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Lessons From a Cluttered Life

I was travelling to London this week to meet a client; the train journey was, as usual, a great experience. Watching the rolling countryside go by always relaxes me, time in a city can make you forget the simple things. As the great novelist Henry David Thorough wrote “simplify simplify simplify” in his Wonderful book Walden Pond, how we have lost it from our lives. That being true in the early 1800”s I can assure myself that it’s especially true now.

I always admired his outlook, the idea of simplicity was just an awesome one. I would often put up post-it notes in front of my computer screen with the word “Simplify” on it and see if that would be enough to inspire me.

More recently I watched a podcast by Lewis Howes on the founder the minimalists, and how their books slowly became a cult following. He only owns less than 100 items total, and how that alone has given him the freedom the feel unrestricted and unburdened by life.

It was with this in mind that I noticed the gentleman sat in front of me. As I looked down briefly at the table between us, I saw no less than five iPhones of the same model. This man looked smart and presentable in a casual suit jacket and shirt, a half-tamed grey and black beard sprouting from his friendly face. As he caught my eye, he smiled. “ I notice you have five mobile handsets am fascinated how that’s working out for you,” I said casually, but genuinely intrigued. “well I have one for each network.” He said matter of fact. This topic led us into a conversation about how he used one for just calls one for only data, one for his work contract and one for its ability to be to be synced up to his OTHER Apple device. (an iPad mini which I had mistakenly taken for the 5th phone)

After talking to this gentleman for a while learning about his life as a medic and his busy commute between London and Liverpool each week, hearing about the endless loop of tasks he undertakes I noticed a huge gaping pile of cards on the table, credit cards, identity card. Every possible variation, there must have been at least 50 cards in multiple carry cases. I decided not to comment, but he brought it up later in our conversation.

I discussed my work as a coach, and he began to open up about his past desire to want to have a conversation with a coach about his work. He explained to me that he felt frustration around never feeling like he was able to complete things thoroughly. “Things always feel unfinished in my life,” he said. And it was in his opinion down to the fact that he simply didn’t have “the stamina” anymore, due to his age.

I was immediately curious about this man, he was very smart and very quick, and it surprised me to think that he had things left unfinished and that he would believe it was due to his “stamina” as he put it.

I asked him, “how would it feel if you could find a solution to that problem without “stamina” playing a part? He said that he would think this over and let me know. Shortly after we arrived at Lime St station, as we parted ways him with three bags in hand, I was left still feeling intensely curious about this man.

It wasn’t until I arrived home that I struck me. This man’s life never felt complete because he kept adding things to it, as one project drew to an end this fast thinking highly intelligent man understood. I want to get as much finished as possible in the shortest amount of time. The next obvious solution was to start the next project.


Now this solution works for a while until it doesn’t anymore. Because soon we are downloading apps, purchasing a second handset or mobile device, a new time management book, etc. We decide to stall on one project and come back to it later as we become bored. Soon a stockpile of unfinished items are laying around our office, but more importantly inside our minds.

We get tired; we add more stuff to our lives instead of slowing down, taking the time to consider what matters most and just focussing our attention on that one thing until it’s finished. The problem continues, until we can no longer see the woods for the trees and simply blame ourselves, our flawed personality’s, our age, stamina, education, race. You name it.

But the obvious thing that’s going wrong here is that we have overcomplicated our lives. Reaching to get ahead and be able to arrive at a point where we can relax and feel complete in a distant future. because we know instinctively there is no better feeling then completion.

I think back to the minimalist and see his face filled with youthful energy at 45 and decide to start stripping back my projects first not my items. Because when I have fewer things unfinished floating through my mind the extraneous materialistic urge to consume or acquire fleas, I relax inside a wonderful feeling of completion as I choose to simplify and take on one task at a time.

As a coach of high achievers, I use these fresh outlooks to provide my clients with the space to think in brand new ways about the circumstances and challenges in their life, bringing clarity and Awareness into what was previously a struggle. Without having to change anything to achieve that.

If you would like an opportunity to experience this for yourself and see the potential of having me be on your side, reach out and see if I can help.