On this week of my birthday, I turned 40. I thought there would be no better time to force myself to finally do the brave thing- simplify. I am forcing myself to declutter and, guess what, I am still alive. Now, I am not talking about decluttering my closet, but decluttering my life. Even considering how to start simplifying our lives for the many of us who are overachievers and normalize struggle & self-sacrifice, will probably be one of the hardest things we ever undertake. I had to think about how I was going to simplify my business, simplify my calendar, simplify the activities that keep me from spending time with my family and simplify so that I still have time for myself.
This urge had only been there but I had not been courageous enough to even entertain letting go of doing #allthethings, even when it was clear in the past how it has benefited my health, my work and my body. I think that it’s really important for us to think about when we say that we’re not going to take our busy life into our next level- or for me, into my next decade.
But why is it so hard? Simplicity does gives us this time and space to be great. Yet, it also asks for us to go deep into areas that we’ve often ignored, which can be jarring, right? It’s much easier to keep yourself busy with doing little things all the time that don’t make as much impact than taking the time to really start embarking on your vision. Mostly, because if we pour time and energy into our best work, it’s painful if it doesn’t come true, so it’s easier to avoid it.
I think the second barrier is that simplicity is really hard. Simplicity requires us to prioritize the most meaningful things and start to recognize them for what they bring and delegate the rest. Third, I think many of us have been taught that simplicity equals laziness. We’ve been conditioned to think that doing things in an easier way means that we aren’t working hard enough, even though we’ve had many times where we’ve seen the benefits of doing things simply and seeing how much more impact they have. Many of us learn to look at busy as a badge of honor and being exhausted as the only sign that you have reached excellence. Or maybe it’s just me…
So how can we change this? This is something that I think many of us have learned for so long. Look, for me it has taken year 40 to really settle in this new space, particularly as I move forward towards expanding my business, shifting it into helping other women move into entrepreneurship, virtual schooling my children AGAIN and also finding the time by myself, which I have stated to myself is not negotiable.
Identify your human giver.
So your human giver is a concept referred to by Emily and Amelia Nagowski, authors of the book Burnout, as the part of us that has been socialized by this lovely country that we live in to give on under all costs and not be the idea that you have to ALWAYS be generous, kind, loving and sacrificial as women or otherwise you are punished. We need to release our human giver and we need to make sure that we remove “should” from our vocabulary and replace it with “want”. So many of us are living lives that are overwhelmed with the “shoulds” that we have to do for others. Instead of the things that we “want” for others. As human givers, we aren’t allowed to have the wants, but we should only give. As you think about your responsibilities, what is the should in it? If it can’t be connected to a want it’s time to simplify and probably let it go. So for example, I often tell myself I should save for my kid’s college education (external influence) instead of recognizing that the internal motivation is actually I want my kids to not have debt. So that’s what I hold on to..
The second thing that I want us to consider is looking at our calendar.
Our calendar tells us our life and what we value. What is on there that you dread? What is on there that absolutely gives you anxiety? Every time you look at it, identify the tough conversation or the tough action that you need to make in order to release it.
Look at the difficult challenges that are currently coming up for you.
I want you to think about if there’s an easier way to do this meaning. Sometimes it means that we aren’t the ones to do it and that’s what makes it easy. Sometimes it means actually telling somebody about the challenge so they can give us a solution. That makes sense. So it can be easier. I want you to consider that question in the things that are coming up that are keeping you from moving forward into the work that you want to do and the impact that you want to achieve.
Over the next few months before we move into the new year, I want all of us to really sit down and look at our lives and think about how we can make them simpler. And no, it is not impossible. What do you need to do?
If anything, remember that complexity is definitely the enemy of completion. So, keep it simple.
Dr. Omolara Thomas Uwemedimo is a healthcare social entrepreneurship & funding consultant, specializing BIPOC, women-led healthcare practices partnering with community organizations to create health justice for historically excluded & under-resourced communities.
As a pediatrician, researcher, and researcher she has secured $2 million in grant funding and has led inter-professional teams to build and scale healthcare delivery and research programs to achieve health equity for marginalized youth and families.