The Opportunity of Seeing the World Differently


“When old patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” – Tuli Kupferberg

I am still amazed at the fullness of life that minimalism and simplicity offer: freedom, opportunity, meaning. I wish I had found it sooner. Unfortunately, for most of my life, I had been told something different. I had been told that joy could be found in material success—that the more I owned, the happier I would be. But they were wrong. I’m far happier today owning less than I ever was pursuing more.

Which got me wondering… what if some of the other messages I have been told are also wrong? What if some of the other views of the world promoted by our culture and society don’t actually lead to joy and fulfillment? What if true meaning and passion is found in the opposite?

What if there is unspeakable opportunity in seeing the entire world differently?

What if there is more opportunity in “desiring less” than “acquiring more?” The trouble with acquiring more is that we can never have enough. There is always more to acquire and always someone else who has already acquired it. The philosophy renders contentment unattainable. The surest pathway to true contentment is to desire less. Less brings freedom, more doesn’t.

What if there is more opportunity in “seeking justice” than “getting rich?” Cultural and individual greed have ruined friendships, exploited billions, and destroyed our planet. The desire for power, control, and resources have left many without adequate supply. But when justice is fully realized, everyone becomes more empowered—including us. Unfortunately, we can’t desire more for ourselves and justice for others at the same time.

What if there is more opportunity in “building others up” than “tearing others down?” Too often we think of life as a zero-sum game. We believe someone else must be brought down to make more room for us at the top. But it’s not true. The pie is not finite. You don’t have to blow out someone else’s candle to make yours shine brighter. In fact, some of the people who rise to the top the quickest are the very ones who helped others get there first.

What if there is more opportunity in “serving others” than “reaching for the top?” Learning to serve others flips our world upside down. Rather than striving to be the one served (and becoming frustrated when we aren’t), find freedom in learning to serve others. The quickest path to joy in life is to help someone else discover it in theirs. Their lives will be improved. And so will yours.

What if there is more opportunity in “showing mercy” than “acquiring power?” From playgrounds to boardrooms, most people are looking for any angle to lord power over others and subsequently, stepping on anyone to get there. Yet, the most fulfilled people I know live exactly the opposite. They show compassion, forgiveness, and grace toward others… even when it is within their power to punish or harm them.

What if there is more opportunity in “developing humility” than “having pride?” Humility allows us to be ourselves—we no longer need to prove to everyone that we’ve got it all together. Humility allows us to learn and grow—when we admit our weaknesses, we have taken the first step in learning to address them. And humility allows people into our lives—true, authentic friendships are not possible without the ability to be humble and completely transparent with one other.

What if there is more opportunity in “giving” than “receiving?” The bumper stickers have always said, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” But all scientific research indicates that generous people are happier, healthier, and live more fulfilled lives. In other words, whoever gives away the most is the real winner, not the one who stored the most.

What if this world doesn’t revolve around me after all? What if the world isn’t here to make me happier, but I am here to make this world happier for someone else? Now that, would change some things.

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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  1. says

    Interesting….my defaults are mostly on the right, why is that? It is logical when you think about it, that building people up is more beneficial than tearing people down, but that is not what happens in reality. It takes constant reminding to be a better person.

    • Helen says

      “It takes constant reminding to be a better person.” You said it, but I believe the reminding comes from within, not from others. Conscious behavior, which may come as a message from the heart to the mind; your heart and instincts should be acted upon. Showing kindness without hesitation; it becomes a habit.

  2. says

    Wonderful questions and answers.

    Just endlessly add meaningful value to the world, in whatever shape or form that reflects your true nature, and you won’t have to worry about ‘things’.

    “Holding back is so close to stealing” ~ Neil Young

    Dan @

  3. says

    Thanks for another inspiring post. Ive never been happier now that I am living a simplistic lifestyle. Amazing how much freedom you get after your belongings are gone.

