Inside: Building a right-sized life means a made from scratch, handcrafted, customized life that is honest, authentic, and helps us walk out each day on purpose. My right-sized life includes soulful simplicity. Yours can too. This post contains relevant referral links.
I’m not convinced life has to be as complicated as we make it. We don’t control every circumstance but most of us still have a lot of room to choose.
I choose simple.
Conscious or soulful simplicity allows me to live with purpose, health, and joy. It allows me to sift through all the noise, the “shoulds” and shiny opportunities, to get clear on the truth of what I want and need. Or even, simply, what’s lighting me up in a particular season.
It gives me courage to honor my wiring, my strengths, and even my limitations, shame and ego free. To honor the full messy truth of who and how I am and how I want to grow.
This is how we build a “right-sized life.”
Building a right-sized life means a made from scratch, handcrafted, customized life that is honest, authentic, and helps us walk out each day on purpose.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we really are. -Brené Brown
Living authentically for me includes deliberately and persistently saying yes to a simple life or to the soulful simplicity that Courtney Carver speaks to.
But I don’t think we should confuse simple with easy.
Simple Might Feel Easier, But Not Necessarily Easy
My mantra for this year is “say yes to life” and by this I mean to all of it. To the joy and delight and to the sorrow, stretching, and letting go. I often wish this were easier.
So while I choose simple, simple isn’t synonymous with easy for a couple primary reasons. First, life doesn’t really care what declarations we make; it will give us opportunities to stretch and grow. Second, I’m not pursuing easy because I’m clear that the life I want, and the kind of person I choose to be, requires conscious effort.
In fact, part of living authentically and telling the truth about what I want or need means doing plenty of hard things.
It means gathering up wisdom, becoming who I really am, healing, loving when it’s hard, and saying yes to risk or putting my heart and hope into words and sharing them online. It means a willingness to be a beginner. It means advocating hard for my health or the health of my family. It means living values-aligned in my budget and on my calendar, in the way I treat myself and the manner in which I show up online.
It has meant walking through dark valleys, learning to let go, and picking up joy and not quitting when everything in me screams to run or hide under the covers and never come back up for air again.
A full, beautiful life will involve stress and pain and challenges and invitations to choose our response. Choosing simple does not protect us from this reality. There is no magic “simple bubble” that protects us from all pain. Nor would I want it to given that I see the roots I’ve put down because of (not in spite of) the storms I’ve walked through.
Simple does not automatically mean easy.
It also does not mean concession or settling as some people think. It’s weird to me that people think you’re “living small” if you have the talent or means to work as a doctor or engineer, say, but choose not to, or if you opt for “enough” over bigger and better.
Accolades, money, and titles don’t automatically confer happiness or meaning. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. Having to push back against this type of messaging can feel quite hard and requires inner strength and clear conviction.
There is no one way that simple looks across the board or in every season – we get to define it and practice and iterate as we go. It seems that life would feel easier if we could ever “arrive” – if we could finally gather up enough wisdom and knowledge to keep us content. But life doesn’t work that way. Every single season brings new lessons and gifts but we have to work for them even if that simply means saying yes to living awake and responsive.
Yet another reason simple (even soulful simplicity) doesn’t mean easy is because life is messy and complex. No matter how hard we work to build a life with breathing room that reflects our primary goals and values, stuff happens. Scary and sad stuff, amazing and beautiful stuff too – all of which typically requires saying yes to discomfort or stretching.
Having said all that, choosing simple does make my life easier (not easy, but easier) than if I were constantly trying to measure up or keep up, or filling my life up to overflowing without stopping to consider why.
There is certainly more ease and calm in filtering and sifting and keeping my eyes on my own path and building a life with intention.
What Soulful Simplicity Looks and Feels Like in My Life
For years I’ve used Danielle Laporte’s idea of Core Desired Feelings to identify how I choose to be. My 5 words have only changed slightly over the years. In this season they are: rooted, curious, purposeful, authentic, and unshackled (this means walking in freedom).
If you’ve followed my work for any length of time you will know that I’ve walked through some darker seasons – some because of loss or sorrow I could not predict or control. Other times because I’ve wrestled with suicidality, depression and anxiety. My life experience has helped root me – I see the temporal nature of life and want to receive each day fully. I know what I want and take responsibility for it.
In the middle season of life this looks like space to breathe, travel, and purposeful rest. Lots of white space. Also time and permission to create, play, experiment, do work that lights me up without attachment to outcome or worrying if it’s always the most productive or profitable thing (this project is a happy example).
It means living present and mindful in every season and not rushing through my days. Not even the painful ones. Listening in and sitting with – understanding that there is wisdom to be mined in every season but also that life is not a race to the finish line but a gift – a journey. I want to say yes to all of it.
It means building a business I love and staying focused on my voice and my vision even though there are many shiny things I could chase, many other people doing amazing work but choosing not to get sucked into comparing or watching them. Staying the course. Eyes on my own path.
It means layering on skill and knowledge – not trying to do all the things at once. Or at all. What I can happily do today in my business would have crushed me a few years ago. When we take the longer view and allow ourselves space and time, we invite more ease into life.
It means choosing freedom and flexibility (two core values in this season) to bend and flex when my family needs more of me, when an unexpected fun opportunity comes my way, or when I notice that I need to prioritize my mind-body health.
It also means plenty of no’s. Letting go of performing or pleasing other people – setting good, healthy boundaries in place. But it also means saying no to many wonderful opportunities and fabulous ideas to make space for what is most important to me.
Soulful simplicity has always involved, for me, self-imposed rules that reduce decision fatigue and wrestling.
Like 14 years ago when I broke sugar cravings (sugar is an exception in my life, not the norm), or how for 20 years I opted out of alcohol and did an 18 month fast after that when I started craving wine to help calm anxiety.
It includes my no-bullying policy (I only speak to myself kindly!), choosing a minimalist wardrobe, and monthly principle only payments to shave 7 years off the life of my mortgage, even though there have been times that money would have come in handy.
I don’t have to argue with myself about these things – I made a decision once and walk it out daily. Simple. But not easy.
Similarly, the rhythms and routines I’ve set in place simplify my life and help me show up with joy and purpose, along with greater calm and ease.
As much as possible I work with instead of against my natural wiring which includes introversion, high-sensitivity, and thriving with a slower, quieter start to the day. Although I care about people I am drained quickly by regular engagement so arrange my schedule to work with my optimal energy flow.
It also includes leveraging my strengths. Instead of trying to walk in someone else’s footsteps or judging myself in comparison, I focus on what I do best (and what lights me up). As an example, my writing isn’t remarkable but its simple honesty helps people feel seen and heard. It also helps them see new (joyful) possibility.
I embrace imperfection though this hasn’t come easily to me (I have a tendency of moving the bar without realizing I’ve done so), and have defined “enough” and “success” for myself. This is huge when it comes to simplifying life and business.
As an Enneagram 1w2 I’m good at helping people identify what can be done better – why this matters to them – and how to take steps toward what they say they need and want. I am a community-builder and care about helping people witness and walk in their inherent gifting and worth. And I walk my talk.
Realizing that simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy brings freedom. It means you’re not doing it wrong if try as you might, life keeps throwing you curve balls. It means you can be proud of yourself for showing up and taking small, consistent steps in the direction you choose to go. Perfection is not the goal. Easy isn’t the goal.
A right-sized life is the goal – at least for me. And my right-sized life is a simple one.