To Live a Life You Can Be Proud Of

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see the things above you.” – C.S. Lewis

Almost everyone I know is trying to live their best life possible. It seems we are born with a deep, ingrained sense that we only get one life… and are compelled to make the most of it. We desperately desire to be proud of the life we’ve lived.

Unfortunately, many of us will seek pride in the wrong places. We will look for pride in power, popularity, and possessions. We will hurt others in an attempt to move up society’s ladder. We will sacrifice uniqueness to gain popularity. And we will waste countless hours chasing more and better possessions. But no amount of power, popularity, or possessions will ever satisfy our deepest desires. Those things will always fall short. And there is no sense looking for pride in places that cannot provide it.

One of the greatest benefits of choosing to live a simple, minimalist life is that many of the pursuits above become replaced. And while choosing to intentionally live with less doesn’t automatically shift the focus of our lives… it can certainly provide the space that makes it possible.

It just may begin to shift our focus upwards to things that bring us true, lasting pride. Things like:

  • A Clear Conscience. Living a life consistent with our values.
  • Character. Choosing to treat others and ourselves with high esteem and respect.
  • Sincerity. Living with no attempt to deceive those around us.
  • Wisdom. Not being tossed and turned by the culture of the day, but laying a foundation of certainty from outside our ever-shifting culture.
  • Love. Embracing a heart that, above everything else, seeks to love others.

Just to be clear, choosing a minimalist life doesn’t always result in a clear conscience, unparalleled character, unwavering sincerity, or boundless love. Nor is everyone who seeks those things a minimalist. There are, after all, many paths to the same end.

But I am saying that every so often, we need to slow down long enough to notice the focus of our lives. Afer all, the allure of power, popularity, and possessions can be almost too great to overcome. And intentionally choosing to remove them may be the only way to create the space needed to reject them completely.

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

    Absolutely wonderful. Clear and profound.

    What you describe here is what brought me to what can be considered a minimalist path. For me, this is all about loving and rooting myself in place, people and God–using minimalism as a tool in the journey.

    Thank for sharing your thoughts, Joshua, sound and inspired as always.

  2. Dan says

    What a great post! Minimalism was originally an end in itself for me but, little did I know, my Spiritual life has improved by leaps and bounds once I had the space and focus required to listen, Pride and power are no longer a worthwhile pursuit for me, and that is a *major* change. Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. says

    Excellent article. The blogosphere tends to be abuzz with a desire for an examination of the spiritual aspects of minimalism.

    I think you really banged the nail on the head.

    Minimalism at its core is about re-examining ourselves and the fundamental of why we seek or do what we do.

    • says

      Nick, there are BILLIONS of people living a “minimalist lifestyle” on one or two dollars a day. They tend to be “spiritual” people and indulge in all manner of paranormal beliefs because people lacking a visible means of support tend, because they are human, to produce/seek an “invisible” means of support.
      I’m not convinced that they spend more time re-examining themselves. How is “minimalism” at the core of what Socrates advised so long ago… “Know thyself”?

  4. says

    Great post, Joshua! Too many of us get caught up in the insignificant things. Our priorities have become out of place.

    We need to do whatever it is that makes us happy, the problem is most of the time we do not know what it is, or even worse, we THINK we know, but we’re actually horribly wrong.

    Thank you for this post! We all need to reexamine the way we live our lives to see if what we are doing is actually what makes us happy.

  5. carmelita paraan says

    Wow! What a wonderful reminder to what really matters in this life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You gave a breathe of life to this lifeless and materialistic society that most of us lived in.

  6. says

    This is very clear, and minimalist, and beautiful. I especially enjoy the one about “love.” Love for the people, the planet, your life – everything – it’s just so important.

  7. says

    I confess, I’m getting a bit lost here. There are billions of people living a “minimalist life” on $1 or $2 a day and they are no closer to a happy life as a result. Is this just a counter cultural “sub-culture” rejection of capitalism? That certainly isn’t anything new and is, in the end, only realistic.
    I am particularly confused by this one…
    Wisdom. Not being tossed and turned by the culture of the day, but laying a foundation of certainty from outside our ever-shifting culture.

    Tightening ones belt and not economically getting in over ones head acquiring material things IS the current culture. What “laying a foundation of certainty from outside our ever-shifting culture” is…. I have no idea.
    Somebody help me out here.

    • says

      Welcome. Let me see if I can help.

      As I mentioned, I do not think that minimalism by itself will lead to a happier life that you can be more proud of. That is because it is things like character, sincerity, wisdom, and love that lead to that outcome. My point was that minimalism provides the opportunity to evaluate life and pursue those things. Someone who has decided to stop chasing possessions (and the subsequent need to care for them) will have far more time to evaluate their life and its trajectory to see if energy is being expended on meaningful things.

      I agree, just because someone is living on less that $2/day does not mean they will be happier by default. However, I do think that they do have more opportunity to pursue those meaningful things. In fact, I have spent much time in third-world countries serving the poor and can say from firsthand experience that generally speaking, people with less possessions find more value in family, relationships, and spirituality.

      My point about wisdom was to stress the point that wise people find a foundation of truth outside of culture. The point was based on the fact that the messages and trends of culture can not be trusted. It was not specifically tied to spending (although I would argue with your premise given the fact that 43% of Americans spend more than they make and even more blindly live paycheck-to-paycheck).

