Image courtesy of Raelene G
Let’s say you’re looking to buy a new office chair. You’re standing in the store, staring at your two options. Very similar in shape, size and color, these two chairs have much in common. You sit down in the first one…fits like a glove! You then peruse its options and find that it can change height, it swivels with ease and that’s about it. You then look at the price tag and see that it can be had for less than a hundred dollars. Now you sit down in the other chair. Just as comfortable and with the same basic features. Then you notice some buttons on the arm rest. Wow, this baby has a built in massager and can be adjusted electronically. Also, the back has heat capability and there’s even a flip up cup holder on the right side. Excited by the bells and whistles, you check out the price tag and take a second to adjust to the fact that it’s more than double the cost of the first option. Which one should you buy and how does simplicity play a role in making such a decision?
The Value of Just Enough
Everything in our lives has three value levels:
- Not Enough
- Just Enough
- Too Much
If we’re being honest with ourselves we can determine this level of value with a fair amount of ease. A basement apartment is not enough for a family of four, but a mansion would be too much. Simplicity is all about finding the greatest value in our lives and then staying right there in that sweet spot. People tell you to simplify your life, but I would say that simplicity is not necessarily about less amounts, but the RIGHT amount. If that family of four has a roof over their head, room for each individual to properly breathe, enough land to enjoy on a sunny summer afternoon and the common comforts to allow sufficient relaxation, then they have the RIGHT amount of home.
How Excess Is Harmful To Our Lives
I absolutely LOVE the sky! Ever since I could see it’s deep blue and smell the purity of its endless freedom, I’ve been hooked! Another passion I was born with is my interest in aircraft. From planes to helicopters to hot air balloons, anything that can take me up to the sky that I adore is worth its weight in gold. So in my late teens when I had a chance to build and fly a radio control airplane I was thrilled!
An adult friend of mine gave me his old engine and radio to stick in an airplane I had just purchased. Once the assembly was finished I took it to this frineds house where we started up the engine for the first time. It sounded so sweet, that puttering of the propeller. After we had properly tuned the engine and tested out the controls, we took it to a local soccer field to take it up for my first ever flight. He took the plane up for me, but then just handed over the controls. Having never flown before, I did a couple of unintentional loops and then decided to find the closest tree to crash into. Needless to say, I WAS HOOKED! (Oh, and never hand the controls over to an absolute novice!)
Soon after this I had found a local airfield that was now being used for RC flight. So the rest of that summer I spent my days at that airfield, learning to fly and loving every minute of it. I got to the point where I had mastered the basics of flight and could just take the plane up and cruise around through the clouds I so adored. I may not have been physically up in the sky, but I now had a tool that allowed me to explore its boundaries.
Now let me tell you something about hobbies. As human beings we have a tendency to always want MORE!!! Only satisfied for a moment, the next step up from what you have is paramount to your thoughts. Soon I wanted a new radio to control my plane, then I wanted a new plane all together. Next I needed a new engine and then another new plane. Never ending, I spent nothing but time and money on everything BUT simply exploring the sky.
Rex Knew The Secret To Simplicity
One of the guys who regularly flew at the airfield was a man named Rex. What set him apart from the rest of us was the type of plane he flew. Called 1/2A, these planes were smaller than average and simple in their controls. And the engines that powered these little aircraft were simple machines that required very little fuel to make their props spin. He built these plane from scratch and used equipment that was decades old. His mentality embodied the mantra, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.”
RC airplane fuel isn’t exactly cheap and Rex would always make it known how little fuel he used that day. Partially just trying to get our goats, Rex was also proud of how little money he spent compared to how much satisfaction his style of flying allowed him. I couldn’t help but admire this about Rex and always told myself that his way made the most sense for a fellow sky dreamer.
Then one day he gave me a tiny fuel bottle he had put together. Made out of a margarine squeeze bottle, this container was about a tenth the size of the average fuel canister. And instead of the normal mess of pumps and cranks and fuel lines entangling the average container, this particular bottle had one short, simple fuel line with a tiny plastic tube at the end.
Costing no money at all to make, taking up far less room and working with the simplicity of a single squeeze of the hand, this fuel bottle perfectly represented the idea of JUST ENOUGH. Just enough to hold the fuel and just enough to transfer the fuel to the planes fuel tank. Nothing more, nothing less. Some of these fuel containers even had electronic pumps that transferred the fuel with the ease of a button push. Yet they also required the pump itself, the battery to power it and the wires and tubing to make it all happen. But for Rex, as long as he had a way to fuel up his planes, he could care less about anything else. The less he had to buy and bring to the field, the more he could enjoy what really mattered to him…FLYING!
Our Addiction To The Next Level
Many of us treat life like a video game. We start one level with the focus on how we’re going to make it to the next. We may enjoy a fleeting moment, but our simple satisfaction is quickly stifled by our addiction to MORE!
