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Simplify Yourself: How Small Steps Made Easy Bring the Biggest Gains

Our will is our way IF we simplify the path for ourselves.

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

The length of a day never adjusts to give us more time.

We either come to understand that or lament it, but the truth stays the same.

There are twenty-four hours in every revolution of the earth and a finite number of those revolutions in which to do what we want with our lives.

There is no way around the fact of limited time.

So what about the heaps of advice on maximizing efficiency, balancing multiple plates, taking aim at the big stuff and going hard?

Where is the magic bullet for getting things done on the way to success?

Perhaps one of the most surprising approaches to achievement is to think small and make those small things easier to accomplish.

You’re probably familiar with the success principle, taught by Stephen Covey and others, of “starting with the end in mind.”

Essentially, we project where it is we want to be, then make our plans to get there.

Covey also taught about writing one’s own eulogy so we can envision how we would like to be remembered.

“Someone, someday will ask who I was. And someone, someday will answer by saying, “Well, look at what [she/he] did”. And what I hope I ‘did’ was to leave behind a really good answer.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

Let’s start there.

Take a few minutes right now to establish how you want to be remembered. We’ll use a special technique, though, since what we want to do is get to the essence of our desires…to simplify self. This method is called “six-word memoirs.”

In six words exactly, create a complete thought about your life as you want it to be, or want it to be remembered.

Here are a few examples to get you started. These are about people I now get to remember rather than associate with:

My son made every day count.
My dad kept promises to family.
Kindness was her way of being.

Now, your turn.

Using six words only, craft one way you would like to be remembered. It doesn’t have to be something you’ve achieved yet. This can be an aspiration.

If it helps, start the sentence with a personal pronoun like “she” or “he” — as if someone is remembering you.

II.

Thank you for engaging in that thought process. You’re “on the spot” right now, so if you weren’t able to come up with anything, make time for the exercise later. For sure, you’ve at least started to uncover the treasure that is both your purpose here and your lifetime destination.

Every arrival comes after a journey, and every safe and successful journey requires some kind of plan or preparation.

In your six-word memoir, you’ve identified a destination. Now, consider the things you’re already doing that you know are moving you in that direction.

The trick is to think small…everyday actions that, repeated over time, add strength to your will and ability to your actions.

“The only preparation for that one profound decision which can change a life…is those hundreds and thousands of half-conscious, self-defining, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private.” Dan Coats

Consciously making a connection between “small” practices and how we are going to get to that high mark in our lives is the work of the wise.

Do, be and become don’t just happen. They are incremental advancements in character, ability and understanding.

These are the actions of self-building.

III

Now, let’s talk a bit about what gets in the way of keeping these simple, simplifying acts in our lives.

Everything. Everyone. Ourselves.

Which is why we all need the secret to managing challenges, large and small.

It is this.

Our will or agency, which we love so much, is not everything. Sure, it’s the one thing we truly own and is, ultimately, the engine for our lives, but the power of will is exhaustible because we are human, get tired, are readily influenced, and must earn our stamina.

Individual will, however, is the ONLY way we will make it to our destination.

Remember your six-word memoir? No one can force us to become our best selves…to reach our personal dreams…to take daily steps in a direction that matters deeply to us.

What we can do is to use our will to create environments where it is very natural to succeed.

Think of the many ways it is easier to be effective — or more natural to be effective — when we are in supportive environments.

When we’re around healthy-living people, we don’t cater to cravings.

When we are rested, we feel more like exercising.

When we surround ourselves with motivated people, we are inspired to keep our commitments to ourselves.

Creating supportive environments that make it EASY to use our will is not a weakening choice. We’re not “copping out” of challenges — we are using our personal agency to enable — in the best of ways — small, crucial choices to be made and made with consistency.

By consciously creating environments where we can succeed, we are metaphorically paving the way for our best dreams to come true.

It is “little choices” that add up to the sum of our selves.

And equally frequently, it is the setting we choose and create that makes “commonplace tasks” possible day after day, week after week, trip around the sun after trip around the sun.

Seemingly insignificant decisions about the nature of our environment add up.

Those “seemingly insignificant” private decisions include how we use our time, what we view on television and the internet, what we read, the art and music with which we surround ourselves at work and at home, what we seek for entertainment, and how we apply our commitment to be honest and truthful [and] civil and cheerful in our personal interactions. — Dallin Oaks

These two factors combined — small, repeated actions toward big goals and environments that make consistent, positive actions possible — are powerful beyond imagination.

Your best self may well be your magnum opus, your greatest creation…but every masterpiece happens one brushstroke, one note, one inspiration at a time. It’s the culmination of small things, your repeated acts of conscious refinement in environments YOU choose to create, that reveal the ultimate you, the one that is the statement of your life.

And we each have the power to create environments that make the art of living fully possible.

IV

Here is your call to action. Buy and read this book: Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success.

Literally, with each chapter and in the most straightforward language, author Benjamin Hardy unpacks the unavoidable reality that other forces around us are creating our circumstances, often as environments that are filled with resistance to the deepest desires of our human hearts, and we have the power to change that.

Our will is our way IF we simplify the path for ourselves.

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