More, more, more is the mantra of today’s culture. Accumulate more things, more money, more social media likes, more food, more career success, more responsibilities, more house, more gadgets and more clothes.
Success in life is often judged by external indicators like luxury items, popularity, salary, or status items. Unfortunately these are, in reality, poor guide posts as they aren’t indicative of true wealth, contentment or positive lifestyles. The reality behind the shiny facade is often debt, money worries, stress, poor health and disfunctional relationships.
I’m firmly of the belief that we’d be better off individually, and as a society, by heading in the other direction. We need to reject this acquisition mindset and the boundless consumerism that everyone is caught up in. Instead, we might just experience greater fulfilment and happiness from a more moderate lifestyle and being less concerned by the opinions of others. Getting to this point may require an initial focus on less in order to restore balance as we pull back from our lifestyles of excess.
As an expat living in the United States, we’ve been privileged to be exposed to the American tradition of Thanksgiving for a couple of years now. While we haven’t embraced the national Turkey obsession, it is a fantastic time of year to spend time with family and reflect on the many things we have to be grateful for.
It is also a time of year when there is lots of temptation. The sales are already in full effect and Black Friday promotions seem to come earlier and earlier in the year. During the spending frenzy happening around you, remember that the best things in life aren’t things!
Resignation or resistance? Passiveness or proactivity? Unconscious or mindful? These are active decisions and ones which I believe have a dramatic impact on our quality of life. The mind shift to being more in control of one’s destiny also requires an honest recognition of the situtation, relationship, circumstance or lifestyle we are living and then a resolution to change. Instead of complaining about your lot in life, do something about it.
One of the most liberating realizations you can come to is that you are not a victim of circumstance, but rather a product of your decisions. There are the small decisions that aggregate over time, and bigger changes that shift the paradigm.
“We are not imprisoned by our circumstances, our setbacks, our history, our mistakes, or even staggering defeats along the way. We are freed by our choices”
I’ve written in detail about some of the positive actions and choices I’ve made in recent months about my finances and the pursuit of financial independence, trying to live with less and implementing changes to lighten my ecological footprint.
Another area I’m looking to proactively address is work.
Last night my wife and I watched a fantastic documentary called “The Biggest Little Farm“. The film chronicles the 8 year journey of John and Molly Chester from small LA city apartment to 200 acres of biodiverse farm. They have a dream of coexisting with nature and “traditional” farming, where over time they transform a barren landscape into a lush paradise. The cinematography is beautiful and their story is hopeful, often emotional, and inspiring.
I don’t suddenly want to become a farmer, but The Biggest Little Farm got me thinking about what constitutes sustainability, purpose and a good life.
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a simple life, but for me it is about uncomplicated, sustainable living. A life of happiness and intention which isn’t ruled by possessions or the expectations of others. Living a simple life is about having the time, energy, health and resources to focus on things, topics and people that matter. It’s about doing and having less, while gaining and giving more. It’s about choice, control and contentment, rather than reacting to societal pressures, norms and rampant consumerism. It’s about finding real happiness and a high quality of life.
“There is nothing that the busy man is less busy with than living: there is nothing harder to learn”
Being clear about the life you want to lead is important. Below are ways I’m working towards that simple life:
I’ve posted previously about our liberating decision to start living with fewer possessions (The benefits of subtraction – the freedom and happiness gains of owning less). This has involved not only buying less, but also reducing the number of number of things we have in the house. Letting go of stuff is a process. Even when we are are ready emotionally to let things go, deciding what to do with the stuff is important.
What we’ve discovered in the process of decluttering and selling over 100 items in the last six months (in addition to everything we have donated or thrown away), is that the old adage “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure” is true. We have managed to generate almost $7,000 in cash by selling unused and unwanted items including sporting equipment, comics, books, kids toys and some furniture. Old LEGO has been especially popular.
This wasn’t an emergency cash grab, but rather an intentional process of donating, selling and discarding superfluous stuff. Less physical clutter, creates more mental space and gratitude for the things we keep and value.
Have you ever felt a bit aimless, unmotivated or wondering what your purpose was in life? Maybe, like me, you’re working in a job that can sometimes feel a bit pointless and meaningless. Are you looking for something bigger than yourself or trying to forge a life that truly matters?