I finally watched it. The documentary, Minimalism, that is.
A lot of it I’ve come familiar with because of the whole having quit my job, sold my possessions and moved to a ‘foreign’ country bit, but I have to say…even with the items I have here, and in thinking about the few boxes I’ve left behind, I can certainly do a more thorough and intentional sweep of this ‘stuff’ when I get back.
To be honest, aside from a few necessary kitchen tools and seasonal clothes, the only two things I can remember that I really miss and for sure I don’t want to part with are my violin, and a macramé décor piece that was commissioned and hand-made for me. I’m not even sure if I kept much more beyond that, but it’s for certain at this point that if I did, I probably don’t need it. Well, except my plant babies but they’re currently in good hands 😊.
Back to the point though: the takeaway I appreciated most from this doc comes from a statement in the closing minutes of the film, “Love people, and use things…because the opposite never works.”
I can particularly relate to one story highlighted in the film of AJ Leon, a former Wall-Street Broker (okay so it’s not apples to apples, exactly), but in the sense that he took ‘the plunge’ of moving away from a corporate life, one that he had worked towards and dreamt about, but that was sucking the life out of him. I understood it because like I’ve said, I too was on the path of someone else’s dream, following the prescription of performance, promotion, raise, repeat, as if this somehow solely defined me.
The problem was that in order to get ahead, I had to sometimes act in a way that fundamentally opposed everything I thought I was, and for sure everything who I wanted to be. Ryan, one of the Minimalists, made reference to his perceived ‘success’ by having to at times be so manipulative of other people, and he cites, with silent shame, selling and marketing cell-phones to 5-year-olds. It’s in those moments, and we’ve all had them I’m sure, where you take a look at your life and you either choose to justify your actions, or you make a radical shift to change them.
I always blamed the external: “I can’t (insert the downfall here): return the call/show up to the party/take a break/ignore my inbox because I have to do this work.” I have to work on my vacation because no one else will do it my way. I have to clock these hours because I need to land this commission. I have to play the game of office politics because it’s the only way to survive and get ahead. Um…WTF?
It took my entire career to date for me to take responsibility for my actions and my choices, and say that I’d had enough. That I needed to take a step back, get a breather, and acknowledge that I did have a choice. In fact we all do. We all have full autonomy over our lives and how we choose to live them, though I’m not saying it’s without sacrifice or major compromise. What I am saying though, is despite that little voice in your head telling you that your circumstance is somehow so magically different that you could never make a bold move, it’s wrong. You’re wrong. We all hold the power to live deliberately and intentionally and to curate our lives exactly how we wish them to be.
Success is not universally defined. It can be our own, and we can determine exactly what it looks like in a way that suits, should we be so brave to explore what that means to us individually.
Now that I’ve had some space away from the daily grind and my attachment to a pretty paycheck, nice apartment and new clothes, it’s crazy to me that I honestly believed these things I was telling myself and those around me.
Yes, there were certainly parts of the corporate job that I loved. But when the end game starts to look more like a black hole than a guiding light, it’s time for a reality check and to decide what really matters in your life.
For me, this just wasn’t it and so I started to cleanse myself of that way of being, and I’ll be honest, only as of now am I realizing this may take a lot longer than I thought to fully appreciate and harness the opportunity I’ve given myself by going against the grain.
This stresses me out. I have a ton of anxiety at the thought of having wasted my time so far, but I have to believe that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be at this current point, even if I’m scared of the change, or fearful that I haven’t yet changed enough.
Minimalism is not just about material possessions or mindless consumption or even the desire to have nice things. To me, the way I want to appropriate it into my life adheres more to the prospect of Quality over Quantity, and the power of intention.
This, in a major way, pertains not only to things, but to the people we bring into our lives. Asking ourselves constantly, does this serve me? Does this relationship help or hinder my overall well-being? Does this job/boss foster my greatest strengths, or highlight my insecurities? Am I proud of what I did today? Is there joy in this purchase/place/person?
Recently I became a bit of wayward lamb. I was acting and engaging in ways that really didn’t serve me, and I totally and completely lost sight of myself within that. I neglected all of my intentions, my ambitions and my purpose for being here. Sound familiar? …ahem, work-life imbalance.
Only I am responsible for this particular outcome, but only I am responsible for my ability to make a shift to re-ground, and that’s what I’m working on now…imperfectly of course, but I’m nothing if not always a work in progress.
Shifts in lifestyle, patterns, thought-processes and natural tendencies are NOT easy. Like I said, this can’t be done without sacrifice and compromise which rarely feel good, and it will likely take longer than you think as I’ve also come to realize. But take me as living proof that if you give yourself the opportunity to explore it – maybe even just think about the possibility of exploring what these shifts might look like for you – I promise you it will seem increasingly more possible, because I really do believe that with a lot of hard work and patience, it is a totally attainable goal.
I can summarize my learnings from this most simple yet seemingly extraordinary concept using only the wise words of Ryan Nicodemus himself,
“Imagine a life of less. A life of passion unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. What you’re imagining is an intentional life. It’s not a perfect life, and it’s not even an easy life. But a simple one.”
Less stuff, less clutter, less stress, less debt. It translates into fewer distractions and opens you up to more time, more meaningful relationships, more growth, contribution and contentment.
So easy, right?