While serving in the U.S. Navy in 2008, they started a program called “Brilliant on the Basics”. The goal was to remind us to get back to the fundamentals as a way of ensuring we were appropriately taking care of our Sailors. How can you ever expect to excel in complex areas if you continuously overlook the simple stuff? The concept spoke to me, which is why I have used that as my primary platform for my blog. When I decided to leave the Navy and move to the Last Frontier, one of my primary goals was to simplify life for myself and my children. As Americans, we have come to live exceedingly complex lives. Smart devices, prepackaged food in an effort to make mealtime “easier”, health and beauty products loaded with who knows what…….All of this at what cost?
So how do we become Brilliant on the Basics? Well, like all things, it is best to start at the BEGINNING. Don’t ever be afraid to start over. It could be something as simple as modifying a DIY product because the last batch just didn’t provide quite the results you wanted. Or it could be as massive as starting over in life…..with a new career or in a new location. Of course, we will make mistakes. But how we move forward (which can often include taking a few steps back in order to begin again) will dictate the overall end results. YOU have the power. Take control of your own destiny and don’t be afraid to fail. Our failures are what helps us forge on and become stronger. When I decided to leave the Navy as a Chief Petty Officer (E-7) instead of continuing on until retirement, I knew people would ask me “Are you crazy?” or “What are you thinking?” What I wasn’t prepared for was the number of people who said things like, “I wish I was that brave,” and “I’m jealous….I could never do that myself.” People are so afraid of change. But if you are not happy in your own skin and the life you have made for yourself, who do you really have to blame? I knew it was time for me to make a change and so I did something about it. To me, that’s not brave…..that’s just good old-fashioned common sense. If in your heart, you know it is time for a new beginning, make it happen.
Once you begin, the times comes to ASK questions. What is the value added of something in your life? Big picture, this can apply to all sorts of things. There was a period of time in my old hometown where I was a member of dozens of local Facebook groups. There was everything from “Buy, Sell and Trade” groups to “Bad Drivers” and much, much more. At first, there was some sheer entertainment value from these groups, as well as the occasional informational tidbit or great deal to be made. But over time, the groups became such a drain on my life. Negativity permeated the groups. It soon became exhausting to even see a post on my timeline. So I asked myself, “What is the value added of having these groups in my life?” After a brief pro/con list where the scales were quickly tipped to the negative, I realized there was almost no value added. And I deleted them ALL. It was one of my favorite Facebook days ever. The freedom I felt after purging those groups from my life was energizing. On a smaller scale, I started to think about the products I use at home in the same terms. Is there really a value added by throwing a store-bought frozen lasagna in the oven instead of planning ahead and making one myself to have stored in the freezer? Sure, some time and effort is required to have one on standby in the freezer, but in the long run, is that really all that difficult? Easier said than done, I know. And I fail at this often myself. But I would much rather have the homemade version that a store-bought brand…….it always tastes better, you know what’s in it, and you get the sheer satisfaction of knowing that YOU did that. To me, that is value added every time. The key here is to start small. Don’t expect to eliminate all these unnecessary evils from your life in one fell swoop. If you try to do that, you will fail miserably and be more reluctant to try again in the future. Start weeding things out slowly. Just like any new regimen, it takes time to build a pattern. Before you know it you will be seeing long lasting results. And once you do, you will be emboldened to continue to make more (and likely bigger) changes.
Once you know what changes need to be made, it is time to SEPARATE. Remove all things toxic from your life. That means the food and products that are full of unnecessary chemicals and additives have got to go. It also means the people who are equally toxic should be shown the door as well. Just like I did with the Facebook groups, try cutting toxic things or people out of your life for even just a few days. Once you realize the negative impact they were having on you, you will be much less likely to go back. This can be especially hard when the toxic person is someone you love. You can’t ask them to change for you……that never works out. If a truly toxic person is going to change, they have to want to do it for themselves. If they cannot do that, you may have to consider whether or not it is time to eliminate their presence from your life.
After you determine what (or who) needs to be removed from your life, you can begin to IDENTIFY what is important to you. Start focusing on those people, those things. Negativity breeds negativity, which is why we purged that from our lives. It is time to focus on the positive. I like to joke that I am just a “Little Ray of Sunshine” in a world of “Negative Nancies”. I challenge myself every day to be the light in a dark and negative world. As with everything, at times I fail. But trying to focus on the positive and not be eaten alive by negativities is one of the most important things in my own personal daily life. For me, I’ve also come to realize that trying to make meals from “scratch” vice out of the box is kind of a big deal too. Now don’t get me wrong…..I’m not over here with my pasta roller creating my own noodles or anything crazy like that……yet! But I would much prefer to go back to the good ‘ole fashioned way of cooking, cleaning, beauty, etc. I believe it makes a difference. Once we can identify the extraneous materials and eliminate them, we can focus on our priorities and start improving upon them daily.
Now comes the time to CLEAN up our lives! You would be amazed by how much you could simplify your life by going clean. To some people, that means different things. Did you know the FDA just ordered 19 ingredients be removed from anti-bacterial hand soaps and sanitizers? I walked away from the anti-bacterial craze many years ago……maybe it was an irrational fear from reading books by authors like Robin Cook. But to me, it just seemed to make sense that we were doing our immune systems more harm than good by using anti-bacterial EVERYTHING. I remember working at a daycare and having moms freak out because their three-year old (who finally just started daycare after being essentially quarantined for the first three years of life) would catch a cold. Exposure to various germs early in life is generally a GOOD thing and helps us BUILD a strong immune system. But trying to chemically alter our response to these germs (by use of a gazillion anti-bacterial products) does nothing more than make those same germs mutate into something we may not be ready to contend with. Call me crazy, but I’d rather take my chances with the good old fashion germs rather than the mutated varietal. As a general rule, I try to use naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal products instead of the chemically altered ones. Nature has been at this for quite a few more years than humans, so I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Finally, we are ready to SIMPLIFY. My own personal desire is the simpler, the better. Of course my reality does not always comply……but I’m a work in progress. Actually, my significant other is a minimalist. As somewhat of a self-proclaimed hoarder, it’s been quite an adjustment. But more than anything, I feel relief. It is an amazing feeling to not have crap just piled up everywhere. Although I am still my own worst enemy and have not quite fully embraced the minimalist lifestyle…..I want to. Yes, I do! But the hoarder in me still rears her ugly head from time to time. I must admit that the simplicity that comes from a minimalist-type lifestyle is breathtaking. As a hoarder, you can often feel like you are drowning in “things”. What are those things? Who knows….they haven’t seen the light of day since 1997. But they are IMPORTANT things! Sentimental value is always what gets me…..I strive to live the life of “throw it out if you haven’t used it in the last year”. But my personal reality is that I have an emotional tie to everything you could imagine. That is one of the advantages of our technological age though…..you can videograph or photograph anything to remember it these days. So I challenge you……SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE! Get rid of the excess! You’ve started over. You’ve figured out what items still have value to you. You’ve removed what didn’t. You’ve figured out what matters now. You’ve cleaned up your life. Don’t’ take it up a notch! Take it down a notch! You deserve it! Once you become Brilliant on the Basics, you are on your way to greatness! Be Bold, Be Brilliant!