Hello best life seekers!
Have you ever considered dropping everything and walking away from your troubles? Have you ever thought how wonderful life might be without your obligations and commitments? Everyone does. If it’s just fear holding you back, maybe it’s time to get minimal.
I’m not saying run away from everything and everyone. Definitely if you have children I am not saying abandon them! Nor am I saying abandon your financial commitments. But there is a freedom and relief that comes from simplifying your life down to the essential.
What does essential mean to you?
As we age most of us like to accumulate enough stuff to fill a three car garage. We also acquire more connections than we can handle. Think of the multitude of acquaintances and friends you’ve kept and the random 500+ people you’ve added to Facebook and other social media over the years. We collect professional commitments, online and offline personal accounts in everything, and habitual social engagements with our friends, family and communities. On top of this we pursue socially desirable accolades like marriage, kids, mortgages, office obligations, and professional benchmarks.
All this takes time, energy and money. If you feel like you’re juggling 10+ balls at any one time and can’t keep them up in the air, this isn’t because you’re not a master juggler. It’s because you’re expecting to do too much in a finite amount of time with limited energy and resources.
Does a voice in the back of your head worry about what would happen if you dropped some of those balls and jettisoned the excess baggage? Most people fear the idea so much they never consider the benefits.
A Lesson in Minimalism
When I was 13, my step-father lost his job and my family became homeless for about 6 months. The five of us lived out of a car, sometimes lucky to stay in shelters or cheap motels but sometimes sleeping at rest stops. At one point my possessions literally fit into a small suitcase, everything tossed that I’d owned since then but a teddy bear and clothes.
This is not the minimalism you want to experience but it taught me a valuable lesson about how little we really need in life. People become attached to things, places and others to such an extent that they fear letting them go in order to live their dreams or pursue new opportunities.
Stuff is not important. Core relationships are but ultimately your life is up to you to decide how to live it. I’ve walked away from stuff and others many times in order to live life on my terms and I don’t regret those decisions one bit. The times I let relationships or extraneous commitments hold me back are the moments I regret most.
Some of my best memories and happiest times are my travels as a digital nomad, traveling through Asia with only a suitcase and a backpack or the massive cross-country road trip in the US and Canada I took with my camper van. Many times I’ve lived and worked overseas in places like Ireland, Scotland, Japan and New Zealand, arriving with one carry-on and one suitcase. People regularly tell me how envious they are of my freedom and my adventures. When I ask them what’s preventing them from doing the same, their answers typically fall into these categories:
- Not being able to leave their house or pet unattended or needing to have income to pay the mortgage
- Not being able to travel without their spouse or partner because they either can’t leave them, travel alone, or the other person doesn’t want to travel
- Family obligations or other social commitments
- Not being able to take time off from work or walk away from their job
Of course not everyone can or wants to travel for long stints like I do but these excuses come up for even a two week vacation.
These excuses aren’t limited to travel though. People often tell me they can’t move to a better job in a different town or state for these same reasons. That they can’t pursue their hobbies or dreams because of them. They say they would like to change but others won’t let them. Rather than reexamining their situation, they let their dreams slip on by or fade away into oblivion.
Oftentimes we think the stuff we own or the commitments we undertake add value to our lives. Sometimes they do but many times they come with greater price tags than we realize if they keep us from our dreams or from pursing the best vision of ourselves.
Worse, we give more credence to our assumptions about the value of our commitments than they often deserve. Consider this:
- How many people working themselves to death for their job don’t realize that as soon as they move on, their employer will have a stack of resumes in their inbox the next day?
- Would the commitment that is driving you crazy with its demands really care if you left? Even if they did, is their momentary annoyance worth more than your sanity and free time to breathe?
- Are you schlepping your kids to 20 different enrichment activities a week when your family would be better served by spending the time and resources together?
- How much money is going out the door to discretionary obligations like charities, supporting adult family and friends, and other areas when your own financial needs aren’t getting met?
If you’re only taking on these burdens because you’re afraid to say no out of fear of what others might think of you, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your commitments. Are these obligations contributing to your well-being and happiness or drowning you and smothering your dreams?
The ability to prioritize is a fundamental life skill we all need to know. Prioritization is knowing 1) what is essential, 2) what is good to have but not necessary and 3) what has low returns for the amount of time and resources devoted to it. Good prioritizing focuses on what matters most to us and organizing our time, energy, money and resources around those things while eliminating the rest. We can’t have too many priorities. The more you have the more meaningless the term becomes and the more spread thin YOU become. We only have so many hours in the day, only so much money or energy or love to give.
When you focus on what matters most to you, you can give more of yourself and have more quality experiences – be they with your family, friends, professional life or in pursuit of your dreams.
In life, quality and not quantity matters. All the possessions in the world won’t matter if you didn’t live your life in the way you wanted and with the people you loved most.
The Minimalist Paradox
What I learned with only one suitcase was that all I ever need is myself. So long as I have that, I have everything I need. Stuff is nice to have of course. Not knowing where your next meal or shelter is coming from isn’t advisable but when you have nothing and turn inward, you see that you have yourself, which is the greatest resource.
Nowadays, you could drop me pretty much anywhere in the world that’s not a war zone and I’d be fine. I’d love to have a passport and credit card on me but that’s all I’d really need.
Having nothing taught me everything.
When you strip away the inessential you find the greatest treasures. Freedom and security do not come from stuff. Strength ultimately does not even come from your relationships. Freedom and strength come from trust in yourself. You don’t need anything else. In fact, that connection to yourself is what builds everything else. You can love and serve others best when you draw from that core strength.
Get minimal and find yourself in the essential.
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