Is Your Lifestyle Detracting from Your Lifestyle?

lifestyle-detraction

“The life we receive is not short but we make it so. We are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.” ―Seneca

My life looks very different today than it did six years ago. Minimalism was the catalyst. It brought intentionality to my surroundings and my pursuits. And I recommend it to everyone.

But deciding to own less brought more changes to my life than cleaner drawers and closets. It also prompted a new lifestyle that questioned the presence of certain assumptions. As a result, it introduced me to a better way to live centered on more essential pursuits.

Looking back now, I have the benefit of comparison.

I loved watching television. I played hours of video games. I rarely exercised. I drank lots of soda. I ate too much fast food. I slept in late whenever possible. I did all the things I thought I wanted to do.

I was living the dream, or so I thought. But I am beginning to notice how my previous way of life was not improving my life—it was actually detracting from it. The life I was living wasn’t even close to the best one possible. Worse than that, in many ways, it was keeping me from it.

I think this is what makes the unexamined life so dangerous. We often think we are living life to the fullest, but we aren’t. Often times, we are exchanging long-term purpose for short-term pleasure.

When we eat unhealthy, we miss opportunity to fuel our bodies properly.

When we watch too much TV, we miss opportunities to interact with people in the real world.

When we buy more than we need, we miss opportunity to live free and unburdened.

When we neglect to exercise, we miss opportunity to enjoy adventures available to those with physical stamina.

When we stay up late and sleep through the morning, we miss capitalizing on the most productive period of our day.

When we focus too much on vacations or entertainment, we miss opportunity to discover the joys sitting in front of us each day.

When we spend more than we earn, we burden ourselves with the bondage of debt.

When we spend too much money on ourselves, we miss opportunity to find greater joy by being generous to others.

When we choose leisure over work, we miss opportunity to contribute and benefit society with our skills.

When we work too much, we miss opportunity to refuel, recenter, and rest.

Again, with each of the decisions above, we think we are enjoying our lives and living them to the fullest. I sure thought I was enjoying my previous lifestyle. But in reality, we are only trading a better life for a more available, easier accessible one.

So how do we objectively evaluate our lives? How do we gauge if we are sacrificing the important for the urgent? How do we recognize if our choices are detracting from our lifestyle?

Here are 5 steps that have been helpful for me:

1. Embrace humility. We admit that we don’t have all the answers and open our hearts to hearing truth.

2. Seek input. We seek family members, friends, and mentors—people who know us and love us. And we humbly invite them to speak boldly into our lives.

3. Look for the root. We ask ourselves questions—hard questions. Why do we make the decisions we make and live the life we live? Is it because our habits contribute to our best life possible? Or are there others reason present in our thought-process?

4. Experiment. Try living differently for a month, see if it changes your outlook on life. Give up television, sugar, or alcohol. Exercise, write, or leave work at 5 every day for a month. Notice how it impacts your overall well-being. 30 days will provide enough time to see if the change is worthwhile.

5. Learn from others. Successful people are curious people. They possess the humility to learn from others. Identify people living their lives with purpose and goals. Then, study and learn from them.

We all want to live our life to the fullest—to enjoy and accomplish all that we can with all that we have. Let’s work hard to make sure we are making the best decisions with it.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    I love the point you made about ‘Look for the root’. There are so many decisions we make daily without even thinking about the reason for them. A lot of them have to be automatic, otherwise, we would be exhausted by the amount of decisions we would have to think about. But some of them really deserve more than a second or two of our brain time. Like why do I keep on buying more stuff when I have so much already? Like why do I sabotage my jobs by not staying in them for more than 2 years? Like why I don’t believe in myself?
    Looking for alternative ways of doing the same thing if possible is the key. Maybe it will change around our day, or even our lives, depending on how big the change is. Thanks for the post!

  2. says

    “1. Embrace humility.”

    I don’t care how much I try to do this, I fall short each and every time. There are so many factors at play, and although my intentions are good, I am continually tempted by numbers and notoriety.

    Just because life is hard, however, isn’t an excuse to give in to pride. So I wake up every day and try my best. That’s all I can do, right?

    “If you want to be the greatest, you must become the least.” ~ some dude who wore sandals

  3. Kiri says

    I’m new to your blogs and I’m enjoy how you language things. Today’s fave from “seek input” ….. And we humbly invite them to speak boldly into our lives….. Beautiful, and takes courage and the strength found in being vulnerable. Love the opening quote too. Great post. Thank you.

  4. Laurie Crews says

    I was encouraged by the fact that you are still moving toward your goals six years later. Minimalism isn’t just about the house and it’s not a quick fix. It’s a journey toward a better life and I appreciate every bit of your wisdom along the way. Thank you, very well done.

  5. says

    It has been slightly over a year since I / we began to live more minimal. Your blog (and book) has been a factor, as well as watching those hoarder programs! Honestly, every time I watched one I felt like I couldn’t breathe! Then I would begin to purge the excess from my home.