  4. everlearning says

    Read something yesterday from Eknath Easwaran’s “Words to Live By” that really hits home here (see below). It’s a stunningly insightful explanation of what is happening in much of our world today. For the most part we have run out of truly necessary things to create, make, and buy. Much of what we make now is “upgrades” of already sufficient tools and devices. Very few of us know how to say “this is enough; this is all I need” and so we are imprisoned by our culture and advertising to consume more of what we already have and don’t need and/or consume what we never needed in the first place. We CAN choose to stop this grabbing at and clamoring for things that don’t matter!

    “Spiritual fulfillment is an evolutionary imperative. There comes a time in the growth of civilizations, as with individuals, when the life-and-death questions of material existence have been answered, yet the soul still thirsts and physical challenges cease to satisfy. Then we stand at a crossroads, for without meaningful aspiration, the human being turns destructive. Like a snake that must shed its skin to grow, our industrial civilization must shed its material outlook or strangle in out-grown ideals whose constructive potential has been spent.”

    “Words to Live By”, January 6th, Eknath Easwaran

  5. says

    Another thought provoking post….here I would like to quote my master H.H. Sri Sri Ravishankar ~Want, or desire, arises when you are not happy. Have you seen this? When you are very happy then there is contentment. “Contentment” means “no want”.

  6. says

    Great post! All your questions and answers are spot on. I find that I feel ok when I win at something (like a tennis match), but I feel great when I have been able to help someone, even if only in a small way. Thanks Josh for making a difference.

  7. says

    Great post, Joshua! These are some of the things I’m really trying to make an effort to change in my life and mindset. I grew up in a household where things were always comfortable, but my parents were always stressed out because they felt like we “didn’t have enough.” I’m about to become a dad myself, and I really want to make sure to not pass the same mentality on to my kids.

    BTW – I finally included the interview we did a while back in our most recent newsletter. I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback on it! Thanks again!

  8. says

    What tendered my decision on a minimalist lifestyle was this, too many things that caused me stress(upkeep and worrying about losing them). And so I decided that I would much rather have what I needed, a few things I wanted, and far less stress! Now this is the measuring stick I use, if it causes me stress, it’s out of my life, simple as that.

    • peggy behnke says

      There are things we have, and cannot get out of our lives, that can cause stress. I have a couple. I have to keep telling myself to relax and put it into perspective. If it falls apart, or drains money, so what. The only thing that matters are relationships with others. Focus on those.

  9. peggy behnke says

    All great posts. It fits my biblical beliefs.
    Romans 12:2 ESV

    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

  10. says

    I really enjoyed this post cos of late I have noticed..the more value you create in people’s loves..the richer you become.. Then again it’s not about how rich you are..but about how the process of becoming rich has transformed you as an individual. I recently emptied my entire wardrobe and disposed off all unnecessary and unwanted stuff. It felt so wonderful, fulfilling and inspiring. All this clutter was blocking my productivity and ultimately my success. I hope to read many more of your articles on your site. Thanks for that wonderful thought!

  11. says

    The minimalist lifestyle might start with decluttering, but that isn’t where it ends. It’s everything that replaces the *stuff* that makes it meaningful.

    And once you question one of the messages we’re fed by society, there’s no limit to where you can end up.

    • says

      I agree, getting rid of the physical clutter is just a baby step towards simple living! I feel like getting rid of our excess has made me a better wife, mom, friend and I’m happier. I’m no longer pursuing things and busyness, instead I’m more concerned about pouring into others and making my life count.

  12. Rose says

    I get to look at the world differently every day in caring for my little 6 year old autistic foster child. This is a kid who has always preferred the box to the toy that came in it. His prized possession is his ribbon. Approx 2 feet of green ribbon makes him a happy boy, keeps him calm and helps him to manage his feelings. He rarely asks for anything but he loves hanging out with people who love him. He has changed me for the better, helped me to understand and focus on what is important.

  13. says

    It’s true that a key step to adopting these new mindsets is believing the world doesn’t revolve around us, as you mentioned, Joshua. It’s difficult and can be especially hard changing our minds if we’re busy raising kids who also believe the world revolves around them, too. I think it’s worth the fight to go against the flow…for our sake and for the sake of the next generation.

