If you tend to read blogs on personal development and how to live a fulfilling life, then it’s highly likely that you’ve stumbled upon a few blogs on the minimalist lifestyle. There’s all sorts of bloggers writing about how many items they own and how they live out of a carry-on case. While the practicalities of minimalism fascinate me, it’s the minimalist mindset that I find most powerful.
I’ve spent many hours over the past week reading the thoughts and ideas of people like Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus from The Minimalists. Nina Yau from Castles in the Air has kept we awake at night thinking about how far I have left to go before really living the best life I can. Everett Bogue is expanding my mind and astounding me with his visions of current humanity and the future of human evolution.
While the above mentioned people are living minimalist lifestyles, it’s their mindsets and philosophies on life that are most breathtaking and most able to teach me what I yearn to be taught.
So what is a minimalist mindset and how can you adopt this way of thinking into your life?
Intimately know your essence
Our lives are so full of distractions that we barely know who we are and what we want anymore. We are getting on the conveyer belt of life at a younger age and it is moving ever faster. We forget to stop and reflect on where we are going and what we are doing because we are too busy keeping up. All this busyness is so far from being fulfilling that it actually equates to a life of stagnation. We’re not really achieving anything, we’re just passing the time until we die.
Minimalism encourages you to make the space and time in your life to know who you are and what is meaningful to you. It is the act of pausing before every decision and thoughtfully contemplating how this next choice will resonate with your essential self.
Who you are, your uniqueness, is the essence of what your life is all about.
Adjust your consumerist beliefs
The most common choices we must make daily is what, where and when to consume. If you’re deep on that conveyer belt then chances are you are consuming mindlessly, often and everywhere.
The minimalist mindset requires you to examine why you are buying certain products and services and to assess whether they contribute at all to enhancing your essence. Do you really need another house? How about another TV? How many pairs of jeans are necessary? Do you need more gadgets and equipment to enhance your performance and your experience of life?
Chances are that the more you consume, the more you are burying your essence. You are probably doing this out of fear of never finding out who you are and what you want, or perhaps because if you knew who you were and what you really needed the effort to make it happen would be too overwhelming.
You don’t need to change your approach to consumerism radically and overnight. Begin simply by asking yourself honestly every time you go to purchase something whether it will extend and enrich you or whether it is meant to fill a void.
Pare your life down to what is essential and meaningful
It is not only products that distract us from the meaningful aspects of our lives, it is the activities we engage in also.
If you are spending a lot of your time trying to find things in your house, then you have a huge problem with clutter and you would benefit from a rigorous cleaning out of all those unnecessary piles of stuff. These piles distract you by stealing your time and your focus.
If you spend hours trawling through the status updates of your hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, then this is time and energy not spent on creating a life that is meaningful. Many people have been paring down their Facebook friend list to the more important people that they wish to connect with. This is the minimalist mindset in action.
How many TV shows can you really watch? I know I find this one difficult as there are so many brilliant programs to watch. To pare them down I suggest the following: record these shows and keep them for later. At first you will set a regular time aside to watch these saved programs, but after awhile you’ll find yourself filling this time with other more interesting pursuits and you’ll have a pile of programs saved that you may or may not get around to watching one rainy day.
Work on your focus
How many tabs do you have open in your browser at any one time? I love tabs! As I’m reading something I’m opening links in a new tab, ever expanding the interesting articles I want to learn from. Often, in my excitement to read this new work, I’ll skim the rest of the article I’m reading in favour of the next article. I am teaching myself to stay focused on my current task. As I write this I have the browser open behind this window, and I am training myself not to check that new tweet or do a search for that topic that has sprung to mind. I’m staying here with you.
Focus on your children, or your partner, or your friends. Not on all three at once. The people that are important to you want to spend time with you and deserve your attention. Build deep and wonderful relationships through focused interactions. Next time you’re at a party and the person talking to you looks away as though they’re looking for a better conversation, don’t try to win their affection, find someone else to talk to. Do others the courtesy of engaging with them.
Focus on your legacy
Why the need to train your focus then? Because once you know how to focus you can move and concentrate your focus on what you want your life to be about. How you live your life and what you create in this lifetime is your legacy. If you live a scattered life and consume more than you create, then your legacy will be unmemorable.
Once you are familiar and in love with who you are, once you have pared your life down to what is meaningful and essential, then you can focus your energies towards creating the life you were meant to live. You can devote your to life to your message, to your expression of yourself. Is there really anything you’d rather be doing?
I love where I live and I love living with my husband. Our home is certainly not minimalist, and I know my wardrobe is crying out for a good purge, and yet we are not hoarders. When I look around at our stuff I know much of it is unnecessary, and yet much of it is aesthetically pleasing and I like it that way. I love the books on my shelves as extensions of my brain and I love my many places to repose as a little slice of indulgence.
I am not interested in the challenge of simplifying our lives by simplifying the number of items we own. I’m far more fascinated by creating a life that is centred around meaning and fulfillment. For me this means minimising distractions arising from unfocused and undefined thoughts and also from distracting and unfulfilling pursuits.
There is no need to dismiss minimalism as a radical way of life. Instead focus on the essence of its philosophy and use it to transform your life for the better.
Do you have a minimalist mindset? I’d love you to share your philosophies with us