When I was a teenager, my dad decided that it would be a good idea for the family to take up downhill skiing. The fact that we lived on the flat Saskatchewan prairie hundreds of miles from even a hill did not deter him.
We were duly outfitted with skis, boots, snowsuits, goggles, and special ski gloves, and off we went to the nearest ski hill. It was just a hill, situated in the Cypress Hills of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta, several hours drive from home. The Saskatchewan side had one slope with a rope tow for getting back to the top of the hill—a good place to start for a bunch of novices.
Once we felt we’d mastered the single slope, which took mere minutes to descend, for our next excursion we moved on to the Alberta side where a ski resort of perhaps three runs stood in a park at Elkwater Lake.
By our second or third season as skiers, we branched out to the big time and drove over six hours to the Rocky Mountains at Banff to ski. Eye-popping, mogul-bashing slopes covered half a mountainside. And there were real chairlifts and a ski lodge complete with overpriced cafeteria food.
Somewhere along the line, it dawned on me that these ski excursions were a lot of work. Getting up in the cold, dark, wee hours of the morning, piling on loads of bulky gear, and dragging skis and heavy boots to the bottom of the hill wasn’t my idea of a really great time. (I'm the indoorsy type.)
Sure, the skiing had its fun moments, and for some members of the family, those moments far outweighed the exertion of getting there, and reversing the procedures, tired and hungry, when the winter sun sank below the nearest peaks.
After I left home as a young adult, I skied only a few more times. Usually, it was with friends from university, or when my family came to town for another skiing expedition. I even skied in the Swiss Alps, on the Matterhorn once. It was spectacular and I am forever grateful for having the experience.
We do things, sometimes for the sole reason that we do those things. It’s what our crowd does, or the family does, and we continue without questioning the value it conveys to our lives.
After I skied at the Matterhorn, quitting halfway through the afternoon to sit in the sun at the lodge, I realized that the cost of skiing, in terms of energy, effort, discomfort, and money, was simply too high compared to the pleasure and joy that I derived from the activity. I made the decision not to be a person who skis. I’ve never skied since that day more than thirty years ago.
Am I saying you shouldn’t ski? Of course not. If you love it and it’s worth it for you, by all means, have at it and enjoy yourself.
My point is whether the cost versus the return on your investment in terms of emotional commitment, time, energy, and money—if that even applies—is worth what you receive in return.
We are fortunate to have choices about how we want to spend our lives. In order simplify life, and therefore have more ease, we all need to look at what is costing more than it’s providing.
Wishing for more time, energy, or money for what you truly value is a great place to start, but without paring away those pursuits where the expenditure is greater than the payback, we’re destined to remain in that place I call hopeless hoping. We want things to be different, we wish they were, but we don’t know where to begin to change them.
(If you’re not clear on what you truly value, my program, The Wish Plan, can help you find that out.)
Instead of carrying on doing the same stuff you’ve always done, just because you’ve always done it, why not measure the out-go against the in-come? It might surprise you to discover that a lot of your daily joy is draining out of you because your simplicity balance sheet is out of whack.
By stepping back and viewing habits and activities in light of the impact they have on our lives, positive and negative, we can ascertain whether on not to continue to pursue them, or would dropping them make your life more meaningful.
Making good decisions is not the easiest thing to do especially when faced with multiple options. One way to simplify the process is to consider fewer options at a time.
Works with children
When my children were young I discovered that my life became much easier and theirs much happier when I limited their options rather than giving them more choices. Something as simple as offering the breakfast cereal in my right hand versus the one in my left was a big enough decision. No need to open the cupboard and show all eight kinds in there. That took far too long and frustrated everyone.
Works for me too
This simple trick can be used equally well in adulthood. For example, instead of asking where in the world I want to vacation, I could begin with only two options—ocean or mountain. If I choose ocean, the question becomes, east coast or west?
From those limited options, northeast or southeast? On the beach or on the water? Now I can call my travel agent and book that cruise and it only took minutes to decide.
See how much easier it is to make a decision when you narrow down the options? Give it a try.
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