"Whatever the tasks, do them slowly with ease, in mindfulness, so do not do any tasks with the goal of getting them over with. Resolve to do each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention."

- Thich Nhat Hanh

As Leo Babauta reminds us, in our daily lives, we often rush through tasks, trying to get them done, trying to finish as much as we can each day. We speed along in our cars to our next destination, rushing to do what we need to do there, and then leaving so that we can speed to our next destination.

Unfortunately, it’s often not until we get to our final destination that we realize what madness this all is. 

At the end of the day, we’re often exhausted and stressed out from the grind, the chaos and the busyness of the day. We don’t have time for what’s important to us, for what we really want to be doing, for spending time with loved ones, and for doing things we’re passionate about.

We have made our lives too complex to enjoy living!

And yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. As Leo Babauta has said, it’s possible to live a simpler life, one where you enjoy each activity, where you are present in everything (or most things) you do, where you are content rather than rushing to finish things. 

As I sit here to write this month’s Leading Indicator article, I do so in a unique situation. I am recovering from surgery……surgery to remove a few cancerous cells that were discovered in my body when I had my bi-annual medical back in November. 

I remember that day at the doctor’s office when the C word was pronounced. Though having lost several friends to the disease I never expected I would be affected. One of my good friends, Hugh, just lost his daughter to it. She was only 38. In those times we grieve and mourn to the best that we understand what people are experiencing, but we never know exactly how to relate. The fear, anxiety, and frustration that accompany this matter cannot be understood from the outside looking in. 

For the past few years, I have been writing articles, or maybe telling others how they should be living their lives to be more successful both personally and professionally. As I prepared myself for the surgery, I remember all the advice I gave, and I also remember a friend of mine, Gerard, who said “Merv, you need to take some of the advice you give!” It is easy to write words. It is much more difficult to act upon them.

At times like this, one’s power is reduced to nothing. Having lived a life where the ability to control and manage situations has been dominant, I am now totally dependent on others. Power has been reduced to faith. And that’s what creates fear and anxiety because faith requires trusting in something or someone beyond you. I have to have faith in my doctor that the problem has been diagnosed properly and the solution defined correctly. I have to have faith in the technology that is used to assist the doctors and nurses. I have to have faith in the drugs used to prevent unwanted outcomes after the surgery. I have to have faith in the surgeon that his skills are superior to the enemy within. I have to have faith in an unknown God whom I have believed in all my life but on whom I never had to call upon, but now whom I turn to believing that there is more purpose for my life than this. 

When you lose power all you have is faith. And if you have no faith, you have no hope. My faith gives me hope.

So I sit here with hope for full recovery and a return to a normal life in a few weeks. But it’s that phrase “a normal life” that made me think. When you are faced with what others call a “life changing experience”, does your life really change? And what is normal? Is normal going back to the same behaviour prior to what was supposed to be a life changing event? I think not!

For a few days I have had lots of time to think about life. I have concluded that I have allowed life to become too complex. We busy ourselves with activities believing that they all add value and enrich our daily living. But how much of what we do actually enriches us? As much as the doctor performed an assessment to determine my physical healthiness, this experience now has driven me to do a personal assessment to determine how I can realize optimal living. And the diagnosis is “simplify”!

What have I/we allowed in our lives to make them so complex that we fail at really living? We believe we must have our kids enrolled in soccer, hockey, swimming, piano and the like in order for them to live a full life. We work 10-12 hour days to obtain a standard of living that is expected of us and gives us the things that are supposed to make our lives better or happier. We ignore vacations - there is little time to take one or when we do, it’s without fail that along with the suntan lotion and shorts we pack the laptop and the Blackberry. We get up at 5:00 am to beat the traffic, work through lunch, leave late and get home by 7:00 pm to have dinner finished by 8:00 pm. But is that living?

When I do get to my final destination, I do not want to say “Is that all there is or was?” No, life is intended to be so much more. It’s time to simplify, to refocus and change in a way that while realizing one’s full potential we are living life to its fullest.

As CMAs, and as examples to others, we have to be so careful that we do not allow our lives to become so complex that we become unproductive. Busyness and productivity are not the same. Likewise, as CMAs, we have to be careful we do not allow complexity to seep into our organizations so that they become unproductive. So often we chase ideas that offer no enriching benefit to our company’s performance. It takes an “organizational changing event” (like a recession) to reduce the complexity and simplify. Think of the companies that have expanded in the name of growth only to realize poorer results, forcing them to re-engineer, right size, downsize, restructure, or why don’t we just say “simplify”. Don’t let that happen.

How much baggage, then, have we accumulated over the years that has so easily beset us, enslaves us, and fills our lives with unneeded complexity? Let’s get rid of all the baggage that so easily weighs us down in life!