What’s On Your Summer Reading List?
Are you a fan of summer reading? There’s something about spending the lazy, hazy days of summer enjoying the sunshine with a good book. I’m what I would call a “constant” reader. By this I mean that I’m always reading something whether it’s blogs, magazines, books, whitepapers, scientific studies (I know, right?) And, I read these all at the same time. I usually have no less than two books going at a time. And, I have a mile long “to read” list in my bullet journal and on Kindle. Reading recommendations typically come from friends or co-workers who also enjoy reading. Or, they are blogs, books, or articles mentioned in whatever I’m reading now. It’s a rabbit hole for certain.
But, every once in a while all the writing stars align and I find a book that at once challenges everything I’ve ever thought and speaks my truth like I could have written it myself. This type of book has me reading and saying to myself “Yes! That’s exactly what I’ve been feeling/thinking/saying/needing to hear”!
The most recent book to accomplish this for me is Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver. Soulful Simplicity has been on my “to read” list since I ran across Carver’s blog, Be More with Less, some time back. I had a period when I was obsessed with capsule wardrobes and reducing my reliance on fast fashion and Carver is the queen of minimalist fashion. I soon found, though, that the brilliance of Carver’s minimalist fashion challenge, called Project 333, was just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not sure what took me so long to read the book except that I’m a firm believer that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. And so, I began devouring this book last week as one of my summer reading titles and haven’t stopped thinking about the concepts she shares and how they can add to my journey.
This book has made me think differently and consider my approach to my day-to-day life and activities in more ways than one. However, one of the first thought-provoking quotes in the book that spoke to me is this:
It’s all so HARD
St. James’ quote touched me deeply. Many of the self-limiting or self-destructive things we do are simply an attempt at avoiding being with ourselves. I know I find myself wondering pretty frequently “why does everything have to be so difficult?” I feel this at work when people can’t seem to communicate instead of creating conflict. And, I feel this when I’m changing the toilet paper roll and the springy thing goes flying across the room. It all feels so HARD sometimes.
I know intuitively that what will make my life work better will require introspection and ultimately change. So, I resist slowing down to take a breath. I keep the chatter in my head at bay by staying busy (more wisdom on that later) and nothing ever gets better. When we live in a reactive state making healthy choices can seem impossible. We must be willing to sit with ourselves and become aware of what we truly need.
Why’s and What’s
The first step in the Soulful Simplicity journey is to get clear about your “why’s” and “what’s”:
- Why simplicity?
- Why change?
- What’s motivating my journey?
- What’s pulling on my heart?
A few of my answers sound like this: I recognize my current state is neither desirable or sustainable. I’m no different than most people I know; working hard, doing good things, trying to check everything off the list, and feeling trapped on the treadmill. I worry about what people will think, what people will say, and how things will turn out. The difference is, I know in my heart there is a better way. Yes, it requires intentionality and change, but it’s available to me.
That’s what the “ideal life” my husband and I are creating is all about! Now, and when we make the move to the mountains! It’s about a slower pace. Maybe not less work but more meaningful work. Time. Energy. Relationships. Community. Being present.
But, I don’t have to wait to create this state. I can start now, where I am, and I can enjoy the journey.
Much of Carver’s book discusses ways to simplify your space. Of course, by clearing clutter we make physical space. But we also make mental space. We make room for the thinking and decision making that makes true change possible. By asking:
- Does this really matter to me?
- Is this contributing to the life I want?
- To my health?
- To the lives and health of the people I love?
We make space for remembering who we are and what’s important to us. Whether we’re talking about a physical item, a decision, or a situation, making space allows us to breathe, to think, and to make healthy choices.
As I declutter my space and work to eliminate things that don’t matter, don’t contribute to the ideal life I’m creating, or to my health or the well being of the people I love, I also have to feel the feelings. I have to work to overcome the judgments and remember I’m making choices for MY best life, not for anyone else.
Finally, I want to mention one of the most important and thoughtful concepts presented. I struggle with this and I’m sure most of you do too (plus, I promised above I’d talk about it!). It’s the idea of the Busy Boycott.
Most of us are addicted to busy! We multi-task, we’re distracted, and we’re missing out! Carver suggests three simple steps to boycott busy:
- Stop talking about it – When someone asks how you are what’s your response? Too often, it’s probably “oh, gosh, I’m just busy, busy, busy!” The words we use matter. And worse, often what we’re really saying is “I’m too busy for you”. Alternatively, if you don’t want to hear this from people consider asking a different question. Instead of “how are you?”, maybe ask “anything interesting going on today?” Change the question, change the conversation, and make space for a connection.
- Do less – Instead of questing for time-saving measures and efficiencies, just do less. Say “no” (or maybe more politely, “no, thank you”) more often and protect your time. Work with and for people who want your best, not your busiest!
- Linger longer – It really is okay to slow down, be still, and linger in the moment. Slowing down supports your health, well being, and overall desire and commitment to creating your ideal life. Take time to savor what’s in front of you. It’s really all there is anyway!
If you’re looking for great summer reading that has the potential to change your experience I encourage you to check out Soulful Simplicity. Think about your whys and whats. Consider what busyness is keeping you from thinking about, staying numb to, or not changing. I for one, am taking the Boycott Busy challenge and implementing these steps! And, the team of directors I lead at work will also be hearing about boycotting busy. If busyness is compromising your health, your relationships, and your productivity consider Carver’s approach.
“Instead of doing more with less, boycott busy and be more with less!”
I’ll likely talk more about this book and the Soulful Simplicity concepts as I implement them in my day-to-day work and personal life. If you’d like to follow along or join the conversation, please provide your email for updates or follow on social media.