As I continued to buy more RC airplane stuff and worked my way up to higher levels of flight capability, I was only seeking stronger stimulation as the current level was quickly not enough. This is how many of us live our lives. A humans, our brains become bored with any activity if done enough and with enough frequency. Run down the same path every single day and you will probably find less satisfaction as time goes on. After a while, just being able to start the engine, take off the plane and soar around the sky with complete freedom of movement was not enough. I needed to be able to do tricks and then I needed the plane to go faster and then… This kind of cycle is what takes away our true appreciation of the original act that enticed us in the very beginning. This addiction to more is exactly what keeps us from living our lives with JUST ENOUGH.
One of the few benefits I received from my constant airplane purchases was the realization that soaring was my real passion. A glider, different from an airplane because it uses thermals to find lift, not an engine and propeller, allows the soaring of complete silence. Many times have I shared the same rising air with a group of circling birds. Buzzards, Hawks and even Bald Eagles have been my soaring buddies. And without the need for an engine, there’s no need for fuel. At this most simple form of flight have I found my JUST ENOUGH flying serenity.
Mix It Up And Keep It Fresh
I don’t know about you, but just simplifying doesn’t cut it. Sure, that initial feeling of simplistic satisfaction that comes after unloading the junk that clutters our lives is great, but if we’re not careful we’ll buy it all back if we don’t find ways of sustaining that satisfaction. As stated above, we can get that same level-up feeling by mixing it up. No need to upgrade when you can just change out the flavor. When you feel the need to buy the better model or add something altogether new to your life, be sure you actually NEED this item to maintain your JUST ENOUGH status. If this addition tips the scales to the level of TOO MUCH, you will not only sustain unnecessary mass, but will be weighed down because of it.
Simplicity Requires A Healthy Dose of Appreciation
Let’s get back to the chair analogy for a minute. When you need a place to sit for long periods of time, what do you require? I would say that comfort and back support are number one, right? So what about the other bells and whistles that came on the more expensive model? Do you really need the chair to vibrate while you’re trying to get some work done? What if it breaks? Now you have this button panel that is not only useless, but possibly in the way.
The greatest ally to those who desire to live with JUST ENOUGH is the ability to appreciate the RIGHT AMOUNT. When we hit that sweet spot we need to believe in our heart of heats that any more would be excess and may even reduce its value in our lives. We need to constantly be thankful for the roof over our heads and the food in our pantries. The second we lose sight of our basic needs and how they are always being met, is the second we lose the ability to embrace simplicity and enjoy our satisfaction with JUST ENOUGH.
Focus On OTHERS Needs And You Will Need Less
One of the greatest tools we have when fighting our desire to live in excess is that of outward focus. The more we concern ourselves with providing for others and their ability to have JUST ENOUGH, the less we will be concerned about what we do and don’t have. If all we ever see is our own needs and the desires that drive our pursuit of them, the greater our chances of craving more than is necessary to live in the sweet spot of simplicity.
Bad News Has A Way of Bringing Us Back To Center
How many times have we been caught up in a life of excess to only come crashing down when bad news unexpectedly enters into our lives? Let’s say we decide that we need a new big screen TV and that a new sound system was also in order. Then we decide to go on a DVD buying frenzy as it would be such a shame to let all this high tech equipment go to waste. As we rack up a bit of debt we figure, “We’ll be fine. I mean, we’re having so much fun with it that it’s totally worth the cost!” Then we get a phone call…
It’s our best friends spouse. They sadly tell us that our friend has been in a car accident and is now paralyzed from the waste down. Instantly life becomes clear once more. As we start thinking about how we’re going to help our friend adjust to their new situation, we can’t help but look around at all our new stuff and realize how this excess added zero value to our lives. We appreciate our ability to walk and see the days of assisting a friend in need as time well spent. We know there’s nothing wrong with watching movies, but in our attempt to upgrade this activity, we tipped the scales and no longer enjoyed the simple value of JUST ENOUGH.
3 Tips To Reach The Level of JUST ENOUGH
- Could you be just as happy without this? You have to determine if this THING in your life is adding to your happiness/satisfaction. If it is, then continue to refine it. If it isn’t, get rid of it right now!
- Determine the actual part of this THING that positively affects you. For me, it was the simple soaring that gave me the pure satisfaction of flight. Beyond that, I mostly found unnecessary excess that added no real value to the equation.
- Refine this THING until it starts to lose value and then backup one step. If you were to go to the manufacturer of the more decked out office chair and have them start pulling features off, at what point would the chair stop providing you with optimal sitting satisfaction. You could cut the cup holder, and drop the electronics, but the second you lose lumbar support you know that you’ve gone too far. Back up a step and begin to enjoy JUST ENOUGH.
The fact is, life is hard. It seems that the second we find what works, the rules change. Whether we’re in a high point in our lives or struggling through the valley below, we NEVER benefit from TOO MUCH. This amount is different for everyone and I’m not here to say that having a big screen TV is too much (we own one ourselves and enjoy it very much), but it is up to us to determine our simplicity sweet spot and stick with it. This will sometimes require changing things up or taking a break from the object in question, but our greatest satisfaction from our things and lifestyle will only be realized when we sustain this level of complexity and cost to ourselves. Any less and we will know our need is not yet being met. Any more and the cost goes up, but the value does not follow.