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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.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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