“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.