Aim for Simplicity.

What’s your aim in life?

Ah, yes, this question would only come up as casual mid-afternoon conversation in the midst of a yoga teacher training.

When asked this question, I flinch, quiver, and shrug with uncertainty. How broad a question can possibly be asked? How do I even begin to wrap my mind around the complexity of this inquiry? What does an “aim” even mean? Can my life truly be likened to a game of archery?

Questions spin around my mind like the circles I skated on the ice. Circling around getting colder by the minute as the ice glistened beneath me and an inability to jump began to freeze my heart.

I know what it’s like to feel numb; in fact, I sometimes feel like I’ve mastered this feeling (or lack thereof).

For as long as I can remember, my greatest aim, my life’s purpose, was to make something of myself. After all, isn’t this really what everyone tries to do? Be your best self, dream big, live in possibility!

For me, making something of myself has always meant doing something extraordinary; being the one others are envious of, achieving greatness of the highest degree, one that is quite possibly unattainable. Constant chatter in the mind telling me who I need to be, where I should go, and what I have to do in order to be anything but ordinary.

When most kids fear heights and haunted houses, I fear normalcy. Be a competitive figure skater and bring home gold medals; live the fashion intern’s life in New York City, dressing glamorously only to fetch your editor a venti unsweetened iced green tea every few hours. Travel throughout Europe tasting the flavors of Italy and feeling the romanticism of Paris; attend a yoga retreat in Bali, where everyone dreams of practicing yoga.

Go, go, go. Push, push, push. Aim for accomplishment, aim for recognition, aim for extraordinary.

The problem with this deep, internal drive to live the life of the extraordinary as a 10, 15 and now 23-year-old is that I have been desperately attempting to prove my personal success to others that I have lost sight of who is most important. I must prove myself to myself before I can prove anything to anyone else.

But what is it that I am trying to prove? Am I trying to prove that I am better than normal? Does normal even truly exist?

In dedicating my energy to reaching extraordinary measures, nothing ever seems to feel good enough. Life begins to feel like a series of fleeting moments and even amid the ebb and flows of excitement and “accomplishment,” I remain unsatisfied and unfulfilled, stuck in the cyclone of my own thoughts, my own fears.

Paradoxically, my aim to be extraordinary is keeping me from being just that.

In discovering this aspect to my personality, I know that in order to reach happiness, what I believe to be the highest human aim of all, I must stop trying to win the competition against myself. Me, myself, and I—we compete all day, every day.

My brain fights my heart, and my past haunts my present. I fear the future but the future is all I can dream about. Stuck in standstill, tipping front to back on this teeter-totter I call life.

The truth is, I’m scared of living out of balance. I’m scared of never feeling like anything good can last and I’m terrified that my anxiety will continue to control my life.

Yet, as I begin to think about this fear of ordinary, I realize that the old cliché, “what you resist persists,” is incredibly valid. I must find a sense of balance between my heart and my mind and my internal validation must come before anything external.

I seek balance as I practice, cultivate and embrace the art of simplicity.

Simple, meaning peaceful; simple, meaning easy; simple, meaning maybe even a little boring (according to the masses). I find balance by creating and honoring boundaries; learning to say no to others as I say yes to myself.

I’m starting to realize that there is nothing ordinary in finding balance and creating simplicity in my life. In fact, redefining extraordinary may just be my ticket to happiness.

This is my ultimate aim.


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Assist Ed: Michelle Margaret/Ed: Bryonie 

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Amy Rumizen Oct 17, 2013 3:52pm

Lauren, the essence of this article speaks to so many people, regardless of age. Your voice is honest and starkly real; the need to simplify is a need that is increasingly difficult in the world we all have to navigate. How do we find the balance? Well, we might teeter and fall, but we always get back up. And the fact that you wrote this essay proves your ability to do exactly that. It is an inspiration for everyone who reads it!

Diana Vitantonio Oct 17, 2013 3:00pm

Love this Lauren Cohen. Thank you for giving a voice to what so many feel in their hearts. I know I saw myself in in your story. And there is something so magically healing about that. Knowing that I'm not alone and that someone else is going through the same things is the true meaning of being understood. That is what humanity is hungry for right now. Compassion. Love and understanding. xo

Jenny Howard Oct 15, 2013 2:10pm

Cohen! Dobby showed me your awesome post on a blog that I've been coming across more and more. This post made me think of a quote I just heard from the President of Barnard College, on "having it all" this thing we (women, especially) are emphasizing so much these days: "You cannot have everything in life, but you can have the things that are important to you.” I love this idea – that it's okay to want what you want, and just own that…not what you think other people will think is "everything" or "the most" or "the best." Great post! xoxo

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Lauren Cohen

Lauren Cohen is 24 years old and currently resides in San Francisco, CA. She holds a Bachelors degree in Communications, and hopes to one day see the world. She is a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and also figure skated competitively for 15 years. She loves to write, meet new people, practice and teach yoga and inspire people along the way…