“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci

In this 10 minute “Flow Nugget”, I discuss how minimalism relates to lifestyle design, why it benefits us to bring simplicity and remove (some) choice from our lives, and how we can do this to achieve more states of flow.

If everyday you stripped down your life so that it contained:

1. something for survival

2. something that drives your purpose

3. something that is fun

What would happen?

Let me tell you a story about 2 crazy, but awesome Norwegian adventurers and how they stripped down life to the bare essentials, and in doing so found profound joy and purpose.

I also give you 4 simple ways to add more minimalism and flow to your daily life. Enjoy the nugget!

Epic quotes

“The People who experience most flow in their lives have in common the deliberate removal of choice from their daily lives.” [Tweet this]

“The paradox of choice is that when we have too much of it, we become trapped in a net of decision-making” [Tweet this]

“Want to flow? Choose your core activities and don’t just commit to them- build your life around them” [Tweet this]

Useful links


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Today I will talk about an aspect of lifestyle design, than can have massive effects on your ability to live in flow.

The dictionary defines minimalism as: “Use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements, as in the arts, literature, or design”….

I think our Lifestyle design can follow these same principles.

It is my observation, that People who experience most flow in their lives have in common the deliberate removal of choice from their daily lives.

Micro-minimalism

I just did some training with a legendary coach, Taki Moore, who has 15 identical black t-shirts in his closet. Why? To remove that choice of what to wear… so he can focus on more important things.

I know people who eat the same 2 meals every day…  or strip down their training so bare that they always know exactly what they have to do.

I call this micro-minimalism- removing choice in targeted areas of your life… and it can definitely save you a lot of unnecessary thought.

There is less leakage of mental, or psychic energy.

From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep, we are faced with hundreds, maybe thousands of choices and decisions.

white tshirt, red tshirt, fried eggs of scrambled, run or swim, flat white or latte…

Here is the paradox: In our society we see choice as a luxury, as an indicator of our level of freedom.  

We tend to think that the more choice we have, the better our life is.

But the paradox of choice is that  when we have too much of it, we become entangled in a net of decision making… which can hamper our ability to flow through life smoothly.

So I think we can all help ourselves out by looking for ways we can add micro-minimalism to our lives.. like choosing one website where we buy flights, or choosing one expert on nutrition… .. or choosing 5 meals that we rotate when we cook.. or having 3 surfboards instead of 12..  

Macro-Minimalism

But I also think there is a way to have a far wider impact on our flow: and lets call this Macro-minimalism. Principles that can affect all of our life.

In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes:  “The psychic entropy (mental leakage)  peculiar to the human condition involves seeing more to do than one can actually accomplish and feeling able to accomplish more than what conditions allow.”


How do we set up our lives for minimalism and flow?

Let me tell you a story about 2 crazy Norweigans. 

Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum are 2 Norwegian’s who created the captivating documentary film North of the Sun.

These 2 adventurers spent nine months of frigid cold, Norwegian winter in isolation, living in a bay facing the raw Atlantic ocean high in the Arctic Circle.

They had hardly any money, so went shopping for whatever expired foods the shops were giving away.. when they got there they built a simple cabin out of driftwood….

They also took their surfboards and good humour.

As they toiled to build shelter and relaxed by surfing in the frigid water their new life in the wilderness took on a new level of simplicity. Inge and Jørn talk about this feeling of freedom, being cut off from communication, emails and other people. But another freedom they experience is in the lack of choices they have to make to live in an optimal existence in the wilderness.

Their daily activity became focused around 3 basic goals:

  1. Collecting materials, building shelter and chopping wood to keep warm, sourcing food (SURVIVAL)
  2. Cleaning up the rubbish and debris that washed up onto the beach (PURPOSE)
  3. Surfing and playing (FUN)

In this simplified existence the 2 guys found profound freedom. Their life flowed from one activity to the next.

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The activities they chose to channel their psychic energy into were rewarding, Very little mental energy was wasting choosing what to do, what to eat, how best to spend their time.  Instead their attention became laser focused on their 3 main goals.

The result was a spiral of positive emotions and positive productivity.  The shelter they spent weeks building was solid, cozy and warm.  They collected and removed from the beach  3 tonnes of rubbish, giving meaning to their existence. The fun and adventure they had surfing and playing gave joy to the whole endeavour.  

By doing the same things over and over again, they also gained expertise in what they did.

Perhaps the most important lesson for our fast paced technology focused society:  their pared down life of limited choice gave Inge and Jørn the mental space to see things from a new perspective and to really appreciate the things in life we take for granted.

Action steps for Macro-minimalism

1. Create habits and routines.  

A first thing in the morning (little stretch, then making coffee and breakfast for me) and last thing at night (brushing teeth, flossing) routine is a good way to start and end the day. If we do these things with all our attention focused on the task, they become mini-meditations.

Create an eating routine or meal plan: If you think eating the same thing day after day  is boring, maybe you just haven’t discovered your perfect meal.

2. Know your priorities.

Become a planner and a list writer. If you know exactly what your goals are at any given moment, you always know the optimal way you can be spending your time that is congruent with these goals. This will eliminate the mental leakage resulting from having to think about what your goals or intentions are, or from questioning and doubting yourself about how best to spend your time.

I recommend Wunderlist for keeping track of to do lists and jotting down ideas.

3. Create digital boundaries.

Nothing drives psychic entropy/ mental leakage more than technology. These days we are bombarded with choice and stimulus in a way our pre-digital ancestors would have found unbearable. The internet has created a new dimension of infinite information and choice.

It is up to us to create the boundaries so that this choice becomes limited. If you allow yourself to get sucked into the digital void, you lose your time and your psychic energy.  I’m still working on how to best create these boundaries, but I believe there are a range of apps and services designed to do just this. Check out this list on lifehack.org

4. Choose your core activities and don’t just commit to them- build your life around them.

Decide on the 1 or 2 things you want to become expert on, or learn more about and focus hard on these activities. If down the track you decide it’s not for you, no problem, move on to the next hobby or endeavour.  In focusing on that activity you have trained your mind in a positive way. Like the Norwegian’s Inge and Jørn, maybe you want to decide on 3 or 4 goals related to your values: Something for fun and relaxation, something that fits into your values or the higher good, and something related to your survival/income/career.  Make sure at least one of these activities you are doing purely for the fun of it.

Playing is a major flow and happiness driver.

Find an activity you really want to be an expert in and focus on it. Would you rather be a jack of all trades or a master of one? Limiting your activities (unless you are freakishly talented or time-rich) is a powerful way to master your craft/sport. Strip away whatever is not essential or related to these activities.

Much like minimalist architecture or sculpture,  simplifying our lives can become an art form. Ask yourself, what can stripped away to add more beauty and efficiency to my life?

How can you strip down your life, so that each day, you do something for survival, something that drives your purpose, and something that is fun.

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