Very few people, if you were to sit across from them over coffee, would proclaim that owning everything in the world is their greatest goal in life.
Most people would answer quite differently.
When you engage in heartfelt conversations and ask people what they want to accomplish in life, most speak of love, relationships, impact, and significance. They desire to live meaningful lives, close to the people they love the most. Many speak of faith. Or they talk about solving important problems. But very few proudly declare, “I just want to make as much money and own as much stuff as I possibly can.”
Our hearts speak of something greater, more fulfilling, and longer lasting.
I bet yours does too.
And yet, too often it seems, we trade our heart’s greatest pursuits and greatest passions for the temporal possessions of this world.
I once had dinner with a man who mentors outgoing CEO’s and corporate executives in the Pacific Northwest. I asked him about his work and how he got started in it. He told me, “Joshua, I had a surprising number of retiring executives come to me and say something along the lines of, ‘I feel like I wasted my life.’”
He went on to tell me more. That these men and women had spent their lives investing into and building companies that were successful by almost every standard of measurement. But at the end, the only question they were asking was, “Was it all worth it?”
Now, just to be clear, this is not a post about the merits of corporations or their executives. Indeed, some of the people I most look up to in life are highly successful in business and live meaningful lives at the same time.
This is a post about something else entirely. This is a post about the temptation that surrounds each of us, every day, to trade our greatest passions for the things of this world.
Because minimalism is about more than owning less.
Minimalism is also about alignment.
It is about removing the burden of unnecessary physical possessions from our homes and lives. But it is also about reevaluating the esteem that possessions hold in our affections. And being intentional about removing the distractions that keep us from realizing our most important goals.
It is freeing to own less. Owning less frees up money and time and energy and focus. But it frees up more than that.
Minimalism frees our lives to realign our resources around the greatest passions of our heart. (tweet that)
And this is a benefit that cannot be overstated.
Grab a sheet of paper. Across the top, write, “The Three Most Important Things I Want to Accomplish with My Life.”
Quietly, make your list.
When you are finished, begin asking yourself hard questions about alignment. Am I spending my money pursuing these accomplishments? Have I crafted a life that devotes enough time and energy toward this list? Have I allowed any distractions (whether physical possessions or time commitments) to take precedence over any of these items? Are there other, less important pursuits in my life keeping me from fully accomplishing this list?
Have I allowed my greatest passions and most important desires to be usurped by the world around me? Have I chased society’s definition of success rather than my own?
In the end, we’re all going to ask ourselves, “Were the things I devoted my life to worth it?”
And if we discover at that time, that we traded our most meaningful passions for the things of this world, it will be a trade we’ll regret making.