Sometimes simplifying your life happens by choice; other times, life circumstances force you to find a new way of living. And it’s when you let go of the illusion of control that you can truly understand what it means to trust God completely.

unexpected life circumstances force you to simplify

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In this episode of our Simplify Series, I chat with my friend Elissa Joy Watts about her leadership journey and her experience with learning to simplify. But her journey isn’t one marked by a moment of deciding to declutter for the sake of aesthetics. Instead, she shares how circumstances in her life and health forced her to learn the value of living a simpler life.

Key Points Discussed:

  • Elissa’s Background & Leadership Journey [4:00]
  • Simplifying journey [7:57]
    • Car accident caused her to re-evaluate her goals and values [11:15]
    • Dealing with imposter syndrome [14:05]
    • Identity implosion [18:23]
    • The story of 2 days [22:10]
    • Yoga mat moment [25:00]
    • Stillness is an invitation [30:00]
    • The practical ways Elissa simplified her life
      • Physical belongings [34:00]
      • Social calendar [35:25]
    • The value of walking [38:50]
    • Returning home [40:00]
      • Culture shock
  • Faith’s role in Elissa’s journey [44:00]
    • Letting go of the illusion of control [48:00]
    • Being okay with stillness and void [51:21]
  • Why Elissa is taking a year off social media [53:00]
    • Legacy [56:00]
  • Leaders are Learners [1:00:00]
  • Final encouragement from Elissa [1:03:10]


Key Quotes from the Episode:

“Stillness is an invitation; it’s not a void that needs filling.” – Elissa Joy Watts

“You think you need certainty, or you think you need the plan, but what you really need is just God’s peace and His presence.” – Elissa Joy Watts

“There’s great peace that comes with knowing I don’t have to strive, my identity is in Christ, and I am beloved before I even do a thing or have a thing or wear a title.” – Elissa Joy Watts

“For some people, simplifying their possessions looks like a really beautiful design spread, and they think that’s going to make them happy, but that’s not the truth.” – Elissa Joy Watts

“Every single day we have an opportunity to invest in ourselves, in the lives of others, our communities… and how those minutes and hours and days and weeks form our lives… it’s really an important thing to consider.” – Elissa Joy Watts

“Where is my trust, and who is it in? Is it in my stuff and in my accomplishments, or is it in the creator of this whole universe?” – Esther Littlefield

“If you can get to a place of clarity, and intention, and action before it’s too late, do it.” – Elissa Joy Watts

Other Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Elissa Joy Watts:

A formal introduction would neatly state that Elissa Joy Watts is the Managing Editor for Simplify Magazine, a quarterly digital publication for mindful modern families, founded by Joshua Becker and Brian Gardner. She’d rather introduce herself as an analog-favoring work in progress and leave you with a word of encouragement. You can simplify your life and still be a leader before you end up unconscious and face down on the floor.

Since leaving her corporate job and suffering a frightening seizure as a new mother in a foreign country, Elissa has learned the importance of paring down and taking one day at a time. Raising kids in a tiny Scottish apartment taught her that less is always more; living out of suitcases for 13 months straight after returning to Canada confirmed it. Lesson: If you ask Jesus to be your story’s undeniable hero, expect the unexpected and hold on tight.

When she’s not channeling the power of lipstick and dry shampoo as a freelancer and mother of four, she’s unwinding with her feet up in Hamilton, Ontario. You won’t find her on social media this year but feel free to reach out to [email protected]. Better yet, send a postcard or swing by for a drink. Coffee, tea, or gin—you choose.


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forced to simplify quote from Elissa Watts