    We down sized our home from 1400 sq. ft. to an apartment of 700 sq. ft. That was challenging! Yet we survived and learned to live with less. We moved again into a purchased townhouse. It is a bit larger than the apartment, but not to much so that I want to fill it to the brim with things. Becoming intentionally minimalist is challenging at times, but I don’t believe I would have it any other way. We recently canceled our cable TV. We are using an antenna. It is a small step but one that has eliminated a cable charge / bill.

    I find so much information, encouragement and help from your posts. Thank you.

  6. says

    Outstanding post!

    I knew the old-style Joshua. Great guy. Lots of talent. Fun to be around. Not a bad guy at all.

    But the new-style Joshua is all those things and more. More depth. More insight. More focused on what matters most.

    Proud to call you a friend and fun to see the growth!

    (Was with Phil Human this past week and he said Kim and you did an outstanding job at his church.)

    • joshua becker says

      Phil was a wonderfully gracious host. Now, after speaking at Joe’s church years ago, I just need you to find me a platform in Atlanta—that would complete the trifecta.

  7. Becky H says

    So true about staying up late! I made myself get up earlier again today, desperately trying to reset my internal clock. I have evolved into a 1:30ish bedtime that is stealing my life and leaving me tired and less productive. Such a good point.

  8. everlearning says

    Fabulous post! Thank you!
    I am so glad that you are expanding your posts on minimalism to more than just about stuff. That’s huge, but so is minimalism as it pertains to the rest of life.

    “But deciding to own less brought more changes to my life than cleaner drawers and closets. It also prompted a new lifestyle that questioned the presence of certain assumptions. As a result, it introduced me to a better way to live centered on more essential pursuits.”

    I truly believe that one without the other is useless. Thanks again for the encouragement!

  9. says

    I love this:
    “4. Experiment. Try living differently for a month, see if it changes your outlook on life. Give up television, sugar, or alcohol. Exercise, write, or leave work at 5 every day for a month. Notice how it impacts your overall well-being. 30 days will provide enough time to see if the change is worthwhile.”

    I’m loving the experiments I put myself through. It makes life so enjoyable to wake up every day knowing you’re going to learn something about yourself.

  10. says

    “I think this is what makes the unexamined life so dangerous. We often think we are living life to the fullest, but we aren’t. Often times, we are exchanging long-term purpose for short-term pleasure.” [or] “But in reality, we are only trading a better life for a more available, easier accessible one.”
    This pretty much nails it!! Absolutely mind-blowing post Josh! We probably “miss out” all the time, one way or another. We may need to make compromises every now and then, but we should only allow our discontent to be temporary. Bottom line: Daring to be happy…

  11. says

    Hi Joshua, Love what you have to say and the overall philosophy but have to take issue with one choice of phrase. “When we choose leisure over work, we miss opportunity to contribute and benefit society with our skills.” In western society we often demonize leisure and glorify work yet neither are good or bad in and of themselves. Leisure in the truest sense is the freedom to choose something that intrinsically motivates us. This seems like the core of what you preach. Likewise for many people work is not meaningful or in some cases, the retired, students un/underemployed or those who choose to stay home even a part of their lives. I think the real issue is the choices we make with our leisure not leisure vs. work. Go back to the old Greek guys (Aristotle etc) and they saw leisure as freedom to engage -with issues, to examine life and to make society a little better. Today we often see leisure as disengagement from life, as you talk about with TV video games etc. If one is to truly live an examined life they need to embrace leisure, value it and make choices in it that benefit the person and society. We need to value the time to think without direct economic outcomes. I think we are both on the same page but important in our society not to make work and leisure opposites I think. Love what you do keep it up!

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks for the opportunity to clarify John. I use the word leisure based on its current connotation and denotation: 1) freedom from the demands of work or duty; 2) time free from the demands of work or duty, when one can rest, enjoy hobbies or sports, etc.

      I disagree that we demonize leisure. America’s fascination with early-retirement stands as Exhibit A —as if the goal of work is to quickly make and save enough money so that I no longer have to do any more of it. And in the context of the article above, I don’t believe living a life completely dedicated to leisure is the fullest opportunity. For when we do, we miss life-giving and life-fulfilling opportunities to contribute. Of course, this can occur in countless avenues of service both paid and unpaid.

      I am also quick to point out that neglecting leisure altogether is also not a wise decision.

  12. Gaylene says

    P.S. If you and Kent Julian ever get to Butler, Pennsylvania, please stop in at Butler Community Alliance Church!

  13. says

    Joshua, I find I do better by limiting my time on the internet. The internet is exciting. But it’s like candy exciting. I don’t feel good afterwards.

    I think it’s helpful to not find fault for what we did before that we end up seeing was not a beneficial activity. My experience is whatever I did that wasn’t beneficial, at the time I thought it would be. I grow up when I get clarity and make a change in my life.

