When was the moment for you? For me, it was about a year ago.
It’s the moment we realize that somewhere along the line we lost our ability to focus. We can’t concentrate. We can’t manage to simply BE in one place, one moment, doing one thing. Maybe we even lost hope that what we long for is still out there – a simpler life, joy, celebration, belonging, love.
It’s the moment we acknowledge we’re half-awake. We’re racing from day to day, task to task, not so much living as reacting. Not choosing how we spend our lives, but rushing to keep up with the barrage of information, media feeds, lists, work tasks, social obligations, family time, taking care of ourselves, and on and on.
It’s the moment we become aware that our constant striving for more has landed us with less. WAY less.
In the not-too-distant past, I was a grown-up with a successful life. I had a job I was good at and even enjoyed most of the time. I made a great living. I had an apartment with nice things and a decent waistline. I had all the stuff you’re supposed to have when you hit your mid-30’s, and then some. I was set.
Then there were things I didn’t have. I had lost control of my time. My relationships with friends and family were sub-par. I wasn’t having much fun. Travel was sucking the life out of me. I wasn’t honest about all the crutches I used to get through the day, to trick me into thinking I was living. Success on the outside, death on the inside. I had too much and not enough all at the same time.
I wanted my life back. I wanted to stop just surviving and start thriving, but I didn’t know where to start. Then it hit me. What if I applied the principles of minimalism to my whole life?
- Determine the essential
- Eliminate the rest
Determining the essential:
I had already done this with my stuff and my closet, but now it was time to ruthlessly edit everything else. I began to examine what really mattered to me. Not what I thought should matter, but what ACTUALLY mattered to ME. What were MY values? What did I want my life to look like?
For instance, I’m not really a car girl. If cars are your thing and add value to your life, cool. Then driving a new car may be on your list of essentials. It wasn’t on mine. I always thought having a lot of friends was a sign of likability, but what I truly value is a small number of quality friendships. Vacations are nice, but more essential right now was building a life at home after spending most of it on the road.
I started questioning everything I spent my money on, my time doing, and my energy worrying about to determine what was essential. A few of my essentials are: Time wealth over material wealth, physical and spiritual health, and deep relationships. (Sidenote: None of these are available for purchase)
Eliminating the rest:
With my list of essentials, I then began to eliminate everything that didn’t help with these categories. Some of the eliminations have been small. Did I need new clothes every season? Nope. I had already determined all the things that were more essential than stuff.
Some of the choices to eliminate have been bigger. At the beginning of the year, I walked away from my successful job and paycheck (time wealth over money). I’ve had to let go of a lot of status and pride to get back my physical health and relationships.
Now when I’m asked “what do you do?”, I’m uncomfortable because I no longer have an answer that will impress people. I have no regular income and no grand plan for the future (yet). I’m on a tight budget. I can’t buy people with money anymore. I’ve had to learn how to say no. A LOT.
Determining the essential and eliminating the rest is not the easy road, but it’s the road to eventual freedom. Let’s be honest, we’re all scared of being ourselves to some degree. It takes thick skin to own your values and choices. It takes bravery to admit all the things that simply aren’t essential for our lives.
We live in a culture of more where it’s easy to confuse more stuff and more “likes” and more adoration with actually having more LIFE.
Apps are built to get more of our time and attention. Advertising is designed to take more of our dollars. Our Instagram feeds show us what everyone else has more of that we don’t. The pressure to want more more more is everywhere. We can choose to give our power away or we can choose to take back our time, our focus, our dollars, our lives.
Your journey to getting your life back will probably look different than mine. My values might not be yours, but the steps are the same.
Determine your essentials.
Eliminate the rest.
Make a choice to do a subversive thing to find out what it looks like to truly have more.
Mastin Kipp put it best: “Be willing to live a few years how most people won’t, so that you can live the rest of your life how most people can’t.”