How minimalism redefines success

by Jessica Dang
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‘Success’ is a loaded word these days. It can mean anything—fame, fortune, connections, owning a huge home, or a second car, or a walk-in wardrobe.

In other words, success nowadays is about what you own. To many people, if you have most, or all, of the above, you’re considered successful. If not, you’re probably a failure.

People spend their whole lives trying to live up to these expectations. Everyday, they work hard at their jobs to earn money to add to their pile of stuff. They get into debt, or never pay off the debt they already have, and with every promotion, they upgrade to more expensive things (a bigger house, or the latest gadget). And so the cycle continues of money in/money out every month, without stopping to think, ‘Why am I doing this? Does this make me successful? Does this make me happy?

Here’s the answer: No. You cannot be happy trapped in a rat race. Spending the best years of your life collecting more and more expensive things isn’t going to make you feel fulfilled, especially if you hate your job. Going through ‘the daily grind’ until you’re 65 will only lead to you realising that you’ve grown old without accomplishing much except (at best) a big inheritance tax bill.

It doesn’t have to be like this. What if we could redefine success, so that instead of being about what you own, it’s about what you do, and who you are?

If you could leave the world a better place than before you came, wouldn’t you want to? Why waste your one precious life living up to other people’s expectations, when you could live up to your own?

what is success?

“To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

In this massive universe, we are just one tiny speck against the infinity of time and space. Our life can be over in a blink of an eye. There’s nothing we can do about that, except make our blip of a lifetime worth something.

Buying stuff for yourself won’t make your life matter—doing something amazing will. Being your true self will.

What does that mean exactly? The answer is different for everyone. If your inner self is a painter, writer, dancer or singer, you know the answer. If you hate your job, then find one you enjoy that actually makes a difference. For me, being my true self means ditching my job, and becoming financially free so that I can travel, write, spend time with those I love, help people, and complete my bucket list.

Minimalism is about getting rid of distractions. When you don’t care about what other people think, you stop wasting your money, time, and effort on meaningless things. You stop blaming other people and start looking at yourself. You wake up to what’s really important.

With that, success means something completely different. Minimalism helps you remember what you’re living for.

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