“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” —Marcus Aurelius
Five years ago, I was introduced to minimalism by my neighbor. It was a short conversation, only a few sentences long.
I had been working most of the day cleaning up the garage and began complaining to her about the time and energy that goes into owning a home. She responded with a simple sentence, “That’s why my daughter is a minimalist, she keeps telling me I don’t need to own all this stuff.” At the time, it sounded like a completely revolutionary idea: intentionally live with fewer possessions and own only necessary things for life and purpose.
It felt like it was the first time anybody had ever invited me to own less stuff. I jumped in right away. Minimalism and its promotion became one of my greatest passions in life. And I owe it all to one short conversation with my neighbor, June.
Or do I?
I have often referred to that conversation as the first time anybody ever invited me to live with less—the first time somebody told me I didn’t need to own everything. But in reality, I’m not sure that’s true. In fact, as I look back over the course of my life, I can now see there were a number of people trying to make the same argument.
- Environmentalists warned me against consumption and disposal and its negative impact on the environment.
- Financial advisers warned me against buying more than I could afford and the negative repercussions on my credit score.
- Spiritual advisers warned me against materialism and its negative influence on my spirituality.
- My parents constantly referred to the need to buy less and not live beyond my means.
There were, indeed, numerous people introducing me to the idea of living with less—even from a young age. But looking back, each of them always stressed the negative consequences of materialism rather than the positive benefits of minimalism. Simply put, they warned me against materialism rather than inviting me to minimalism. And there is a big difference (for instance, none of their warnings ever stuck).
There is often a need to consider both the positives and negatives of a decision as we seek to live our lives effectively. And whether we are speaking into the lives of our children, our friends, our co-workers, or our very own, we should be open to discussing both.
But I try hard to frame my conversations by focusing on the positive aspects of life-change rather than warnings against the negatives as much as possible. For various reasons, I have found this works very well both in printed word and spoken conversation.
- People always enjoy hearing a “good-news” story.
- People are uniquely interested in themselves and the benefits of their actions.
- People love receiving invitations and often ignore warnings.
- People are searching for hope and answers.
This principle of speaking positively is important in promoting simplicity. But it is also important in any and every interaction where we seek to expand influence in our life and the lives of others. Embrace it.
You will find your influence expand. And your own personal attitude towards life will improve as well.