The Art of Simplifying

By Cat Li Stevenson

We live in a society where our worth seems to be validated by how large our network is; how often our Blackberry goes off; how worldly we are from our travels; or how many awesome Facebook pictures there are of us, proving to our friends we live the good life. Not to mention, as we grow older and wiser, there is a constant learning curve on how to gracefully handle evolving responsibility

So, we resort to multi-tasking. A term I’m all too familiar with:

For the past three years, I’ve adopted wearing several outfits: the Corporate Banker, the weekend Real Estate Agent, the closet writer, the Board Member, the six days a week fitness guru, the overly helpful sister/mentor, the “wherever there was time” Nutrition Coach, the social planner… The exhausting list can be rattled on, but these were my staple outfits.

I was this determined, full of spirit person during the day when interacting with colleagues at work, friends at lunch, clients during the evening, friends on Facebook, yoga acquaintances in class, and even the Trader Joe’s Cashier.

But, by the time I stopped moving late at night–by the time I shed all the identity of these outfits–I was dizzy and hardly good company. My husband received the residual affects of my true, underlying feelings of being overcommitted, without focus, and having this ability to “shoot off stress beams”, as he puts it.

I have been raised on goals since the age of four, like they were a serving of food everyday. And, apparently, sometime during my mid-20’s, I also began to acquire goals as if they were collectibles. I had so many different identities—that in order to keep myself from confusing who I was and what I was doing—I literally had 6 email addresses to separate the different responsibilities.

I understood this problem, and finally decided to reason with myself: I’m a fan of variety who loves dynamic people and a dynamic lifestyle—but it’s impossible to do everything and be good at it all. It’s not fair to my marriage, my ongoing success, and the sustainability of how I live. This lifestyle approach of “productivity and trying to accomplish everything” was becoming “I’m slowly losing myself.”

Once I stopped the ‘thriving’ motions of my busy day, what remained of me was far less than glamorous. While functional multi-tasking can appear to be a commendable skill or gift, it can be incredibly deceiving, as it is also a big distraction. I was honestly very efficient at doing three jobs—simultaneously—in an eight-hour workday, but it takes a toll…

We cannot be here now…and also be everywhere at once.

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