Technology and modern conveniences have made life easier, right? Not so much. The mental crowding and frenzied busyness have actually made life more stressful and demanding, according to Willow Creek founding pastor Bill Hybels. In his new book, Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul (Tyndale Momentum, Aug.), he addresses packed schedules, the 24/7 workplace, overspending, and other anxiety-producing maladies. Hybels talked with PW about how practices like visualization, mental reorganization, and internal housecleaning that can free people from he calls “soul clutter.”
In Simplify, you use the phrase “energy bucket.” Could you explain what that means and how it factors into simplifying one’s life?
As humans, we aren’t wired for working 24/7. We need downtime, rest, play, rewarding relational and spiritual connections, which breathe life back into us and help us give our best to the things that matter most. “Energy bucket” is a simple word picture I have found helps people visualize what gives them energy versus what saps their energy. To live simplified lives, we must be constantly attuned to how much energy we have available, and do what it takes to replenish ourselves to accomplish our most important goals and most vital priorities.
How can people reorganize their lives around longer-term goals and create daily calendars that advance those goals?
I dedicate an entire chapter of Simplify to the specifics of using our calendars holistically, making sure they are not just packed with “urgent” things, but with things that are important. Longer-term goals would fall in this category, as would values like developing our character, nurturing our relationships, living lives of compassion, using our gifts and talents to be who God created us to be. My schedule is not so much about what I need to get done; it is more about who I want to become. By their very nature, urgent things tend to get done. But if we are not careful, the “urgent” robs us of the time needed for developing those more important, but less demanding, priorities. Organizing my life around a holistic calendar is one of the most holy endeavors of each day because it empowers me to give my best energies to the things that matter most.
Anxiety is a big problem in today’s frenetically paced world. What can people do to calm down and deal with life better?
It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that by simplifying our outer worlds—keeping our desks clutter-free, getting the garage organized, staying on top of our e-mail—we will experience greater calm and less anxiety. But I hear time and again from others—and it’s true in my own life—that no matter how organized we become on the outside, our greatest sources of anxiety are those inner compartments of our lives that can so easily get out of whack. Broken relationships, out-of-control finances, lack of focus or calling, unaddressed fears, unrealistic expectations from our jobs—these are the things that leave our energy depleted, our nights restless, and our souls filled with clutter. And that’s the driver in this book—to help people examine key areas of their inner lives and clean out those “closets” in a way that leads to deep, soul-satisfying peace and fulfillment.
What do you hope readers take away from Simplify?
My hope for every reader is that they would use this book as a tool to find freedom from [the things] that keep them in bondage to soul clutter. I pray that chapter by chapter, they will do courageous, liberating inner work that empowers them to leave a legacy of deep satisfaction at the end of their one and only lives.