    • Valerie says

      I feel the same way, Brooks! Sometimes after I’ve chatted with a Facebook friend for too long, or looked at too many posts, I feel bad. Like I wasted time that could be used for more productive ventures.

      But it does no good to look back on unproductive ventures….just make sure that everything moving forward is productive and life-enriching.

  14. says

    I’m on day 4 of an experiment to not eat anything from a box or package (or drive-thru…). Really a challenge, and it’s always amazing to me what I learn about myself, and the world, when I try a new experiment.

  15. Valerie says

    I like the idea of experimenting with less social media. Sometimes I think I care too much what my Facebook friends are doing, and then I realize that most of them are “virtual friends.” I don’t really know them, so why care what they think or what they are doing? It’s nice to have different viewpoints and such, but do these “virtual friends” really enrich your life? Their “drama” is often distracting. And would it be so bad if I slipped off the Facebook grid for a while? Would anyone notice? Would I care? So that’s what I am going to do…Thanks for a great article, Joshua!

  16. Carol G says

    Amen to all the great motivators for living! I can’t find a better feeling yet than the one I get from bringing a smile to someone’s face because of simply giving them a kind word of encouragement, pieces of my time or lessening their burdens. For years I had been an accumulator of “stuff” that only brought a few short minutes of excitement or happiness. Luv what you are promoting!

  17. says

    Great article! It goes along the lines with something that I was thinking today. I’ve traveled a bit and I’ve noticed that in third-world countries where people have less, they seemed to be more intent on relationships. In fact, the people there said that they would pray for us Americans because we were so distracted.

    • says

      I know what you mean, Serena. I lived in the Philippines for 5 months and the people there had very little. But they were happier than anyone I knew back in the US.

  18. says

    Great post! I love the idea of living minimally. It is something I have been doing more and more of. Clutter and “stuff” is annoying to me. I have come to realize over the past number of years that all this stuff takes up space where love + relationships should reside instead. With less things cluttering my home, I have more room for creativity + fun. It takes time to manage all that clutter…so I will gladly do without less of it.

  19. says

    All tips are great! Growing up I always learn from others and I learned a lot from their mistakes and it helped me for who I am today!

  20. Erin says

    Wonderful post! I’m with you on all of this and it’s actually something I needed to read. I need to examine a lot of my habits.

    My only amendment would be to this one: “When we watch too much TV, we miss opportunities to interact with people in the real world.”

    As an introvert, I can only handle so much interaction with other people. Though, I do try to limit tv to spend more time exercising, reading, meditating, or any other activity that enhances my life. Though, after a hard day at work, I often love nothing more than coming home, putting on my pj’s, and watching a favorite tv show. :-)

  21. says

    What a great post – full of wise words and a timely reminder for me of why I’m working to make a few positive changes in my own life – one step at a time!
    Thank you.

  22. says

    Great post, thank you. I really appreciate your writing, and find posts such as this one which apply minimalism to areas of life other than possessions to be really thought-provoking and helpful.

  23. JoAnne says

    Joshua, I’m so glad I found your blog. I was searching on Google for “how to declutter”. I needed a starting point. I have wanted to declutter and downsize for several years now. My husband, however, did not. He loves to shop (online mostly) and collect old Mercedes cars (we had 6 cars). I did what I could with my belongings but could not get him to budge with his. He’s an emotional keeper! But, one day last year, he had a stroke (58yrs). Thankfully, he is recovering but guess what he learned? A lesson the hard way. Which is not always the worse was to learn a lesson, it seems to change your life. We had savings, but not unlimited. I didn’t buy anything except food and gas (to get him to therapy 3x a week). I stretched our savings from 6 months to almost a year. I’m running low now! So, now we have to downsize. Kids are gone and a large house and several cars is the last thing we need. I’m just looking at everything right now and I start to hyperventilate! I have to get this place cleared out and packed up by the end of May. It’s hard to find a starting point, it’s so stressful. I’m going to keep reading your blog for inspiration. It’s a wonderful format, easy to read, relaxing to follow. Brian did an awesome job!!

  24. says

    Dear Joshua,

    I’m at a point of taking a (huge) step back from my life and re-evaluating priorities. Just as you speak about above, I am questioning if my current lifestyle is built on my true values from within, or am I just trying to live up to what others expect of me, or society ‘tells’ me I ‘should’ value.

    Specifically, as this relates to money and time. I want more time. Can I live on less money to get it?

    I’m digging the 30 day idea. I will give this a go.

    VERY much appreciate your thoughts in this post.

    Thank you!

    Allison

  25. says

    Joshua,

    I am in the beginning stages of this change to a minimal lifestyle, just tapping into the first year. What I have learned this year, is it can’t all change at once. Growing towards a more minimal lifestyle, for me is like setting deep roots, it happens underground first in how I make decisions – then comes to the surface with how I live with those decisions, and full bloom when I am living more consciously one day at a time.

    thank you for the knowledge and inspiration.

    -Kathleen

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