Today marks 11 years since choosing to become minimalist.
If you’re new to this site, you should know I didn’t start my life trying to own less. Quite the opposite actually. I chased society’s definition of success in most of the usual ways.
As a result, pay increases resulted in larger homes, with more rooms, filled with more and more stuff. Our income may have been modest, but our spending was not.
My neighbor first introduced me to the word “minimalism” while I was cleaning out my garage. I was frustrated that Saturday morning at how much wasted time and energy (and money) had gone into the project—especially considering all the things I wish I was doing instead.
With that frustration fresh on my mind, when she brought up the idea of intentionally owning less, I was drawn to the possibilities immediately—the life-giving benefits of owning less are not difficult to imagine once you open up your mind to the possibility.
Over the past 11 years, my life has changed dramatically. I typically use this weekend, each year, to reflect on some of the changes that have occurred since choosing minimalism. Here are some of my previous posts:
This year, I find myself reflecting on how my definition of success has changed and where I now find pride in life.
If most of the world is looking for pride in their assets and the square footage of their home, minimalism has prompted me to begin looking elsewhere. Many will consider the pursuit and accumulation of material possessions as a badge of honor. But they are mistaken.
There are better places to find pride than in stockpiles of unnecessary possessions. (tweet that)
Here are 11 Better Places to Find Pride in Life:
1. Owning only what you need. I’m not sure why society has deemed excess possessions a symbol of success. When you really stop to think about the foolishness of spending money, time, and energy on things we don’t need, it’s actually an odd pursuit. Instead, let’s find pride in our ability to discern our actual needs and craft our purchases around them.
2. Living in a smaller home. The average American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years and other nations are not far behind. My family moved into a smaller home 7 years ago and I’d never trade it for something bigger. I’m proud to own only what we need in terms of square footage—you should be too.
3. Contributing to charity. There are countless injustices and needs in this world. From orphan care and poverty to disease, war and oppression. Being generous with our excess dollars by donating to organizations and causes changing the world for good is one of the most honorable (and fulfilling) things we can do with our money.
4. Spending time on things that matter. We all have a limited number of days and hours to live our lives. As Tom Osborne once said, “You can always make more money, but you can never make more time.” To know that we spent our time on things that matter and allocated our energy effectively is among the greatest decisions we can make.
5. Becoming less enamored with money. Money provides for our needs and it is important to provide for our families. But the desire for money, for too many people, has become an unquenchable thirst. The modern definition of success and the American Dream seems to encourage that pursuit. I think it’s important to work hard, but not always for the sake of adding zeroes to our bank account.
6. Being an engaged parent and faithful spouse. Among the highest callings on our life is to be faithful to our vows and healthy consistency in raising the next generation of human beings. If you are keeping both a priority, you ought to find pride in that decision.
7. Finding opportunity to positively inspire others. Legacy is inevitable. In one way or another, your life is going to live on in the memories of those you impacted. If you have lived your days looking for opportunity to give life and make a positive difference, you will leave this world with a legacy you can be proud of.
8. Contributing to a better world. A mentor once told me, “Leave every room nicer than you found it.” He was speaking specifically of campsites, restrooms, or rented facilities. But I have taken his words and tried to apply them to my life in totality—that I would leave this world better than I found it. That my life would be a net positive on the human race.
9. Making the most of your current situation. It is unfair to compare people based on where they end up in life—nobody begins from the same spot. As the old adage goes, “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” It’s never fair to assume everybody should be at the same finish line. However, everybody can start where they are, with what they’ve got, and make the most of their current circumstances.
10. Treating others the way you want to be treated. Remaining true to our conscience and character is among the highest of callings on our life. Of course, there are various definitions of morality and some may change from person to person. But the Golden Rule serves as a good measure for all of us. If you’ve spent your life treating others the way you want to be treated, I’d say you’ve got lots to be proud of.
11. Living life true to your calling. Society shifts as often as the wind and the pressure to conform is unrelenting. But there is no pride to be found following the crowd—at least not in any pursuit that distracts from your highest calling. Ralph Waldo Emerson captured the struggle well, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
There are pursuits in life that contribute to pride and life satisfaction. And there are pursuits that do not. Choose the former. Always.