In my previous posts, I looked at the story of Henry David Thoreau’s decision to live a simpler, more focused life – as he describes in his famous book, Walden, and how we 5 Day Weekenders can profit from knowing what’s just stuff and what’s important in our life. Here I’m offering suggestions on creating more simplicity and happiness, by learning the de-stuff yourself.
- Understand that Your Stuff Does Not Define You
A research study in 1988 found “especially striking evidence” in the “diminished sense of self when possessions are unintentionally lost or stolen.” You are not your possessions. You can lose all your possessions without losing any essential part of you. Stop identifying with and as your possessions to release your grip on them.
- Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
A study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect. Earning $1 million a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn $2 million.
Choose to be happy as you are, and with what you have. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
- Stop Trying to Impress People
Much of materialism is simply based on trying to impress people. Stop it. Be real. Be who you are. Live your authentic life without caring what anyone else thinks of you.
As the 20th-century film actor Walter Slezak said, “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
- Clearly Define Success for You and What Makes You Happy.
Failure is most often defined as not reaching one’s goals. But an even deeper sense of failure is achieving inauthentic goals for the wrong reasons. Do you want to be a millionaire to prove to the world how cool you are, or to be free and make a positive difference?
What does success look like for you? What would be your ideal life? What makes you happy? Forget what the world says and what everyone else is pursuing. Pursue your version of authentic success.
“Our greatest fear should not be that we won’t succeed, but that we will succeed at something that doesn’t matter,” wrote D.L. Moody, a 19th-century American evangelist and author.
- Cultivate Gratitude and Presence
The saying, “The best thing in life are free,” really is true. There’s no house, car, or other possession that can ever rival watching a sunrise or eating a peach. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Never take anything for granted. Revel in each moment of every day. See the gifts and beauty in everything around you.
- Limit Your Exposure to Advertising
Advertisers have perfected the art of making us buy things to reinforce our self-identity. We feel inferior when we have stuff other people don’t have, and vice versa.
Stop buying into the message that you’re not good enough. Stop buying things to “improve” who you are. Because ultimately, no product is going to make you a “better” version of you.
To help with this, limit your exposure to media and advertising. Watch less TV. Use recording devices such as TiVo or streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon to watch your favorite programs on demand without commercials. While driving, listen to audiobooks instead of listening to mundane radio. Maintain your insatiable desire to educate yourself on relevant topics. Reading insightful knowledge is akin to downloading new software to your brain.
- Purge Your Clutter Every Six Months
Every six months, go through your house and get rid of everything you haven’t used and no longer need. Do it in small chunks, one room at a time. The same goes with your garage: anything that does not look like a car, get rid of it or donate it to charity.
Make quick and merciless decisions—if you’re on the fence about something, get rid of it.
Be mindful of your emotions when you struggle with getting rid of things. Do you find yourself clinging? Why?
The Joneses Aren’t Any Happier than You
News Flash: The Joneses aren’t any happier than you. Stop trying to keep up with them and instead, live your authentic life.
Money won’t make you happy—if you’re miserable without it, you’ll be even more miserable with it. Choose simplicity and be happy. Use your riches not to impress people or accumulate stuff, but rather to create freedom for yourself and make a difference for others.
“Hollow hands clasp ludicrous possessions because they are links in the chain of life. If it breaks, they are truly lost,” said Ernest Dichter, a 20th-century American psychologist and marketing expert who was known for his work regarding personal motivation.
In my next post I will look at how you create a life of adventure – to embrace another of the Seven Freedoms: Freedom from Boredom.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you create simplicity in your life? Do you get rid of stuff, do you limit exposure to nonsense when you can? Thank you for sharing!
Secure your copy of the “5 Day Weekend” book. 5 Day Weekend: Freedom to Make Your Life and Work Rich with Purpose [Nik Halik & Garrett Gunderson]
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