-essential. There is nothing getting in the way of what we're trying to achieve. This distraction-free environment empowers us to think and grow toward our goals more quickly, to feel clarity and ease where before there was always a subtle, seemingly unidentifiable resistance.
When we experience something powerfully simple, it's usually not obvious what makes it so powerful. Simple things exude a quiet confidence that seems to ooze from some distant magical world, giving it unexpected strength.
Think about the various famous quotes you've heard repeated over and over: "Be the change you wish to see in the world", "Love conquers all" "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." All of these exemplify simplicity because the non-essential has been removed. The statements have been reduced to clear, universal truths that we can all identify with.
Simplifying requires clear understanding of purpose. If the purpose is clear, the non-essential becomes obvious and can be removed. If the purpose is ambiguous or unclear, the non-essential mixes with the essential and a pool of chaotic confusion is created.
If I wanted to express that health is very important, more important than say money or treasures or fame or status, I could achieve that by saying, "there are lots of things in the world that are valuable but in the end it's health that is the most valuable."
However, if I identify the purpose of what I'm trying to say — that is to express that health is the most valuable thing — I can remove all the non-essential and arrive at the statement, "health is wealth". So simple, yet so powerful! All of the non-essential has been removed and what remains is a vehicle for fulfilling the purpose of the statement.
In all simple things you will discover this removal of the non-essential, this cutting to the core of what is intended. In powerful writing and communication you will see less ambiguity and more certainty. 'I think there's something powerful about simplicity' becomes 'simplicity is powerful'. 'I think you're very pretty' becomes 'you're beautiful'.
I arrived at my current website layout after thousands of iterations over the past ten years. I'm constantly seeking to remove the non-essential by clarifying the purpose of the website, which is to present my writing online and allow others to share the writing and leave comments.
I'll never be 'done' simplifying because the quest for simplicity evolves alongside the one universal constant in the universe: change.
In the emails that my subscribers receive, I'm constantly searching for ways to simplify. If you compare this Journal email to that of a previous one, you'll find that the footer and signature content have been greatly simplified. When I recognized that the singular purpose of these emails was to share newly published writing, it became obvious that providing lots of links to send people to various social media platforms was non-essential.
Again, removing the non-essential by identifying the ultimate purpose of a thing.
When I decided to make a lifestyle transition in 2010, I began by identifying my long-term lifestyle goal and revising it until it was crystal clear: to travel the world with all my possessions on my back. That clarity instantly identified the non-essential things in my life: my own apartment, a pickup truck, a snowboard, a mountain bike, extra clothes, extra shoes, extra bags, a big digital camera… the list goes on.
With all that non-essential removed, my life feels far more simple than it did before, but it also feels more sophisticated and full of potential. A simple lifestyle does not need to be primitive.
Remember, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and identifying and removing the non-essential from your life will increase your ability to achieve your goals and free you to experience more of life.
What is your ultimate purpose? If that's too big a question, then what's your primary goal right now? What exactly are you working toward? Meditate on that for a few moments. Zero in on it. When you feel clarity, ask yourself what non-essential things surround that goal. What's getting in the way? What's not necessary?
Seek ways to simplify by clarifying purpose and identifying and removing the non-essential.