I first "met" Linda Breen Pierce on the Internet through her website which contained the Pierce Simplicity Study, a survey questionnaire with which she sought to understand the reasons people were "choosing simplicity." She had begun to follow that lifestyle path herself, turning from a professional life toward a simpler way of living that she had been considering for some time. In the process of beginning to make her changes, Pierce read many books and articles on the topic of a lifestyle popularly termed voluntary simplicity and simple living. But, she tells us, "Most of the simplicity books I read told me why or how to simplify my life, but I found little written about real people who had actually tried it. I became curious about what had happened in the lives of these people."
To answer her curiosity, the Study and its survey questionnaire were born and from it evolved her book Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World. From 211 detailed survey responses, Pierce focused on 40 cases for in-depth, personal interviews. Regular readers of Living Gently Quarterly will recognize several of the names of those responding who have contributed to the magazine over the years.
In Choosing Simplicity, Pierce shows us the wide diversity of people now following a simpler lifestyle path, each of whom has not only a unique way of defining their pathway but also has a unique undertaking of the journey. For the majority of the book, the author lets survey participants tell their story. And when she jumps in to emphasis or make a specific point or to comment on the situation, she does so by placing her editorial remarks in a distinguishing text box.
Choosing Simplicity has a similar structure to Jacqueline Blix and David Heitmiller's book Getting a Life which tells the personal stories of people who have followed the Your Money or Your Life program. And Choosing Simplicity fulfills its purpose as successfully as that book.
Linda Breen Pierce begins the book with a chapter relating her personal story, the why and how and false starts behind her desire to live a more purposeful life. "When I think about simplifying my life, I see it as a process, rather than as a thing or destination. There is no point in time when I will say to myself, ‘Ah, I have arrived, isn't that good?'"
The author uses the next eleven chapters to look at some of the many different ways in which her survey respondents have confronted their lives and begun the process of change. The final chapter reviews the findings of the Simplicity Study survey and comments on what the results mean to her.
In the end, Linda Breen Pierce shows us that: "There are no ‘10 rules to follow to become a full- fledged member of the simplicity movement.' The answer lies in how a person feels about her life."
Pierce does find a number of common threads, however, among the spectrum of personal stories. For example:
"Simplicity requires you to look at your own values to define yourself, rather than relying on external measures of success...."
"The journey to simplicity is often a circuitous one, with many detours along the way."
"As we make changes to simplify our lives, we often go through some tough times.... Living simply requires courage."
"The life stories in this book are littered with false starts. A false start is not a mistake far from it; rather it is an excellent vehicle to carry us on our journey...."
"It is interesting how serendipity works in our lives.... As many have said, ‘When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."
"Balance is to simplicity what location is to real estate."
"One personal characteristic that is common to most of the simplicity study participants is a high level of self-esteem."
These are just a few of the observational gems Linda Breen Pierce has given us in this delightful book. Whether you are new to simple living or an old hand, Choosing Simplicity will give you new and meaningful insights and inspirations. It certainly gave me the incentive to again step back and look at how my life has been evolving.
I predict that Choosing Simplicity will become one of the classics of the simplicity movementover the next few years because it shows us more than how we can make change. It shows us that it can be done through the lives of those who have gone before us.
Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World
by Linda Breen Pierce
2000,Gallagher Press, ISBN 0-9672067-1-5 website address: www.gallagherpress.com
Reviewed by Keith C. Heidorn
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Living Gently Quarterly Reviews: Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World ©1999, Keith C. Heidorn. All Rights Reserved.
Living Gently Quarterly is published by Keith C. Heidorn. ©1996-2002, 2003. Correspondence may be sent to: email: firstname.lastname@example.org.