Embracing Simplicity By Randy Hain
Learn How to Embrace Simplicity
“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.” – Leo Tolstoy
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the stress, responsibilities, and challenges in your daily life? If I am honest with myself, the times I feel most anxious or stressed are usually caused by my lifelong tendency to over-complicate things and an inclination toward “busyness.”
As I grow older, I recognize the wisdom of something my parents often shared with me in my younger days: Simplify your life.
Everything about our modern culture involves complexity and unnecessary layers. I long for more opportunities to live in the moment and experience life in “real time” versus the frantic pace I often keep. I want my legacy to be more than “he accomplished more than most”! I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I would like to share my three-step approach to achieve greater simplicity, peace, and a heightened sense of purpose in my life:
- Have clear priorities.
- Practice detachment.
- Serve others.
STEP ONE: CLEAR PRIORITIES
What are your priorities? When I ask this question of other professionals, the answers are typically all over the map. I came into my Christian faith later in life. I went from a compartmentalized approach to living, unsuccessfully attempting to balance work and family, to a life where my faith is first, family is second, and work is third on my list of priorities. Additionally, I work hard at keeping Christ at the center of everything I do, and the result is a more authentic and integrated approach to life where I am the same person at all times.
How Does This Play Out in Your Life?
Faith—Through my active prayer life and worship, I do my best to serve the Lord and make sure He is my top priority. “Lord, help me to simplify my life by learning what you want me to be and becoming that person” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux).
Family—My vocation is to be the best husband and father possible. I serve my family by giving them my time, attention, and love. In our home, family dinner is a priority, as is the commitment my wife and I share in loving our children enough to challenge them with the truth.
We have always worked hard to ensure that our children grow up with faith and strong values, and we consider it our duty to serve as role models for them. I also have a responsibility to take care of my health so I can be present in their lives for many years to come.
Work—I focus on sanctifying my work and pursuing excellence. I must remember that my vocation is not my job/career. My job exists to serve my family, not the other way around. My job provides a living for my family and a way to fulfill my mission, but it cannot be allowed to consume me in an unhealthy way.
Having our priorities straight requires intentionality and commitment . . . and a fair amount of courage. We must plan our time, have lines we won’t cross, and stick to our principles. Most importantly, those of us who are Christians know we are made for heaven, not this world.
We will be judged one day by how we lived, not how fast we lived. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world” (C.S. Lewis).
STEP TWO: PRACTICE DETACHMENT
How do we detach? Does this mean we need to become hermits in a mountainside cabin? Of course not. But we need to acknowledge that we live in a materialistic and consumer-driven world that encourages us to acquire as much stuff as possible, often at the expense of what is truly important.
If we can practice real freedom from the blind pursuit of an illusory better life attached to acquiring more material goods we don’t need, we will be better prepared to make healthier and more meaningful choices in life. Also, remember that attaching ourselves to the right people and activities will further help us detach from the negative influences of this world.
Ideas for Pursuing Detachment:
- Let it go. Ask yourself if you really need “it,” whatever “it” is. Will the bigger house, bigger car, and other toys truly make you happier? Or are you trying to fill an empty void in yourself with the wrong things?
- Be careful to not let your possessions/hobbies/interests become obstacles between you and your family or you and God. Seek simplicity.
- Be cognizant of what “enough” really means.
- Resist the siren call of the culture to become someone you are not .
- Recognize the virtue of hard work and reject the easy and responsibility-free life often promised by the world.
- Avoid the “pack mentality” and do what you know is right and true, not what everyone else is doing.
- Value true friends—the ones who challenge you, make you better, and don’t require you to compromise who you really are. Be willing to accept having fewer friends in order to enhance your overall relationship health.
- Turn off the noise. Spend less time on your iPhone, TV, internet, podcasts, and talk radio and more time in quiet reflection, prayer, quality time with loved ones, physical exercise, and reading books.
- Frequently express gratitude for your blessings and all you have, and never take your good fortune for granted.
I am challenged on a daily basis by the concept of detachment. It is very difficult to practice, yet when I do make progress in this area, I feel a profound sense of freedom and peace that encourages me to work harder at it every day.
The world is constantly trying to pull me in the wrong direction. When I practice detachment from our culture and its more negative influences, I more clearly recognize and value the blessings I have received.
STEP THREE: SERVE OTHERS
What makes you tick? What are you called to do? Knowing who you are and what you are called to do is a critical component of simplifying your life. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I was focused on climbing the corporate ladder as fast as possible with little understanding of what I would do when I reached the top.
As I shared in my third book, Something More: The Professionals Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, I walked away from a senior executive role with a billion-dollar restaurant company in my early thirties to run a boutique national executive search firm, and in 2013 I launched Serviam Partners (www.ServiamPartners.com), which offers executive coaching and leadership consulting services to companies and senior leaders. These career moves were all intentional and part of my ever-increasing desire to bring simplicity to my life and fully tap into my skills and passions in the service of others.
Probably the greatest revelation for me over the years has been the sense of peace and joy I feel that only comes from helping and serving other people. Even though I always seek to know, understand, and do God’s will in my life, the times I most frequently feel close to achieving this are the times I do something in the service of others.
How Do I Serve Other People?
- As busy as I may be, I strive to make quality time for others.
- Treating others as I wish to be treated is a priority.
- I try to be a good listener.
- I pray for others.
- I engage in civil discussions with those who disagree with me.
- Being candid is a gift when delivered with professionalism and love. I always try and give this gift to those I encounter.
- I connect others to helpful people and resources in my network.
- I try to give not only of my time, but also my talent and treasure to serve and help those less fortunate than me.
- I always try to add value to my relationships.
- I serve great causes and practice active stewardship with the help of my family and friends.
My giving to others is ultimately a gift right back to me. When I devote myself to helping a person in need, I feel a tremendous sense of fulfillment. My hectic schedule can sometimes get in the way, and I struggle to do all that I desire for others, but I keep trying.
Clarity Leads to Simplicity
Do you ever look back on your career? Retrace your steps and reflect on lessons learned? At the beginning of my career, I was a follower, then I became a manager, and then a leader. Now I’m embracing the “influencer” stage of my career. Through my books, talks, coaching, and consulting, I strive to influence positive outcomes for the people I encounter in my life.
I make mistakes, but I am clear about my goals and my desire to follow a simpler path, serve others, and live a faith-filled life. The path to get here had many twists and turns, but I was very intentional along the way.
I hope you will reflect on the direction of your life and recognize that the time for embracing a simpler approach to life is now—not when you reach retirement. I have observed with gratitude the example my parents set for me of how to live simply, act with humility, and serve others with love and charity.
My encouragement to you is, simply put, to embrace simplicity. You, your work, and everyone around you will benefit from this life-changing decision. This is often a difficult struggle and counter-cultural but get rid of the excess and retain the necessary. Focus on what is important and have the right priorities. Serve others. Simplify.
CALL TO ACTION
What is one significant thing you can do to simplify your life in the days ahead?
Randy Hain is the President of Serviam Partners and the Co-founder of the Leadership Foundry He is a sought-after executive coach and leadership consultant for senior leaders and leadership teams at some of the best-known companies in the U.S. Randy is also a devoted husband, father, community servant and the author of several books including the new release: Essential Wisdom for Leaders of Every Generation. This post is an excerpt from his new book!
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