  14. says

    “Find freedom in learning to serve others. The quickest path to joy in life is to help someone else discover it in theirs. Their lives will be improved. And so will yours.”

    I’m a mama of 2 little boys (ages 1 and 2) and I’ve learned so much about serving through being their mama. It is a joy to serve these children. From changing diapers and washing their clothes to nursing and cleaning up frequent messes, I serve them daily. Many say it’s mundane, mindless work but it’s not. I’m serving these little ones and shaping them into men that I pray will go out into the world and serve others!

  15. AbdelRahman Mussa says

    Mercy can only really be shown by those who have more power than the one being shown mercy. The giver has to be able to give. So if we rephrase this to be: What if “acquiring power” was only so that we can “show mercy”.

    Even when it is someone who is weak that is showing mercy to a king… at the moment of showing mercy, the ‘weak one’ has to have something more powerful that the ‘strong one’… even if it is a bigger heart.

  16. says

    Wonderful reflection, Joshua. I always appreciate your good words and reminders. Giving opens one to the world–and what a wonderful world this is. Giving opens the door to relationship, and it is only in relationship that we truly come to understand the self. Thanks so much!

  17. Rusty says


    You statements represent an “OR” thinking when there is plenty of room for “AND”.

    For example, your statement that, “Unfortunately, we can’t desire more for ourselves and justice for others at the same time.” is simply not true.

    I desire many things for myself; freedom, peace, and even some material objects, but this in no way precludes me from wanting justice for others. I do believe that “less is more”, but less doesn’t mean “nothing”. And the more I gain from less – even when acquiring very selected material possessions the more I find myself sharing with others.

    Another example – you can surely reach for the top _AND_ serve others while you do it.

    There is room for “AND” even in a minimalist lifestyle and suggesting every choice must be “OR” is more complicated than reaching a balance using “AND”.

    • Angela says

      I get the feeling that the point he’s making is not “OR”, but that we should be attempting to do way MORE of the one behavior than the other.

  18. Emmanuel says

    This reminds me of the teachings of the great master Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospels. Thanks for sharing with us. You are a great writer!

    sorry for the misspelling, I only speak and write Spanish, and I read your page using the google translator :)

  19. April says

    Why is it that minimalists tend to look at “stuff” and “meaning” as being mutually exclusive? If you have stuff, then you can’t possibly be living a meaningful life. It must be a gift to be able to have stuff and meaning, because I’ve managed to be happy, productive, and generous without having to purge my life of the things I have chosen to acquire over time. It’s not a zero sum game. My having stuff isn’t denying someone else justice (whatever that means). In fact, my purchase of that new television or the addition I put on my house just employed countless people across the globe, allowing them to feed their families and acquire medical care through hard work and their own initiative. That’s how you empower people. Give them the means to provide for themselves instead of sanctimoniously handing them money and patting them on the head. People get “justice” by being allowed to choose their own destiny, not by sitting by the side of the road, waiting for a rich westerner to drive by and throw them a bone.

  20. Jim says

    I really am enjoying this site. I had a sense of minimialism since childhood – only having and using what I need and no more. I never found a good paying job as an adult yet by keeping life very simple my wife and I have enough money to have our mortgage paid by age 40, are debt free, raised a child and are pretty much free to choose our life now in our early fifties. Check out “Wealth On Minimal Wage” at Amazon – as I am the author.

  21. says

    {What if there is more opportunity in “developing humility” than “having pride?” Humility allows us to be ourselves—we no longer need to prove to everyone that we’ve got it all together. Humility allows us to learn and grow—when we admit our weaknesses, we have taken the first step in learning to address them. And humility allows people into our lives—true, authentic friendships are not possible without the ability to be humble and completely transparent with one other.}

    This struck a cord with me to use with my children. Trying to parent with love and grace rather than authority and power. I see a real change, for the better, in my children and our family when I do this. Your website is wonderful! So glad I found it!

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