104: Simple Rules for a Good Life
Monday May 23, 2016

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“In many areas of our lives — both professional and personal — we face an apparently unpalatable choice between the simplicity we crave and the complicated solutions that seem necessary. This tradeoff is false. For many of our most important activities and decisions, simple rules are both more desirable and more effective than complicated solutions.” —Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World by  Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt 
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #104

Simplicity in a complex world. Is it even possible? Seemingly no, but thankfully yes. Yes, it is absolutely possible.

The grand opportunities our 21st century world offers us are vast, en masse and arguably infinite. And this surplus of options, choices and paths can become overwhelming if we’re unclear about what makes the day run smoothly, our hearts feel deeply and our lives feel full and ever allowing us to grow and evolve.

As a young girl, oddly enough, I was certain, without any explanation or reasoning than “I knew it had to be possible!” that if only I could figure out the basics of life to successfully get me through the day regarding what I was eating, how to answer the basic questions of school and friends and life in general that I could then just enjoy the present. Now, yes, this notion is full of an abundant amount of naiveté, but after reading Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World I may have stumbled onto something unknowingly way back in my pre-teen years.

Granted, I didn’t have the knowledge or the wherewithal to know the science behind eating well or even know who the heck I was in order to choose a path that would align with my curiosities and passions, but I felt that the absolutes we have to tend to each day could be simplified so that the living of life, the joy in the everyday could be savored all the more.

After all, who wouldn’t want more time to read a good book and not worry about being interrupted by a chore or sleep? Who wouldn’t want more time with loved ones losing all track of the minutes and hours, yet all the while having a peace of mind because you know the bills are paid, the weekly grocery shopping is done and the week will begin well because everything has been tended to? Who wouldn’t want more time to tinker on a new recipe, fiddle with a new project or plan your next trip to explore the world? Who wouldn’t want to eat delicious, fulfilling food without worrying about your waistline?

Such a way of living is possible, and it’s possible everyday of your life with simple rules.

What are the benefits of crafting and living by simple rules?

  • they enable you to make quick, reasonably accurate decisions that require less effort than more complicated approaches
  • you become more likely to act on your decisions because they are easy to remember
  • your willpower remains strong because you don’t deplete it hemming and hawing over decisions that can be made quickly and effectively for your life
  • require a minimum level of coordination while leaving ample room for individuals to pursue their own objectives. 

As the authors of Simple Rules points out in chapter one, the best-selling author on food and nutrition Michael Pollan in his book Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual coined his own simple rules regarding food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” The reasons why simple rules work, such as his, are that “they give concrete guidance without being overly prescriptive” and “they leave room to exercise creativity and pursue unanticipated opportunities.”

Now, it’s important to note that simple rules will evolve as your life evolves. Some will remain basically the same, but some will only serve you well for a particular period in your life due to what roles you are inhabiting, what you are trying to accomplish, etc.

While there are many arenas in your life that you are probably already contemplating creating simple rules for, I thought I’d share with you six foundational areas of our lives and example simple rules in each to consider. Feel free to tweak, take or toss based on how you want to live and what you need in your life at the present moment.

~Tune in to this episode of the podcast to hear my commentary which offers more detail about each simple rule you see below.

“Real food. Bookend with water. Add color.”
“Time. Passion. Growth.”
“Can I? Should I? Why am I?”
“The 2-3 Rule: Want it after 2-3 days? Will it last for 2-3 years? Will it go with 2-3 other items? Yes? Buy it.”
The Mind
“Welcome truth, optimism and empowering thoughts. All others, dispose of quickly.”
Time Spent with Others
“Uplifting? In love with life? Curious? Then absolutely!”


Part of the power that I have found with living with simple rules in my life is that they extinguish lost time used for contemplating ideas that are unreasonable, unnecessary and detrimental to the quality of the life I am trying to cultivate each and every day. Am I successful at following each of these rules each day of the week? No. Some days I am exhausted and will have a side of fries with my hamburger. While, not processed, they are not that colorful, right? Oh well, we move on. And we do better following the rules tomorrow.

However, the more I apply the simple rules, the more habituated it becomes, and I automatically now say no to store-bought cookies for example. Or no to items in my wardrobe or home decor that I am purchasing in order to impress someone else. Based on past experiences, I know there is no need based on the life I am trying to build, and if I ignore my simple rule, I will regret such decisions. Now if I want to buy a clothing item because it complies with my 2-3 rule, and I want it for me, then absolutely, I will say yes.

So today or sometime this week or maybe this upcoming long weekend, sit down and pen out short, simple rules that align with the life you wish to create and make it easy for you to remember as you go about the full life you have built for yourself. And if you’d like, please do share! I would love to hear the simple rules you have come up with and are living by that work for your life, as I’m sure other readers would as well.

Thank you for stopping by and have a great week.


~Why Not . . . Save Time? (2 part series)

~Stop Being Busy and Start Being Efficient

~Opportunity’s Unexpected Gift

Petit Plaisir:

~J.Crew’s Carrie silk camisoles

~Use promo code SUMMER to save 30% off.

~Shop for your Capsule Wardrobe at TSLL Shop.


~Shop the outfit:

~Theory Italian stretch wool Gabe jacket/blazer (other colors)

~J.Crew Carrie silk camisoles (petit, tall & regular)

~Citizens of Humanity “Emannuelle ‘ Slim bootcut jeans

~Jennifer DeMoro Jewelry, custom nameplate design necklace

~Lanvin scrunched leather ballet flats, nude


Image: source

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11 thoughts on “104: Simple Rules for a Good Life

  1. We have another set of questions for buying clothes: does it fit? is it comfortable? will you wear it? is it not a copy of stuff you already have? do you love it?
    Funny how many things go back on the rack.
    There are many stressful aspects of freelancing (not having steady income among them), but the most positive tradeoff is the ability to make family time. I was able to simply schedule work around my kid’s free time; without a boss, I could simply say, “sorry, I have another appointment then,” and not have to explain that the appointment was baby swim class. But the simple rule here would be that childhood is fleeting, so it gets priority over everything.

  2. Love the eating rule. So simple, yet so important. And I like the “will it last for 2-3 years?” part of the shopping rule. Sustainability should be a rule for more shoppers out there!

  3. Love this podcast and shall work on writing out these simple rules for the various aspects of my life. Thanks for sharing your ideas as examples!

    A rule I use when I dine out is the following. I only eat out once a week so this weekly treat is certainly something I aim to enjoy and savor. It ensures a satisfying dining experience without making a dent in my wallet.

    “Don’t make at home. Reasonably priced. Feeling it.”

    Essentially, it means that the dish/dishes aren’t readily made at home (for whatever reasons), not outrageously priced for the ingredients and composition of the dish(es), and something I really, REALLY want to eat. It combines pleasure from rarity, peace of mind finance and joy from saying yes to my heart’s desire that makes this rule work. 🙂

  4. i like to develop habits and procedures rather than focus on rules on goals. I ask myself questions such as:

    Why am I eating this? Is it because I am hungry, bored, filling some kind of emotional hole, maybe for the joy of it or to appreciate the art of a good meal. Tempered with some balance.

    What I buy: I fill with needs first then wants second -still working on

    Money- have savings taken out first, work on giving at least 10% of untaxed income to a scholarship fund and other organizations

    Mind- keep it open and ready to receive new information

    Social: this is the hardest because I am an introvert who needs a lot of quiet recharging time

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