The Constant Quest for Improvement

All the journeys we are on represent the ways we want to improve ourselves and our lives. Striving for a simple life includes the desire to create a better life through learning, trial and error, experimentation, practice, and strong-willed follow through. In the past year, I have learned more about ways to improve my lifestyle than I ever did.

In the past, my learning dealt with other, more tangible things like real-food recipes, or quilting techniques. Now I am dealing with bigger, abstract concepts. Every day I am exposed to more and more ideas to try and concepts to learn about, and that is OK. Except, I feel like I am on a treadmill that I can’t get off and it is causing some stress.

Each new idea I read is a flashing neon sign to “try me!” I am prone to trying too many new things without giving them proper due diligence. Sometimes I can't see the forest through the trees.
We all have the ambition to improve in some aspects of our lives. We may want to earn more money, get a better job, eat healthy, exercise more, read a book a week, learn something new or in depth, or spend more time with family.

We are also bombarded with advertisements to improve: buy this new gadget and make your life easier, this pill will help you lose weight, upgrade your cellphone to improve your phone experience. TV shows are created around the whole topic of improving - think of almost every show on HGTV - each one is a story of improvement.

No wonder this gets to be overwhelming and stressful. How can we ever keep up with all the improvements we are supposed to make in our lives? The concept of “enough” seems lost because everything we want to improve, or we are told we need to improve, flies in the face of being happy with what we have and deciding we have enough. Or does it?

Listening to the Gratitude Diaries podcast, Janice Kaplan states it is ok to practice gratitude and still have ambition. Thus, even though I am grateful for everything I have, I can still have the desire to improve. For me, I understand that to mean that I can be grateful for all I have, and decide I have enough. But, I can look at my core values and decide that I could improve in some of them for various important reasons.

For example, one of my core values is health. I am very grateful that I have good health; however, I am doing some things that are not good for my long term health and I want to improve - namely eating habits, increased exercise and improved mental health. Even that is a long list!

So how do we sort through all of the improvements we want to make while still maintaining our simple life journey? Today I made a list of my values, the things that are most important to me and add value to my day. Creativity, health (physical and mental), spending time with family, and finances.

If I see an idea for improvement, I will check to see if it falls under ones of these categories. However, I can find too many things I want to do that align with a value. To prioritize them, I realize some are more important than others and I will devote more time to them, such as the health category. Other categories are going to have to take a side seat. For example, my quilting may only happen one afternoon a week, usually on the weekend. Writing a couple of nights a week works out well for my creativity and my family life. While my exercise goals are four times a week, and healthy cooking is every day.

Despite these parameters, this is definitely a process that will be a struggle for me because I still want to improve in too many areas all the time. Hopefully, these guidelines will help me prioritize, and let some things go. Do you find yourself with too many ideas? What helps you maintain balance in your life?

Comments

  1. Hi ya Lisa!

    The overwhelm of simple living, ironic right, but such a real thing :)

    I think you're right, you have to prioritise areas. When I started simplifying I was often overwhelmed. There are the things I find easy like decluttering and exercise and the the things that are harder like cooking and developing new habits.

    The main thing I do now when it feels too intense is to step back. I take a few days to reset. I stay out of the simple living, self improvement world. I find that it finds me again and I'm ready to take another step forward.

    I also love the idea of intention, each little daily action has intention.

    I love how dedicated you are to your simple life and I enjoy reading your thoughts.





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    1. Thank you Fran! Great advice to take a step back. Lately, I have found that to be really helpful. Our calendar may be empty, but my mind is always coming up with new ideas. Lately I have been sorting some of them out which has eased some of the improvement fatigue, especially with cooking. The meals I make have been too complicated, so I'm trying to scale back to some basic food recipes for awhile.

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