In the spirit of mindfulness (or contrarianism), I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions “just because.” Because it’s tradition; because it’s expected; because everyone else is doing it.
Many years I don’t make any New Year’s Resolutions.
One year my resolution was the direct opposite of what most people do – a resolution to start a particular vice.
Although I was inclined not to make any resolutions for 2017, after reflection I have decided I have two:
- To get back to the practice of daily yoga and meditation; and
- To eliminate BS from my life.
I started 2016 with daily yoga and meditation, and definitely benefitted from it, but the wrist surgery ended that habit. However, wrist rehabilitation has progressed to a point that I can resume (restorative) yoga, and the elbow seems like it will heal quickly, so I’m going to commit to a daily practice of healing yoga – but not putting any more weight on that arm than my occupational therapist allows.
Daily yoga and meditation relaxes me, improves my flexibility, and makes me more mindful. The breathing exercises give me a tool that enables me to release stress throughout the day as I encounter stressful situations. And I hope that as I regain function in my left arm, I will eventually be able to use yoga to build strength as well.
Regarding the second resolution, well, that’s the result of several years’ worth of experience and reflection.
I have been reading minimalism blogs for about the last five years. Simplicity blogs. Tiny house blogs. Minimalist travelers’ blogs. I aspire to live a life that has less drag – less “stuff” weighing me down. Less to clean. Less to maintain. Less to haul around. Less to insure. Less to organize.
After retirement, Spousal Unit & I moved to a home that was 40% of the size of our last home in the military. We sold stuff, and donated stuff, and packed and moved stuff, and cursed the burden of our stuff. Despite that, we still have a lot of stuff.
I have read practically every technique or suggestion for how to get rid of stuff. Except Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. This book was sweeping the minimalism/simplicity blogs a while back. I read all about other bloggers’ experiences of applying her book to their lives. The basic premise, as I understand it, is to collect all of one type of your belongings (clothes, books, etc.), see how many you have, and then pick up each item individually and ask yourself whether that item “sparks joy”. If not, you should eliminate it.
No offense to Ms. Kondo, but her approach just didn’t resonate with me. I was looking for an approach that just made intuitive sense to me, an approach that was simple but got at the psychology behind my behaviors. For many people, Marie Kondo’s techniques – “the Konmari method” – does that. But it didn’t do it for me.
And then one day I read an article about getting rid of B.S. Shazam! That was my lightning bolt.
If ever there were a simplification technique that would resonate with veterans, this was it. Just ask yourself:
“Is this B.S.?”
If the answer is “Yes,” eliminate it.
I don’t care if it sparks joy, but I am all about eliminating B.S.
In fact, the longer I thought about it, the more I appreciated the simplicity and directness of this approach.
Engineers appreciate the elegance of a solution. An elegant solution is simple but sufficient. It solves the problem efficiently. The often-cited maxim of elegant design, from aircraft designer and author Antoine de Saint-Exupery, states: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
A truly elegant solution also has broad utility. Eliminating B.S. can apply to getting rid of possessions. But it applies even more so to emotional baggage, perceived social obligations, and peripheral tasks that eat away at your time (a.k.a. “queep“).
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 Rule, observes that “the majority of results come from a minority of inputs,” or put another way, 80% of the results/output/profits comes from 20% of the work/employees/customers/etc. Thus, management experts enjoin us to focus our efforts on the inputs that get results, and spend less resources on the inputs that have diminishing marginal benefit.
In other words, eliminate the B.S.
So my second New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is to eliminate B.S. from my life. I anticipate that as I do so, I will write about it here, in a series of posts. I hope you will join me.