I remember one 4th of July weekend when my husband and I gathered a small group of friends for a “Freedom Fest.” No fireworks, hot dogs, or Tchaikovsky. Instead, we had a potluck and asked each guest to bring one thing that “I want to be free from,” such as a habit, worry, situation, or concern.
For me, the first thing that came to mind was email. But as I peeled away the layers of the onion and went deeper, I realized that my frustrations with email were just a symptom of my overall busy-ness. And beneath this was my need to produce and create.
Further, I had good reasons for most of the stuff I wanted to accomplish. I think this is where many of us get caught up in this drive and how it becomes an ingrained behavior. We have positive, even noble, reasons for our busy-ness: it’s in service to a good cause, or it’s for our family, or to help our community, or to connect with friends, or in the name of healing and world peace, and so on. Pretty soon we’ve slipped into overdrive, but the only place we ’re driving to is over the edge. It’s just too much.
Throughout the evening, we passed around a basket of freedom questions: What would happen if I was free from ____________? When was a time I felt most free? What does being free mean to me? What would feeling free at work, at home, or in my marriage look like? People shared some fascinating perspectives on the theme of breaking free and simplifying.
Before we all said goodnight, we wrote down all the things we wanted to be free from and burned these outside in a clay pot as a symbolic release.
Days later, as I continued reflecting on the freedom theme, I realized that what we all want most is inner freedom.
Freedom from our stressful thinking, from our own recurring negative thoughts. We want more interior space. We ’re tired of living in the shanty built by our own fears and insecurities. We want to live in a mansion — an expansive, wide-open space where we roam free, content, at peace. Where we can breathe deep, long, spacious breaths. Interior freedom. The space to just be without having to do. Yes, I want to experience more of that for sure. And, I believe we can experience that mansion whenever we want, when we disentangle from the idea that our worth is tied to our ability to produce. As my friend Carol Orsborn shares in her book Inner Excellence: Spiritual Principles to Life-Driven Business: “Your ordinary self is enough.” I’m enough! Without doing. Just me, as I am. What a revelation!
Lately, as I reflect on how I can create more internal space and simplify my life (read more), what keeps coming to me, is a theme that surfaced many times as I was doing research for my last book. Studies in the field of positive psychology show our level of happiness and contentment takes a nose dive when we try and do too much, endlessly juggle or are faced with making too many decisions.
Simplifying and doing less feels good. Less=more.
GIVEAWAY: I’d love to hear how others are simplifying their lives. Share one thing you’re doing to create more inner freedom and simplicity in your life in the comments section here and we’ll pick one winner at random and send you two signed, loved-up copies of Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. I can’t wait to hear your suggestions!
INVITE: Would you like to gather each month with like-minded women who also desire to simplify their life and reconnect with what matters most? Consider joining or leading a Personal Renewal Group for women. We have life coaching groups meetings in 10 countries around the globe. Learn more.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/speaker and Career Strategists president, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and more. Thousands of women in ten countries are becoming RTA-Certified Facilitators and leading/joining self-renewal groups based on her award-winning curriculum. She is the author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family: 10 Ways to Reconnect and Find Peace in Everyday Life. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and 12 year-old son. More on her background here.