      • Tanya says

        Joshua, I come from one of those third-world countries, and you are right on target. Coming to this country, and buying into consumerism to reach the “American Dream” has not brought the type of happiness in my life that I had when I was with less in my country…surrounded by family, community and meaningful experiences.

  8. says

    @Mrs. Neutron- I hear what you are saying. Poverty is not the same as voluntary simplicity. Poverty can suck your soul dry. I think having enough and worrying about survival are two very different issues but I understand what you are getting at. It is a really sensitive line and I think unless people realize the class privilege that affords them the option to chose then this movement will always be problematic.

    • says

      EXACTLY keishua!

      I’m not trying to be rude, but, a lot of this sounds like overstuffed people talking about how wonderful it is to go on a diet. Or, people who find they have no hope of “winning” the game attempting to justify “why” they are not interested in playing.
      Do you see what I mean?

      • says

        There is probably not too much sense in going around and around on this point. But thanks for the discussion.

        This is a post that invites people to care more about their character than the amount of things they own. It calls people who live with too much stuff to choose less for the purpose of finding time and space to evaluate their lives.

        • says

          I won’t trouble you any more joshua, but the idea that character is inversely proportional to possessions is ludicrous and people in prison have all the time in the world to evaluate their lives…. Rarely does it help.

          Minimalism is just the newest in a long line of counter cultural movements restating age old concepts.

  9. says

    Thanks Joshua,
    I think that what you and I are seeing here is a “generation gap”. How many children do you have or, how many lives are you responsible for? I don’t doubt that, as you say, “people with less possessions find more value in family, relationships, and spirituality”. My question would be, Do they have a choice?
    Spirituality, religion and the paranormal beliefs, that are ubiquitous, exist because the consolation of imaginary things is NOT imaginary consolation.

    I confess that I do not understand your last paragraph at all. “wise people find a foundation of truth outside of culture”… .. “the messages and trends of culture can not be trusted”…

    Where is that place “outside of culture”? What being has no culture? If no culture can be trusted and no trend can be trusted or valuable to observe… I honestly have no idea what you are suggesting people do besides, perhaps, trust their innate, gut instincts that could just as easily lead to cannibalism as utopia and enlightenment.
    Wouldn’t it just be simpler to say, “The only thing money can’t buy is time and nobody ever laid on their deathbed saying… crap, I wish I worked more.” And then leave it at that without attempting to weave some profound and philosophical aura around it, as if this was a “new” and revolutionary concept?
    I honestly don’t mean to sound condescending, but, minimalism appears to be a natural “cultural trend” itself… developing far more out of economic necessity than some “Ah HA!” moment of enlightenment.

  10. Mel says

    “There are, after all, many paths to the same end.”
    My feelings exactly.
    I like the path that you frequently blog about.

  11. says

    “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see the things above you.” – C.S. Lewis

    This seems to me to be a wonderful slogan for the generation raised on pumped up, artificial, self esteem. Who got and give trophies for “just showing up”. Could a proud man “possibly” have anything legitimate to be proud of? Could an enormous expenditure of time and effort to achieve excellence, mastery and prominence in anything “possibly” be something to be proud of to members of a “minimalist” movement? Who could POSSIBLY rise above a level of mediocrity WITHOUT constantly, not only looking above themselves… but studying it intently.
    I confess that I remain unconvinced that minimalism is more than a path of least resistance, perhaps, held to by those who have admitted to themselves that they lack the ambition, or, talent to achieve what those they feel superior to have achieved. I wonder what Darwin, the ultimate collector, would make of minimalists and the idea that adding to ones possessions, wealth and pride was, in the end, a big mistake.

      • Suze says

        There will be some that do not understand. And that is okay. Personally, I appreciate this site very much and I thank you for the time and effort you put into it. Since I started living the minimalist lifestyle, my life has been happier and richer. It has been the best thing I have done for myself and looking forward to the opportunities coming my way now that I have made space for it. Thank you again.

  12. says

    im allways trying to improve my life allways but i never seem to suceed for some reason something allways keeps me back my BPD i think has something to do with it but i try my best

  13. says

    Joshua,
    Thanks for what, at least to my husband and I is a very clear cut and encouraging blog post. Sorry to see any of your time wasted on going “round the same bush”. We appreciate your sincerity, transparency, and the integrity that is apparent you are intent upon walking in. It has been refreshing this last week to see many bloggers focusing on some deeper questions and showing a determination to keep impacting lives with a message that resonates with more than people in any one economic bracket. As an example we have had some serious ups and downs in this economy, but began our own simpler living, minimalist journey well before the worst of the economic downturn. Has minimalism helped us weather the financial implications of the downturn? Absolutely. Would we still be on this journey and pursuing a richer inner life regardless of the ups and downs? You bet! Thanks again for staying true to your message and challenging your readers to keep growing!

  14. joanna says

    Wonderful messages! I was lying awake all night with distracting thoughts.. and this really helped me get rid of useless worries and the past that I couldn’t let go. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Tanya says

    Thank you for this post. In a few days I will turn 48, the same age my mother was when she passed away. I have been asking myself if I had one year to live, what would I do? Amazing the perspective that this question has given me. I am choosing to live a life with fewer possessions, only the necessary ones, and a life of more meaningful experiences. Thank you so much for your blog and your postings…you have become a very welcome guide in this one year journey.

  16. Alison Palmer says

    Thank you for your inspiring posts, just what we need in this age of materialism. I’m loving all the extra space in my flat.

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