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.
Social norms help guide and direct our behaviour. Unfortunately, for many of us, simply looking to the people around us, whether they be family, friends or work colleagues, won’t provide good examples or guidance.
“Normal” often means spending more than you earn, consuming more than you need, relying on debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck. It may be easier to just do what everyone else is doing in the short term, but it isn’t typically the optimal answer in the long run.
In fact, focusing on being normal is likely to set you on the path of mediocrity, the average and ordinary. Mindlessly following the herd is a receipe for drift and a life without direction or purpose.
When you make the decision to avoid “normal” and realize that you don’t have to live up to the expectations of others, or follow the unwritten rules of society, then you can begin living your life on your terms.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition”
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!
Why do we hold onto things that we don’t use or value? Why do we take certain actions that don’t make sense, given current circumstances? Very often the internal rationale is “just in case”. We tell ourselves that we might need an item sometime in the future, even when it hasn’t been used in years. Sometimes we act in a certain way because of perceived possible future scenarios.
We all know the Boy Scout saying “Be prepared” and the old adage “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. I’m not sure that this is always great advice or rather, it has taken too literally by some people and becomes their Just In Case (JIC) excuse.
This morning my wife commented that I rarely do things in moderation. I guess she probably has a point, and on reflection I can see many examples where not only have I been overly-enthusiastic (maybe sometimes obsessive) about a hobby, cause or new area of interest but also how I yo-yo between extremes. For example, in my pursuit of Financial Indepence I know that at times I’ve been overly frugal but occasionally I’ll randomly go and spend a ton of money. I can go cold turkey with my Coke Zero (habit/addiction) but then revert to drinking way too much. This see-sawing behaviour often negates my positive intentions.
Perhaps the old saying “everything in moderation” has some merit. Those that read my last post about the concept of FILLS know that I’ve been thinking a lot about balance, sustainability and our place in the world.
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.
It’s estimated that ~78% of workers are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Scary, but not surprising. People from all walks of life are scraping by and struggling through life – regardless of gender, education or income levels.
49% of all employees say they find it difficult to meet household expense on time each month
Only 31% would be able to meet their basic expenses if they were out of work for an extended period of time
59% consistently carry balances on their credit cards, with 37% finding it difficult to make their minimum payments each month
35% of Millennials and 30% of Gen X employees are using their credit cards to pay for monthly necessities which they could otherwise not afford
Most worryingly of all is that 45% of people surveyed have less than $1,000 saved for unexpected expense. Unfortunately this situation is worse for women, with 51% not having this relatively small amount of money put aside vs. 38% of men.
The situation is dire and getting worse. It’s time to do something about it, because living paycheck-to-paycheck is a disaster not only for your immediate finances but also your general wellbeing, happiness and future living standards.
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:
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?
Do you ever have the feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions, overworked and stressed, never have enough time or are constantly worrying about money? Me too.
Somewhat paradoxically “less” may be the secret to getting back control over your life. Focusing on the essentials, being more selective about what we do, minimizing the stuff we strive to obtain and consume, spending time with the people that matter. Living a life with less allows us to focus on what really matters. Cutting out the crap, the unnecessary and the toxic, is key to making this philosophy work.