View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers
“Things were so simple then…” an executive director of a large non-profit said in a moment of quiet reflection: A staff of 3. A board of 7. A budget of $100,000. A small functional office. No quarterly reports to submit to foundations. A direct mail program managed from an office computer and laser printer. Volunteers. An abundance of good will. Just look out the window and see impact.

“I can’t believe that…” said my 14-year-old son who loves to talk about (and sometimes ridicule) the old days in which I was raised: Record albums and 45’s. 50 cents an hour babysitting gigs. Getting off your seat to change the 10 channels on the black and white TV. Packs of teenagers sitting out on a porch talking or making crank phone calls. Summer drives across the country and camping. Typewriters. Carbon paper. Encyclopedias.

Things were simpler when compared to today. It’s true. And time and technology and life move on, forward, progress, future, tomorrow, next.

What I notice is how unbalanced it all feels when we are not in control of or aware of the choices we make, and our lives become overwhelmed…not of our own design. It is not my interest to keep the future from happening or necessarily trying to define how the future should unfold; my interest is in being mindful of how I choose to participate in it unfolding. I work hard to make the decision to participate, or not, in service to the simplicity and ease I need in my life. It’s when I lose sight of the fact I have choice that I begin to flail, feel overwhelmed, act less skillfully on my own behalf.

My life, and keeping it simple, is a work in progress:

  • Simplicity of a home-based business: My laptop computer, a cell phone, the Internet, and a well-equipped home office allow me to do business anywhere in the world at anytime, raise my son in real time, and have a work and life balance that enhances me. It is easy to overwork though. Setting boundaries can be a challenge.
  • Simplicity of staying in touch with friends, family, and colleagues: I have joined 3 social/business networking web sites (only 3!) and I find they take up more time maintaining, and less time really being engaged with the people on them. There is a passivity to it all.
  • Simplicity of less stuff: We gave up our second car and are saving a lot of money. And yet, even one car is a lot to maintain (the airbag warning light has been on for three days requiring a visit to the mechanic). And Boston public transportation can be unreliable. I’d like to use a boat and yet the owning a boat feels out of the question. I love my home and property; there is a difference between gardening and yard work. Love the ocean view from my decks; a 50-year-old deck has collapsed from rotted wood. Ugh!
  • Simplicity of service: I have volunteered to serve on an advisory board of a non-profit organization and managing the details of membership on this board is more time-consuming than my service to the organization itself.

When I was a senior in high school I entered a speech contest. Lion’s Club, I think. The topic had something to do with our increased reliance on technology. I visited with my uncle who was a brilliant and inspiring thinker and we came up with the idea that a key purpose of technology was to provide humans with more leisure time. The other young speakers talked about efficiency, the mechanization of factories, etc. And I talked about–nearly 30 years ago–how we were so stressed and overwhelmed by the technology in our lives and how our lives did not actually become simpler, more leisure-filled. Having a dishwasher means we wash more dishes. The same is true for the washing machine; we just do more laundry. Cars, boats, swimming pools, computers, large yards and homes…more to maintain. How was it then, and how is it now, that with all of these technological wonders we are enjoying less leisure time and feeling more disconnected from one another? What do you notice about the amount or quality of simplicity in your life? If you want more, what will it take to get it?

Simplicity… keep it simple…ease.


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Gary M. Groth, MS, PCC, CPCC

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