A big part of living a SMART Life 365 is practicing simplicity and sustainability every single day. While the old KISS acronym is considered derogatory, let’s create a new KISS that is a daily reminder to arrange our life and circumstances in a positive way, make sustainable ongoing choices and habits, and develop a consciousness based on the SMART Living model. How do we do that? Let’s begin with the idea that is it fairly easy and that the payoff can be extraordinary. And guess what? The idea has been around for centuries.
One of my favorite writers and philosophers is Henry David Thoreau who wrote about his KISS experience back in the 1800s in a book named Walden. He said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” In true KISS fashion, Thoreau continued with, “I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” In other words, Thoreau’s experience taught him that the distractions of modern life, even life back in the 1800s, frequently lead to a complicated and unsatisfying experience. That’s why he is also known for the quote, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
But Thoreau is just one out of dozens of others who speak about the value of a more simple and uncomplicated life. Socrates said, “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” Lao Tzu said, “Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Or Leonardo DaVinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Of course, one of my favorites is Lily Tomlin who said, ‘the trouble with the rat-race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
But remember, KISS isn’t just about simple living, it is also sustainable living and there is a difference between the two. Sustainable, by my definition, is putting in as much as you get out—or leaving the place, any place, better off than when you found it. This of course includes the planet at large as well as our own personal environment. Sustainable living requires that we “live within our means” and do our best to avoid being wasteful. Not only is it using what you have, it is enjoying and appreciating it as much as possible. Or, as Thoreau said, “It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants. What are you industrious about?”
As I said, deeply engrained in this idea of sustainability is an overwhelming appreciation and enjoyment of what you do have—and what is right in front of you. This comes naturally to us as children—but most of us have been conditioned to believe that “more is always better.” Even the Aesop fable of the golden goose written over 500 years BC said, “Thinking to get all the gold the goose could give, he killed it and opened it only to find—nothing.” Living sustainably says that although we think having more stuff and more possessions will make us happier and more secure, the effect is only temporary. Before long we are striving for something newer, bigger and better and we are back on that rat-race wheel like before
Now remember, I’m not talking about sacrifice when I talk about living sustainability. After all, most people who go on diets (be they calories or any other form of forced abstinence) seldom achieve their goals without a change of consciousness. So instead, I’m talking about a sustainability that is a huge benefit and can even be considered luxurious and indulgent. But the luxury and indulgence I’m talking about is a way of living life that is without the stress of constantly wanting more and then having to figure out how to pay for it. It is living a life that is generous in both giving and receiving. A life that is extravagant in relationships, hopeful expectations, transformative experiences, and meaning.
Need an example? We’ve had a number of people we know question us about how we can rent a home in the mountains and then another at the beach for a couple of months a year. In case you’re wondering, we did this before we decided to “right-size” (downsize) our living space at home in the desert. It wasn’t that we couldn’t afford to do both, we just made the decision to do otherwise. Of course, the second component is that we have occupations (purposely) that allow us to work from home—wherever that home might be. As long as we have the internet and phone service, we can actually be anywhere in the world. Of course, this kind of arrangement takes strong intention and clarity of direction, or it may seem impossible. Sure, we could always work harder, make more money and have more stuff—but why?
Unfortunately, the KISS lifestyle is difficult to prove until you experience it. I can tell when Thom and I try to explain that we didn’t “down-size” our home—we “right-sized” it, that most people don’t understand why. When I attempt to describe the freedom that comes from being debt free—most people can’t grasp the how of it, let alone the liberation that comes from it. When we talk about the tremendous value and benefit of living within our means, we can see many people’s eyes cloud over and feel their shift in attention. That’s okay really. We didn’t make our changes for anyone other than ourselves–and some people aren’t ready for the rightsized lifestyle anyway. Of course that doesn’t stop us as we enthusiastically share what we’ve learned—and encourage others to move in the same direction.
Living a SMART life is about more than simplicity and sustainability—but I’m coming to understand that any life without them would resemble a two-legged stool—close to being good, but just not quite there. Where do you start? That’s the glory of the KISS acronym—simply start right now appreciating what you have and where you are on the path—and you’re well on your way to a KISS life.
“The intention of this way of life (voluntary simplicity) is not to dogmatically live with less. It’s a more demanding intention of living with balance. This is a middle way that moves between the extremes of poverty and indulgence.” Duane Elgin
“The level of consumption that we identify with success is utterly unsustainable. We’re gobbling up the world.” John Robbins.
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