“Where are the simple joys of maiden hood? Are those sweet simple pleasures gone for good?” Remember those lyrics from Camelot?
For poetry lovers:
“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Appareled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more. (William Wordsworth’s “Immortality Ode,” Lines 1-9)
Here’s the point for citing these lines.
As children we noticed and marveled at the simple pleasures of nature, but as we grow older they don’t spark the same excitement. We hardly notice the beauty around us. It is not just a matter of age. It is also the byproduct of modern living. We are being molded and embittered by what we see and hear through the media: the wars, terrorism, heinous crimes, widening inequality, poverty, racism, gun violence spreading even among children, dysfunctional family lives and relationships…The list goes on and on. Television, internet, and social media are bringing us ever so close to these realities.
But this is not the total picture. There is another side. We are not entirely helpless amidst the harsh realities of life. The human spirit has been known to overcome indomitable odds and find peace, success and happiness. We may not be able to solve the world’s problems single handedly, but we can definitely do our share of contributing something of value to this world and to ourselves.
For starters, we need to see life in its essence, almost the way we did as children before reality caught up with us. Instead of being engulfed by miasma, we need to see our way clear to beauty, truth, and fulfillment through simplicity. How do we do that? By selectively choosing from amidst the clutter of complex, often bewildering choices before us, the most compelling priorities and then focusing on those instead of spreading ourselves thin pursuing a multitude of means and ends that lead to nowhere and to no sense of fulfillment.
Here are some ways in which a person can simplify life and find true sense of achievement and happiness:
Establish priorities. Start with the big picture: life’s priorities such as family, career, health, religion, and so forth. Rank them in order of importance. Decide on the number one priority within each of those categories. For example, in the area of health, your top priority may be to reach and maintain an ideal body weight. Under family, a top priority may be to ensure that your children are getting the best opportunities to succeed and be happy.
Establish action plans. Keep it simple. The more complicated the plans, the less progress you will make, and the more stress, anxiety, and frustration they will cause. You do not need, for instance, to engage in every possible exercise every day of the week to become fit. Decide what one result you have to have and selectively choose a few exercises, with the help of a personal trainer, to get the best results. Also, stick to realistic plans. Trying to get very lean and very strong at the same time is too difficult since they involve totally different exercise systems. If you try to hit too high a benchmark or too many priorities at once, you can become overwhelmed. You will make a lot more progress if you breakdown you options into smaller bits and focus on them one at a time.
Get into the right mind-set. For example, if your goal is to reach the finals of a difficult race in a very competitive arena, you must be willing to take the time to research ways of getting ahead of the competition. You must build confidence through experience. You must ultimately find a novel approach that works for you instead of just doing what others are doing. Also, you need conviction or a compelling motivation to stay on top of the project. Establishing your motivation in relation to each task will keep you on track and keep you performing at your peak.
Allocate time for the priorities. Document your current time allocation system. Make modifications to your time allotment if you find that you are not apportioning adequate amount of time for key priorities. Be detailed – day to day, week by week. You may need to remove activities from your list that are not absolutely necessary in order to be able to spend enough time on your priority items.
Be focused and tenacious. Pick tasks for each day that are likely to have optimal impact on your goal for the day. In other words, if you complete your one thing for the day, even if lots of other tasks are not completed, your day is still a victory. Be sure not to focus on too many things at once. You will then find yourself unable to take action on any of them.
Focus your conscious mind on what is desirable and not what you fear. Keep your eye on the prize as you encounter obstacles and setbacks; regard mistakes and “failure as a stepping stone to success,” a learning experience. Keep in mind that you are one step closer to your end with each obstacle you overcome. Fear of failure, on the other hand, can hold you back from doing what needs to get done to reach your goal. You will cherish your victory all the more when it is hard won through struggles and defeats.
Give yourself time to rejuvenate. Meditate, take naps, or go fishing or hiking for a few hours — whatever works to rejuvenate your mind when you feel out of control or overly anxious about solving tough problems. Resist the urge to seek out more information at such a point. Instead, turn off all the noise, be quiet, and listen to you own inner thoughts.
Be good to yourself. When you want too much, too quickly, you are in for disappointments. You may then judge yourself too harshly. In essence, you become your own enemy. The more promising approach is to enjoy the process, however long it may take, and not just the end result. You should also recognize and be happy with your progress. In order to succeed, you need a healthy, positive attitude and staying power.
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