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The Hardest Part of Being a Minimalist That Most People Have Overlooked

The Hardest Part of Being a Minimalist That Most People Have Overlooked

At a time where people seem to define themselves by what they have -via Instagram bragging or the recent obsession with affluence, you’d be surprised to find that growing alongside that trend are an increasing number of individuals who identify themselves as minimalists.

Minimalists, i.e. people who choose to live comfortably with as few material possessions as possible – have become a staple in the sub-culture of many economies.

This decision doesn’t come from lack of motivation or ambition -as a matter of fact- many of them make reasonably solid incomes; but rather as personal decision and a means to not only ensure financial stability but also as way of disconnecting from the zeitgeist of wealth-seeking and enjoying life for it’s simple beauty.

The lifestyle choice is akin to people who enjoy hunting, camping, skydiving, or any seemingly niche commitment. There is no qualifier for it, other than that it works for them. As anything else, it comes with its’ own fill of pros and cons.

The question than becomes, “Is less, more?”. The answer may shock you.

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Becoming a minimalist is a massive change.

Along with the obvious economical benefit of being a minimalist, many also report to be genuinely happier. As matter of fact, in the United States minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn, claims that minimalism may have even helped him to find his calling in life:[1]

“Getting rid of the stuff is just the initial step. I found that once I got rid of everything in my way, it was much easier to focus on what was important in my life: health, relationships, pursuing my passion, personal growth, and contributing beyond myself.”

However, despite becoming a minimalist, in the article, he does imply that it was not all that he had to do in order to find happiness.

“We go way out of our way to add value to other people’s lives. I don’t know about you, but when I find value in something, I tend to share it.”

It seems that minimalism has assisted Millburn -to an extent, though his approach and calling may not be a “one size-fits-all for the average individual. Let’s dig a bit deeper.

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Millburn states in the aforementioned article that his inspiration for pursuing the minimalist lifestyle was Colin Wright, whom is referred to as a remarkable minimalist on his own standing. Wright had this to say about the lifestyle-

“Minimalism is about getting rid of the things in your life that don’t add value so you can focus on the things that do. Beyond that, it’s a person-by-person set of rules.”

From the perspective of these two, we can see that minimalism in and of itself, may not be the answer that we’re looking for but may provide us the path to happiness and meaning – sans a multitude of accrued possessions.

But, what of the every man?

Well for the person interested in minimalism or becoming a minimalist, without going to the extremes of Millburn or Wright, there are a host of other issues to face. The primary issue of course being how to redefine yourself once you’ve made the decision.

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The change is undeniably massive. According to the Huffington Post, the change in identity is in fact, the most massive adjustment to make.[2] They spoke to Ryan Nicodemus -a co-founder of The Minimalists- blog (along with Millburn),[3] who had this to say about the transition-

“It wasn’t really the stuff that was hard to get rid of. What really was difficult for me was my identity,” Nicodemus continues, “I had wrapped myself up in this corporation, in this high-profile job making lots of money, and I identified with that title and with that lifestyle, so that was probably the hardest thing for me to let go of.”

In addition to the redefining of self, it has also been noted that becoming a minimalist may also place an individual as a part of the counterculture, possibly ostracizing and stigmatizing them to popular society.[4]

But minimalism will help you find happiness.

Despite any initial hardship, there are those who stand by their minimalist values, in synthesis with society at large and find happiness and advantages in the lifestyle once it’s been fully integrated into their day-to-day lives.

Benefits such as,

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  • Reduced decision fatigue.[5]
  • Freedom from fear, worry, and anxiety.[6]
  • Focus on the value of life.[7]

How to become a minimalist one step at a time?

Regardless of the initial separation anxiety that some may have about giving up some of their things, it seems that the existential trade-of can be enormously gratifying – should the individual seek a more spiritually abundant existent as opposed to the kind that we are faced with in every day life.

Though the extreme may not be for everyone, there are certain things that the average person can do, to get a taste of what it’s like to live with less.

  • You can start by assessing your belongings and considering what you may be able to live without.
  • Slowly begin to sell, donate, or throwaway items that you may not need or create useless clutter.
  • Once the clutter is gone, see what electronic devices that you could live without. (Most will find that a cellphone and/or laptop is sufficient enough).
  • Continue to assess the things in your life, that you may have little to no use for.
  • If you like the fresh abundance of freedom from the material things, think of downsizing, or simply try going a lengthy amount of time without buying in excess of what you need.

Embrace the change and discover the meaning of life.

If you’re willing to make the change, and attempt to downgrade your lifestyle -even incrementally, you may find yourself living a happier and overall healthier existence.

Don’t shy away in fear of change. Embrace what’s on the other side of what you’re accustomed to. Just one small change at a time, can lead you to discovering a whole new meaning to fulfillment in your life.

Reference

More by this author

Antwan Crump

Novelist, blogger, essayist, podcaster.

What Happens When Ego Closes Our Mind but We Aren’t Aware of It The Hardest Part of Being a Minimalist That Most People Have Overlooked 5 Ways to Beat Procrastination How to Survive the Holidays. 5 Productive Ways to Multitask

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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